Survey of the HMV Electrical Series
The Gramophone, 1934

Introductory Comments by Robert Morrison

The release of H.M.V.'s 1933 abridged recording of The Sorcerer completed the series of electrically recorded Gilbert and Sullivan operas then currently in the D'Oyly Carte's repertoire, (there evidently being no plans to record the Burnand and Sullivan 1-act 'curtain-raiser' Cox and Box).

In the following three articles published in THE GRAMOPHONE between January and May 1934, Elsie D. McLachlan took the opportunity to retrospectively review all of the available H.M.V. Electrical G&S recordings from The Mikado of 1927 onwards, and advise Depression-hit record collectors, (many of whom could not afford to buy the complete sets), of her personal choice of the fifty best recordings to purchase to form the basis of a representative collection.

(N.B. The gradual improvement in sound quality of electrical recordings made between 1927 and 1933 can be put down to the fact that the operas in the late '20s would have been recorded using a single microphone — with the soloists, chorus and orchestra grouped around, [as cited by W. S. Barrell in his article for THE GRAMOPHONE published in August, 1958, (Vol. XXXVI); pg. 134], while those recorded in the '30s used a multiple microphone set-up — with at least one microphone each for the soloists, chorus and orchestra — and a technician to mix the output of each to achieve the desired 'sound balance', thus producing a better quality recording, [as cited by George Baker in his article published by THE GRAMOPHONE in September, 1934 (Vol. XII), pg. 125.].)

[Editor's Note: Although this is a very long web page, I have elected to reproduce the reviews together, since the writer conceived them as part of one long article (albeit serialised over three issues), and the reviews often refer to each other. I have added sub-headings to make the internal structure more visually apparent, and there are links from the individual recordings' web pages to the relevant sections of Ms. McLachlan's comments.

[THE GRAMOPHONE, January 1934, (Vol. XI); pg. 315]


The Sorcerer

Discussion of the 1933 HMV Recording.
Having regard to the standard of reproduction achieved in the earlier operas, one might feel disappointment on hearing the new "Sorcerer" records (H.M.V. B8054-9). In no way can they compare with “Ida,” “Ruddigore,” or even the four-year-old “Yeomen,” but it must be remembered that they are on Plum Labels and costing half a crown apiece. The orchestral accompaniments often sound anaemic, and many of the excerpts — particularly the quintet from Act II — are dull and lifeless. This is an abridged issue — and very much so! Granting that the “Sorcerer” is not one of the best operas — for Gilbert and Sullivan had not yet got into their stride — it deserves lengthier and better treatment than is meted out to it here. We are denied Daly's “My voice is sad and low,” Alexis' “Love feeds on many kinds of food,” to mention only two of many gems we would have wished for, and we are rationed to but one portion of ham and eggs and strawberry jam, for the finale of Act I is omitted. The chorus work is poor, but this I attribute to the recording, knowing what a feature it is in Mr. D'Oyly Carte's productions.

The duet by Pointdextre (Darrell Fancourt) and Lady Sangazure (Dorothy Gill), Welcome Joy, is well done on B8055, but can mean little to anyone unable to picture the minuet danced during its rendering. On reverse is Aline's Oh happy young heart adequately sung by Muriel Dickson, but she obviously has not the range and flexibility of Elsie Griffin, who always excelled in this aria.

The pick of the bunch is B8056 with the Notary (Stuart Robertson) telling that All is prepared and the following choruses; and George Baker in John Wellington Wells, surely one of the most difficult of the patter songs. Baker successfully gets into the part (a point dealt with later) and the record must go into every G. and S. collection. Baker is excellent when concocting the potion, but this also can hold little appeal for anyone unfamiliar with the opera in actual performance: the main point is that the dose is too strong, for the company sleeps over-long and could spare time for but for two discs from Act II. From these the only outstanding performance is Derek Oldham's Thou hast the power, which is superb — I can “call it by no other name.”

Our only hope of ever possessing full recordings of “The Grand Duke” (which, musically, is worthy of it), “Utopia, Ltd.,” and a full and adequate issue of the “Sorcerer” seems to lie in the inauguration of yet another Society. As this is a remote possibility, however, the time is fitting for a hurried survey of the entire series, for in these depressing days one readily understands why the popularity of the “Savoy” operas is as great as, if not greater than, ever before.

