CHARM: Another Outstanding Online Discographical Project

Not as widely known as the Discography of American Historical Recordings (although it certainly deserves to be), the UK-based CHARM website offers another outstanding online discography — in this case, of historical classical and operatic recordings. Hosted by the AHRC Research Centre for the History and Analysis of Recorded Music, CHARM is partnership of Royal Holloway, University of London (host institution) with King’s College, London, and the University of Sheffield.

CHARM is the perfect complement to DAHR, offering hard-to-find data on foreign as well as domestic recordings, primarily from the 1920s onward. The database includes much of The Gramophone Company’s 78-rpm output (from original file data compiled by the late Alan Kelly), as well 78s and some LP series from numerous other US, UK, and European companies, including Columbia and Decca, from data supplied by Michael Gray. *

The CHARM site includes a very flexible search engine, and results can be downloaded as comma-delimited text (.csv) or Microsoft Excel files. Here’s a small part of the results from our search on Cesare Formichi’s Columbia recordings:
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In addition, almost 5000 streaming sound files are available via the Find Sound Files facility. Sound files are transferred from 78-rpm discs held by the King’s Sound Archive at King’s College London.

Like DAHR and the affiliated National Juke Box site from the Library of Congress, CHARM is an entirely free service, with no registration or log-in required.

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* Dr. Alan Kelly compiled the monumental His Master’s Voice Discography for Greenwood Press during its glory days in the 1990s; when new owners pulled the plug, he completed the project on his own, self-publishing the entire run on a set of inexpensive CDs. In 2007 he was honored with the Association for Recorded Sound Collections’ Lifetime Achievement Award. Michael Gray — besides being one helluva nice guy — has had a distinguished career that includes a long run as director of the Voice of America’s Research Library and Digital Audio Archive projects. He served as series editor for Greenwood Press discographies, has written numerous books and articles, and is the recipient of ARSC’s 2011 Lifetime Achievement Award.

 

The Playlist • Highlights from La Scala’s “Cavalleria Rusticana” (1915)

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The Gramophone Company began producing “complete” operatic recordings in Italy in 1906. The earliest attempts were rag-tag productions, sometimes with different singers substituted if those originally scheduled couldn’t make a session; and in at least one case, a domestic Red Seal recording had to be substituted for a missing side in the U.S. There were no Carusos or Farrars or other Red Seal–class celebrities to be heard — even had their Victor contracts allowed them to record for The Gramophone Company, their astronomical royalty rates would have driven the price of these sets beyond the means of most customers — but the recordings caused a sensation nonetheless. There are reports of record stores staging “Victrola Opera Nights” using these records, with costumed locals lip-synching their parts. You can find much more about them in A Phonograph in Every Home, available from Mainspring Press.

Here are some highlights from a later, better-organized attempt, recorded in Milan in 1915 but not released in the U.S. until March 1919, on the lowly black-label series. These sets pre-date the “album” concept — i.e., the records were sold individually, and the big arias handily outsold the less-juicy portions — so assembling complete sets can be a daunting task. Our Cavalleria Rusticana set is growing steadily, but still has a ways to go.

 

CAVALLERIA RUSTICANA (Mascagni)

FRANCO TUMINELLO, GEORGINA ERMOLLI, LENA REVELLI and E. PERNA, with LA SCALA CHORUS & ORCHESTRA (CARLO SABAJNO, conductor)

Recorded in Milan by The Gramophone Company (F. W. Gaisberg, engineer)

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PARTS 1–4 (Victor 35680 / 35681)

Cavalleria Rusticana: Preludio e Siciliana (mx. 3022c; April 8, 1915)
Cavalleria Rusticana: Preludio – Part 2  (mx. 3021c; April 8, 1915)
Cavalleria Rusticana: Gli aranci (mx. 3017c; April 5, 1915)
Cavalleria Rusticana: Tempo e si mormori (mx. 3018c; April 6, 1915)

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PARTS 17–18 (Victor 35688)

Cavalleria Rusticana: A casa, a casa (mx. 3020c; April 7, 1915)
Cavalleria Rusticana: Brindisi (mx. 3019c; April 7, 1915)

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Discographic data from the Gramophone Company files, courtesy of the late Dr. Alan Kelly.

 

The Playlist • Adamo Didur (Fonotipia Recordings, 1907–1908)

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Didur in New York, 1915 (Bain News Service Collection,
Library of Congress).

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ADAMO DIDUR: Roberto il Diavolo — Suore che riposate

Milan: October 10, 1907
Fonotipia  92002  (mx. Xph 2670)

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ADAMO DIDUR: Gli Ugonotti — Signor, difesa e scudo

Milan: October 11, 1907
Fonotipia 92003  (mx. Xph 2671)

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ADAMO DIDUR: Mefistofele — Son il spirito che nega

Milan: April 23, 1908
Fonotipia 92226  (mx. Xph 3176)

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Quote of the Week:

The metaphor of the moment is that Donald Trump is the dog that caught up with the car… A more apt reference, especially after Trump’s inauguration, might be the Pottery Barn Rule: “You break it, you own it.”

Trump and the congressional Republicans who have chosen to make their bed with him are responsible for what happens from now on. There is now no one to blame if they can’t pass budgets, avoid shutdowns, deal with sequestration, replace Obamacare, destroy ISIS, or reverse the continuing loss of manufacturing jobs. If climate change gets worse, it’s on them. If Syria continues its downward spiral, it’s on them. If more countries acquire nuclear weapons, it’s on them.

