We’re happy to announce that the next installment in Dick Spottswood’s Columbia ethnic-series discography is now available for free download. This section covers the C-prefixed series, which was intended for the Spanish-speaking markets — a tantalizing mixture of performances by Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, and other Latino artists (most of them recorded in their native countries by traveling Columbia engineers), operatic arias and light classics from domestic and imported masters, and various odd-and-ends “repurposed” from other catalogs. .
Click here to download the discography in PDF format (approximately 5 megabytes). As with the previous installment, this material may be copied or distributed for personal use, provided that the source is cited. Sale or other commercial use is prohibited.
Dick’s latest update of his Columbia “E” series discography will be posted soon.
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)
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)
PARTS 17–18 (Victor 35688)
Cavalleria Rusticana: A casa, a casa (mx. 3020c; April 7, 1915) Cavalleria Rusticana: Brindisi (mx. 3019c; April 7, 1915)
Discographic data from the Gramophone Company files, courtesy of the late Dr. Alan Kelly.
Didur in New York, 1915 (Bain News Service Collection,
Library of Congress).
ADAMO DIDUR: Roberto il Diavolo — Suore che riposate
Milan: October 10, 1907
Fonotipia 92002 (mx. Xph 2670)
ADAMO DIDUR: Gli Ugonotti — Signor, difesa e scudo
Milan: October 11, 1907
Fonotipia 92003 (mx. Xph 2671)
ADAMO DIDUR: Mefistofele — Son il spirito che nega
Milan: April 23, 1908
Fonotipia 92226 (mx. Xph 3176)
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.
Alexander Maloof was a second-generation Syrian immigrant who carved a niche for himself in the 1920s with the Maloof and Music of the Orient labels. Although known primarily for championing Middle Eastern music, Maloof was also a capable pop composer. He was a survivor as well — when times got tough in the early 1930s, he kept himself afloat by recording pipe-organ solos for skating rinks and funeral homes.
Maloof’s exact birth date remains questionable. His Social Security death record states that he was born on August 10, 1886. However, his tombstone states 1887; the 1920 and 1930 U.S. Census files state 1885, while the 1940 Census goes far afield with “about 1895″; and a copyright filing with the U.S. Patent & Trademark office lists 1884. Although various publications in the 1920s stated that Maloof was Turkish or Egyptian, his passport application and Social Security records state that he was born in Syria. The family, headed by Chames Maloof, apparently arrived in the U.S. in or around 1894, based on a 1925 report. On October 29 of that year, Maloof filed a declaration of intent to apply for naturalized citizenship.
By the early 1910s, Maloof was becoming well-known on the New York musical scene. In 1913 he recorded two of his original piano compositions — “Al-Ja-Za-Yer” (made as a test on July 24, and subsequently accepted for release) and “A Trip to Syria” (on September 16) — for the Victor Talking Machine Company. In a unusual move, the titles were assigned to both the ethnic and standard catalogs, as Victor 65830 and Victor 17443, respectively. Apparently, neither release sold well enough to earn Maloof a second Victor session.
The E. T. Paull Music Company published two of Maloof’s dance numbers, “Ticklish Sensation” and “The Egyptian Glide,” in 1914. The latter was available in two arrangements — Maloof’s own tango version, and a one-step-step/two-step/trot arrangement credited to Paull himself. By the late ’teens, Maloof was operating his own music studio in New York and was attracting notice for concert appearances at which he featured his original compositions.
The tango version of Maloof’s “Egyptian Glide” (1914). E. T. Paull also provided a “One-Step,Two-Step, Trot” arrangement.
The Maloof Phonograph Company was launched in 1920 to specialize in traditional Middle Eastern fare. Its earliest labels show either no copyright date, or a 1920 copyright, which does not appear to have been formally registered. The earliest pressings are from masters in a three-digit M-prefixed series of unknown origin, some of which show master-broker Earle W. Jones’ characteristic handwritten “J” in the wax. Physical characteristics suggest that they were pressed by the Siemon Hard Rubber Company, with which Jones was affiliated.
By late 1922 production of the Maloof label had shifted to the Starr Piano Company (Gennett), corresponding to a new (and also apparently unregistered) 1922 label copyright date. Maloof would become one of Gennett’s most active clients, rivaling that other highly prolific customer — Homer Rodeheaver — for the amount of time booked in Gennett’s studios.
A second Maloof line, Music of the Orient (credited to the likely fictitious “Orient Company”) appeared in or around 1923, also produced by Gennett, and using some of the same masters as the Maloof label. Although Maloof’s masters were numbered in the standard Gennett series, most were recorded for his exclusive use.
The Maloof and Music of the Orient labels seem to have disappeared by late 1925, but Maloof and his associates continued to record in Gennett’s New York studios into the summer of 1931, covering everything from Egyptian and Syrian folk music to old warhorses like “Home Sweet Home” and assorted Christian hymns. Gennett picked up the occasional title for its own use, but most were pressed as Personal records, at Maloof’s own expense. In-between, there was a visit to Victor’s New York studio on February 15, 1926, with his Oriental Orchestra. The session yielded four ethnic-catalog releases, one of which (“Egyptiana”) was also issued in the Mexican series, where it was retitled “Somali.”
Maloof held the dubious honor of having recorded the last masters ever made in Gennett’s legendary Long Island City studio, in late June 1931. (June 30, shown on the ledger sheet, is the date on which masters were received in Richmond, not the recording date. The ledger sheet for the final Long Island session is headed “1932” in error; master numbers are contiguous with the May–June 1931 sessions listed on the previous sheets.) Maloof’s final Gennett sessions included organ solos intended for use in the company’s Chapel series, which was marketed to funeral parlors.
From the Gennett ledgers — Top: The final session in the Long Island City studio, in late June 1931. Bottom: One of several earlier 1931 Maloof sessions. Note that the recordings were dubbed to new N-series masters; several dubbings from these sessions were released commercially on Champion and Superior in the early 1930s, and even on Decca’s revived version of the Champion label in the mid-1930s.
Chames Maloff died in1930, and Alexander moved to Los Angeles in 1931. He was living there by September 2 of that year, when his application for citizenship was finally accepted. However, he seems to have returned East on occasion, launching his new Orient label (credited to the Maloof Music Company of Englewood, New Jersey, and using newly recorded material) at some point in the 1940s. He died in Los Angeles on May 1, 1968.
The Maloof family plot in Angelus Rosedale Cemetery, Los Angeles. George Maloof made a few recordings for his brother’s label in 1920. (Courtesy of Irv Lightner)
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.
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
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
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
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
The 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.