Friday, August 18, 2006


Classical Interlude + a Couple of Requests

I had a couple of requests from the 78-list, so I'll start off with fulfilling those...

It's In The Book (Parts 1 & 2)

I don't know the history of this recording too well, but thanks to David Lennick, he let me know that this is the original release of this comedic classic. Magnolia was a label in Hollywood that Horace Heidt owned, so he released this Johnny Standley routine, which Capitol picked up and bought the masters to. It has been bootlegged many many times hence, and occasionally appears on the Dr Demento program, and other comedy/dementia radio shows.

The label scan is the best I could do to accurately get the colors down, silly Nero Photo program wanted to keep making things brighter and the lettering more golden than it is... took me longer to get the label scan correct than to get all the noise out of this record, and the record was pretty beat up. If you have this record on Magnolia, you'll note that there is an ongoing 60-cycle hum in it, varying from "noticeable' to 'really freaking obnoxious'. I removed as much as I could...

Next up, a piece of interesting-ness. Sears, in the late 40s and early 50s, had their own Silvertone house label (actually, there were earlier iterations of Sears in-house labels, but this series of Silvertone would be around the early 1950s). These wre available for those retail customers that had purchased a Sears phonograph, so they would have something to play on it when the machine was delivered.

Again, with thanks to David Lennick, I found out that the releases were usually single disc affairs, but this one is an anamoly... spanning two discs (red vynil, no less) is the Overture to Romeo and Juliet, composed by Tchaikovsky, and performed by the Silvertone Symphony Orchestra, under the baton of Eric Leinsdorf. No clue as to which REAL orchestra this was, but I suspect it was the orchestra Mr. Leinsdorf was conducting at the time.

While we are on the subject of red vynil 78s, let's look at the RCA Red Seal DeLuxe series. In an attempt to make 78s more 'hi-fi', RCA Victor released some material on red vynil pressings, as opposed to their usual shellac pressings. RCA had already released things on vynil (promotional and DJ-release records), so they were familiar with how to press things well on the new medium. These were thicker than the DJ pressings, and were meant to be (1) uinbreakable, and (2) have a quieter sound than shellac. They nailed (1), but GOT nailed on (2) because of the massively heavy stylus pressure utilized on period phonographs. Remember, this was the age of steel needles in heavy pot-metal (or bakelite, if it was hi-tech) tone arms, with no sense of balance or anti-skate, or anything that we now take for granted. Also, the paper sleeves tended to put small hairline scratches into the discs (no dust protection), making them VERY noisy. When found new, these play really really nicely, but if you chance on to them in less-than-new condition, they can be a real headache to get the noise out of.

The set that I just acquired is one of those... less-than-new.

This is a set of Rossini overtures, as performed by Arturo Toscaninni and the NBC Symphony Orchestra. I have seen this set on Victor LP many times, and even on rhe RCA Red Seal regular shellac 78s, but never in the DeLuxe type. So, I buy it, and bring it home, and start encoding the La Cenerentola Overture. NOISY! And, in my opinion, not that great of a recording, either. Is it me, or were the RCA classical recordings, at least the ones of Tosci, just recorded that badly compared to other recording of the time?

To compare notes, I grabbed an RCA Red Seal shellac pressing of Mozart's Marriage of Figaro Overture, performed by Eugene Ormandy and the MInneapolis Symphony Orchestra. As far as noise went, this was MUCH better, but the recording... errgghh. The Rossini was spread out over two sides, while this was a single side, and I think that Eugene waved the baton somewhat wildly in the tempo department.

Even more interesting was his rendition of Moto Perpetuo, by Paganini. I haev not heard this performed many times, but, from what I can tell, it is somewhat of a challenge to the string sections. And at this breakneck tempo, a REAL challenge!

Time for a little relaxation, no? No.

Alexander Brailowsky, pianist very-darn-good, crammed these two onto one side of a 12" disc for RCA Victor... Rimsky-Korsakoff's Flight of the Bumblebee, and Liadoff's The Music Box. Nice little etudes and studies, performed much better than in 99.99 per cent of young person's recitals that we have all had to sit through more than once in our lifetimes (either as parent or fellow performer.... I know. I have done both on repeated occasions). When you have nightmares with a poorly-executed "Fur Elise" as the soundtrack, you know you have been to one too many.

NOW it is time to relax the tempo a bit. Brailowsky gives us Chopin's Nocturne in F-sharp (Opus 15, Number 2), so that we can all relax from the noise and rushed tempii and hecticness of the day.

I think that the red vynil experiments of RCA Victor were a good idea that was too early for its' time... I have heard what these are capable of, sonically, and they'll blow your socks off, but they also tended to show off really putrid (even for the time) recording technique.

Where was Enoch Light when ya needed him!

Charming sounds there. Alas the first two links give a 404 error.
("It's In The Book (Parts 1 & 2" and "Overture to Romeo and Juliet")
Those links have been repaired, thanks for letting me know.

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