James Hohmann (Washington Post)

 

“Red Label” Gramophone Records — Highlights from the February 1904 G&T Catalog

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Many of the records in Gramophone & Typewriter’s February 1904 catalog were also issued in the U.S. as Victor Imported Red Seal Records. Details of those issues (many of which are now quite rare, and correspondingly expensive) can be found in John Bolig’s Victor Red Seal Discography, Vol. I .

Victor soon adopted a policy of replacing imported recordings like these with their own domestically recorded versions whenever possible, as happened with many of the Caruso and Plancon offerings.

You can find more on the early history of the Red Seal in A Phonograph in Every Home: The Evolution of the American Recording Industry, 1909-1919, also available from Mainspring Press.

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The Playlist • Vladimir Kastorsky (St. Petersburg, 1908)

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VLADIMIR KASTORKSY: Sadko (Rimsky-Korsakov) — Song of the Viking Guest 

St. Petersburg, Russia: 1908
Gramophone Concert Record G.C.-3-22817  (mx. 7770 l)

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VLADIMIR KASTORSKY: Prince Igor (Borodin) —
Nor Sleep, Nor Rest

St. Petersburg, Russia: 1908
Ammour Gramophone Record 022126  (mx. 403m)

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VLADIMIR KASTORSKY: Ruslan and Ludmilla (Glinka) — Farlaf’s Rondo

St. Petersburg, Russia: 1908
Ammour Gramophone Record 022125  (mx. 401m)

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Early Gramophone Company recording speeds vary widely; these transfers have not been checked for correct pitch.

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Three ARSC 2015 Awards for Mainspring Press Books: Eli Oberstein, Victor Special Labels, Ajax Records

We’re honored to announce that three Mainspring Press titles have received 2015 awards from the Association for Recorded Sound Collections. Details and secure online ordering are available on the Mainspring Press website.

The ARSC Award for Excellence—Best Label Discography went to Eli Oberstein’s United States Record Corporation: A History and Discography, 1939–1940:

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2015 Certificates of Merit were awarded to The Victor Discography: Special Labels, 1928–1941; and Ajax Records: A History and Discography:

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ORDER SOON if you’re interested in Oberstein or Victor Special Labels. Both titles have been on the market for a while, so supplies are running low (and in addition, there’s recently been a big library run on USRC). We won’t be reprinting either title once our current supplies are gone.

Sorry, Ajax has already sold out (it was a 2013 title — the wheels sometimes turn very slowly at ARSC), although we might consider reprinting this one if there’s sufficient interest — Let us know.

The Playlist • Feodor Chaliapin in “Boris Godunov” (1910–1922)

MSP_chaliapin-boris_composi .

Chaliapin performs the roles of Boris, Pimen, and Varlaam, in the Rimsky-Korsokov  revision of Mussorgsky’s original work. Discographic data are from the Gramophone Company and Victor Talking Machine Company files, courtesy of Drs. Alan Kelly and John R. Bolig.

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FEODOR CHALIAPIN: Boris Godunov — Yet One More Tale [Pimen, Act I]

Moscow: August 31, 1910
His Master’s Voice 022157 (mx. 2016½c)
Orchestra of the Imperial Moscow Opera directed by I.Semenov

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FEODOR CHALIAPIN: Boris Godunov — In the Town of Kazan [Varlaam, Act I]

Camden, NJ: January 30, 1922
His Master’s Voice D.A. 100 (mx. B 26100 – 2)
Studio orchestra directed by Josef Pasternack

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FEODOR CHALIAPIN: Boris Godunov — Once at Eve [Pimen, Act IV]

St. Petersburg, Russia: November 26, 1911
His Master’s Voice 022252 (mx. 2548c)
No conductor listed in the Gramophone Company file

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FEODOR CHALIAPIN: Boris Godunov — Farewell and Death of Boris [Boris, Act IV]

St. Petersburg, Russia: October 15, 1911
His Master’s Voice 022221 / 022222 (mxs. 2492½c / 2493c)
No conductor listed in the Gramophone Company file

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The Playlist • José Mardones (1910–1923)

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JOSÉ MARDONES: Mefistofele — Ecco il mondo
With studio orchestra

New York: April 9, 1910
Columbia A5216 (mx. 30417 – 2)

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JOSÉ MARDONES: Mefistofele — Son lo spirito che nega
With studio orchestra

New York: April 8, 1910
Columbia A5216 (mx. 30415 – 1)

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JOSÉ MARDONES & GIOVANNI ZENATELLO: Aida — Numi custode e vindice
With uncredited chorus & orchestra

New York: April 12, 1912
Columbia A5426 (mx. 36366 – 2)

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JOSÉ MARDONES: La alegría del battalón (Serrano)
Studio orchestra conducted by Rosario Bourdon

Camden, NJ: March 9, 1923
Victor 921 (mx. B 27597 – 2)

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Leo Slezak in the Pathé Studio (c. 1913)

MSP-TMW-1914_slezak-patheThe location is probably Vienna, reputedly the site of Slezak’s 1913 Pathé session. The photo was reproduced in the September 1914 Talking Machine World, just as the New York–based Pathé Frères Phonograph Company (the French company’s U.S. licensee) was preparing to unveil Pathé discs to the American public. The company had only recently begun to make its own recordings and thus had to rely heavily on imported discs, like Slezak’s, to fill the initial catalog.

The oversized cylinder master, from which the disc masters would be transcribed pantographically, can be seen at the far right. This photo (along with others taken in the American studio and in various foreign locations) contradicts the popular anecdotal tale that Pathé’s recording equipment was a jealously guarded secret, hidden behind locked doors and never to be glimpsed by performers or the public.