Phonograph Monthly Review, Vol. 5, No. 4 (1931-01)

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110 The Phonograph Monthly Review Editorial M Y head has been swimming with so much music this month that I very much doubt whether I can get my feet securely enough on the ground to thread any practical edi- torial path. The Sibelius symphonies first of all, which I have played almost constantly during the month and in which reiterated hearing and the closest study can reveal no flaws. I could not for- bear writing at considerable length about these works; to me their musical significance warrants it, for they are to mean much to the present and next generation of concert goers. Is it too much to say that his symphonies may come to mean to the next what those of Brahms have meant to this and the last generation? Columbia, whose earnest artistic endeavors are indefatigable, brings out also the Mozart quintet for strings—one of the most profound utterances of any musical era. And for more than good measure there is a second album set of the musi- cal bible—the Well-Tempered Clavier. Evlyn Howard Jones, who also is to be heard in four charming miniatures by Delius, is the pianist. In Bach at least his is not the sensitivity and warmth of Harriet Cohen, who recorded the first group, but his sincerity and musicianship are unimpeach- able. He presents the music itself, not a pianist's performance: a richly satisfying set. Next month I shall pay the discs their just meed of attention, and include as well some notes on the other Well- Tempered Clavier recordings. But even such really memorable releases do not overshadow the month entirely. For all my robust and heartful joy in the Sibelius symphonies, I was touched perhaps even more poignantly by the sheer splendor of the recorded tone in Hedwig von Debicka’s singing of a sprightly Bach and a golden Gluck aria on Brunswick 90109. A disc like this is the realization of every phono-musical ideal; I know of no other single record that better typifies the progress and achievements of 1930— and of the Brunswick company’s glorious contri- butions to the phonographic repertory. In the space of a short few months Brunswick has re- ' leased starred work after starred work. I hope no one of musical sensibilities, or who sincerely has the cause of good music at heart, will fail to demonstrate more than merely moral support of such activities. Victor answers this month the widespread de- mand for Debussy’s La Mer and a major work by Mischa Elman. The Debussy work is conducted by Coppola (whose name on a record of modern French music is invariable guarantee of sterling quality) and already has found a lively welcome among the buyers of imported pressings. El- man’s performance of the Tchaikowsky violin concerto savors a little of over-elegance. It leaves me cold, but such immaculate and polished play- ing has won Elman crowded concert halls all over the world. It will be interesting to see if his per- sonality is the sort that appeals equally widely on discs. Infinitely more sympathetic to me are the warmer and franker qualities of Geoffrey Toye’s recording of Delius’ In a Summer Garden. Finally there is the Strawinski Capriccio , which I heard in the composer’s recorded version (French Columbia) more than a week before it was given its first American performance by Sanroma with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Mr. R. P. Blackmur points the nice distinctions between the Strawinski and the Sanroma per- formances in his review, distinctions that surely should have been taken ito account in any really adequate review of the concert performances. Yet the lengthy columns devoted to Strawinski both before and after the concert in such distinguished journals as the Boston Transcript and Heraldl, by such learned critics as Philip Hale, H. T. Parker, and Alfred H. Meyer, displayed a sublime ignor- ance or contempt of the fact that a recording of the work (or for that matter than any Strawinski recordings) existed. Anyone who has labored in any degree to fur- ther the cause of phonography and to help in any way to pave the way for such recordings as this Strawinski Capriccio , must share my impatience, not to say incense, over such lamentable and wholly inexcusable blindness on the part of men who should—and who in other ways so admirably do—lead public opinion and further the under- standing appreciation of music. Lawrence Gil- man’s glorious example has not yet borne its fruit. But the seed is there, and it is not to be killed. Neither will it be blighted by the gnawing of such gloomy fellows as Mr. Myron H. Garrett (writing in the December Gramophone) who “ex- plodes” with great ceremony and much flourish- ing of Menckenese verbal broadswords, “the gramophile myth in America.” Mr. Garrett’s ac- quaintanceship with musical fourflushers is ap- parently unrivalled in extensiveness. He has a keen eye for the weaknesses of American musi- cal life, and no one will deny him that they are many. Nor is any musical or phonographic mil- lenium to be expected next year or the next. But the yeast of genuine appreciative powers is work- ing. Discounting both the hosannahs and the moans, music in the United States is more than a matter of fashion and dollars and cents. It sur- vived blasts far more deadly than Mr. Garrett's back in the days of Theodore Thomas; today the concert work of Stokowski, Toscanini, Koussevit- sky, Stock, Sokoloff, and hundreds of others, plus the achievements of the phonograph in the last year alone, form the ground swell of a tide that no sophmoric Canute can order back, or no busi- ness depression dam up.