Wednesday, April 05, 2006


Just a couple more German things, I promise

Working, an interruption of more joyous things in life, but a necessary evil.

I really did want to get these German & Austrian things posted, as some of the recordings are quite good, and the material is, well, different! I have a huge stack of about 60 Hawaiian things to post, as well as a bunch more acoustic sides from the 1910s and early 1920s to get encoded (and share with you all)... and since my work schedule will only get worse for the next few weeks, I'm resigned to only posting a few sides a week (unless I get a burr under my saddle and post some other stuff I have already encoded)...

Last posting, I offered up a pair by a duet, A. Engel & L. Nolte. I have another pair of recordings by Herr Engel, on the Odeon label this time. The artist credit on this disc is "Altmeister Adolf Engel, Wien - Tenor mit Orchesterbegleitung", so now we have a first name for this singer. Whether or not he is the Austrian equivalent of Billy Murray, I do not know... the vocal register is similar though... see what you think about "Die alte Uhr". This is an excellent example of how good an acoustical recording can be. Yes, meinen Damen und Herren, the singer & orchestra are playing into a recording horn (or horns). The recording engineers really had the arcane art of adjustments and tunings of the recording diaphragm down by this time, to the point that recording engineers' notebooks were highly valued secrets, and many of them took their notebooks with them when they left the studio they worked for for other ventures. This is an American recording of Herr Engel, as opposed to the European recording of the duet on Columbia in the previous posting.

Die alte Uhr is actually the B-side of the disc, "Weisst du Mutterl was i traumt hab'" being the A-side. Again, a really well done acoustical recording, I believe done in the mid 1920s. I don't have access to any of my dating guides so I am in the dark as to pressing and release dates.

One more thing about Odeon orange discs... the German ones (whether American or European pressings) will have the labels in the German font, which is a headache to read. But, at that time, that was the de facto font for anyone speaking or reading German. So, those make for some interesting additions to the shellac collection.

Giving the Germans a bit of a break, let's hit a couple of classical sides from this batch. Victor had Enrico Caruso as their flagship tenor in the 1910s and 1920s. Columbia had a few good voices of their own, one of which was Oscar Seagle. His recordings of "Chanson Bachique", from the opera Hamlet, and the Prologue from 'I Pagliacci'" by Leoncavallo, demonstrate his apt and able handling of both the French and Italian styles, at least of the day. Victor and Columbia were at each others' throats to get the classical masters on their respective labels, and the recordings sometime suffered for it. Mr. Seagle's efforts, though, were not wasted here, even though the orchestra sounds like they were playing in a closet full of blankets. Either that, or the recording engineer left his notebook at home that day.

We'll head merrily back across the Atlantic with another acoustical recording of the Columbia Quartette, "When The Sheep Are In The Fold, Jenny Dear". This is a nice example of almost-barbershop harmony with a meager background orchestra. I do not know the personnages behind the generic name 'Columbia Quartette', but there are a few familiar voices in there. I'll have to give this another serious listen to see, but I don't think either Billy Murray or Edward Smalle are in there (two names very familiar to aficionadii of early 1920s music). This has to come from the mid to late 1910s, as the matrix number and catalog number are embossed under the label, instead of being in the run-out groove. Early Columbia pressings are like that. It is even quite possible that this could have been recorded and released on cylinder as well, but usually a separate recording was done for the cylinder release. By this time, cylinders were on the wane, and discs were rapidly becoming the media of choice.

Well, I think I am going to leave you with these for the next few days. Please, pass the word around if you like the site, and please also feel free to leave comments. It gives me something to read besides the 295 pieces of eMail that fill my inbox .

As always, right-click on the link to download & enjoy!


I have about 8 different discs of Adolf Engel, almost all released on US labels (Okeh, Victor, 12" Columbia, with the only exeption of a mid 20s German Electrola). However European releases seem to be the exeption. Artist credits vary from "Altmeister A. Engel", "Altmeistersaenger Engel" to "Adolf Engel" ... Are you sure they were recorded in Europe? Or were they recorded in Europe for being especially released in the US? (for Austrian immigrants, for instance). I can hardly tell the recording location by mx numbers only ... Even the Okehs, which may suggest a connection to European Odeon, have strange mx numbers. As a native from Vienna, I can identify german language varieties quite well. So I can assure you that all Engel recordings were made in genuine ancient viennese dialect without the slightest foreign accent (quite different from german standard language, thus rather difficult to understand for non-Austrian german speakers). Do you have any biographical data on Engel? Was he an US immigrant? Interestingly, no further informations about Engel seem to be available here in Austria (which is very probably the place of his birth). Thanks for any info.
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