Three Recordings of Princess Ida

A Comparison of Timings

Much has been made of timing differences between the recordings of Princess Ida—particularly of the two that Malcolm Sargent made, over thirty years apart (1932 and 1965). Chris Webster timed the tracks on both recordings with a stopwatch. He also benchmarked Isidore Godfrey's 1955 recording. The results are shown below.

Webster points out that recordings may have had cuts in some movements that make the timings not directly comparable.

Movement Sargent
Search throughout the panorama2:392:512:56
Now hearken to my strict command2:392:512:56
Today we meet1:291:291:50
From the distant panorama3:413:353:47
If you give me your attention2:132:232:15
P'rhaps if you address the lady6:117:087:18
Towards the Empyrean Heights3:233:473:43
Mighty maiden with a mission1:131:221:23
Gently, gently4:084:164:37
I am a maiden2:152:252:51
The world is but a broken toy3:013:143:02
A lady fair of lineage high2:082:122:32
The woman of the wisest wit2:082:122:32
Now wouldn't you like to rule the roast2:292:432:35
Merrily ring the luncheon bell1:311:441:46
Wouldn't you know the kind of maid1:562:542:24
Oh joy! Our chief is saved10:2412:1912:24
Death to the invader2:403:133:13
I built upon a rock3:043:443:30
Whene'er I spoke sarcastic joke1:351:412:02
When anger spreads his wing1:051:171:20
This helmet, I suppose2:182:372:14
This is our duty plain:44:48:49
With joy abiding2:202:192:25

These were Webster's observations on the timings:

It can be clearly seen from the above that Sargent's 1965 recording was nearly always slower in each instance than the other two, but there are enough moments when he was actually faster than Godfrey (or should we say when Godfrey was slower than Sargent) to bring the two "modern" recordings down to the same timing. It may also be seen that Sargent's 1932 recording was nearly always faster in each instance than the other two, which may be because of the conditions brought about by the limitations 78 sides, but there is also evidence that his tempi were far too fast anyway in those days.

In Charles Reid's biography of Sargent, there is a passage specifically dealing with his stage tempi for Ida (pp. 141-2) that would certainly suggest that he was a fast conductor anyway (there are many other items that assist this theory), but there is also an incident referred to later in the book (p. 166) which occurred during the recording of the 32 Ida, in which Rupert D'Oyly Carte was actually called to the studio because of an argument that had broken out concerning what must be assumed was an even faster tempo than the already objected to stage tempo. "Too fast, much too fast for the stage tempo" was his critics' argument. "But we aren't on the stage. We making a gramophone recording" was Sargent's response.