These discs are the only authentic recordings, and although opera — being robbed of its action — must necessarily lose more in recording than any other form of music, we find with these H.M.V. issues that the loss is considerably less than might be expected, especially when regular D'Oyly Carte artistes fill their accustomed rôles, such as Lytton's Ko-Ko, the Duke, and Sir Joseph Porter; the lamented (and perhaps irreplaceable) Bertha Lewis's Katisha and Lady Jane; Winifred Lawson's Elsie Maynard and Phyllis; Elsie Griffin's Mabel; and Derek Oldham as we recall him in all the glory of his first season at the Princes.

Abridged versions may be adequate from some points of view, but in them the music is usually sung without regard to the libretto and never succeeds in what, after all, is the chief value of these discs — the recreation in our own homes of the real theatre atmosphere. We notice this in exactly the same manner on the H.M.V. records when certain parts are filled by artistes unversed in the true Gilbertian tradition (substitution probably occasioned by the superior recording qualities of their voices, though surely this should not have been the primary consideration as no one claims for the Savoy Operas any high musical value); for instance, George Baker — who sings in most of these album series — has a superb voice and records well, but rarely does he get into the real spirit of the rôles portrayed, singing them all in exactly the same vein whether they be Lytton parts or the Captain in “Pinafore.”

Every true lover of these operas will, I am convinced, prefer a few authentic excerpts rather than more liberal, but less convincing, potted versions. The object of these three articles, therefore, is to give in the short space available a brief criticism of the recorded version as a whole and then to select those records which are, in my opinion, most likely to appeal to enthusiasts who, unable to secure the complete sets, wish to make a representative collection from all the operas. In no instance has an overture been included; these suggest themselves to anyone who might be interested. My choice will be based on the quality of reproduction judged not as works of musical value alone, but in relation to the “book” and with regard to their ability to bring alive to us, wherever they may be played, the real Gilbertian atmosphere. Attention is directed to Mr. Cameron's interesting article and brief bibliography which appeared in Volume V.

The Mikado

Discussion of the 1926 HMV Recording.
"THE MIKADO" is such [an] early electrical recording and falls so far short of to-day's standard as almost to justify a re-recording, for of all the Savoy operas this is the one that first and foremost should give no cause for cavil.

The late Bertha Lewis sings Katisha, always one of her finest performances, so that some of her discs must find inclusion. Elsie Griffin's Yum-Yum here impresses me in exactly the same way as in the theatre — irreproachable musically but, as Mr. Cameron pointed out when the set was originally issued, lacking in dramatic quality. This is especially marked in The sun whose rays, which sounds like an ideal concert performance, but does not convey the proud young bride who means to rule the earth; rather on hearing this rendering one grants her wish to “kindly be indulgent.” I should personally have preferred Winifred Lawson in the part, though the most charming Yum-Yum I can recall was Helen Gilliland.

Lytton's Ko-Ko is to the life, than which no praise can be higher, for I disagree with those who contend that he clowns the part. Baker's Pish-Tush lacks the tremendous dignity of a Noble Lord, which Granville, for instance, infused into the role. Oldham's Nanky-Poo [sic] on these discs does not do justice to his performance in the theatre, and in my opinion his Wandering Minstrel is spoilt by insufficient contrast. My choice of discs from this set would be confined to three chosen from the following. D1175 simply must go on the list, with Taken from a county jail and [As] Some day it may happen — two sparkling gems of Lytton's artistry. The second record should be D1177, with most of Act I finale, which despite indifference of recording succeeds admirably in recreating this scene, and including as it does Katisha's excellent rendering of The hour of darkness [sic].

The Mikado's entrance and duet with Katisha — Fancourt and Bertha Lewis are splendid in this — and A more humane Mikado occupy D1180 and should be a safe selection for the third choice. Fancourt always gives a delightfully sinister portrayal of that true philanthropist. Lastly, if a fourth record be chosen, let it be the ever-cherished memory of Bertha Lewis in Hearts do not break and Lytton's Tit Willow on D1182, with Derry down derry and finale on reverse. But this, taken as a whole, is a disappointing set of discs, marvellous though we thought them when issued.

The Gondoliers

Discussion of the 1927 HMV Recording.
"THE GONDOLIERS," issued only nine months after “The Mikado,” shows what strides the art of recording made during 1927, especially in the accompaniments and chorus work (though the women's voices are still rather shrill in places). The set holds additional interest in that so many Savoyards sing their accustomed rôles — Lytton as the Duke, Sheffield the Grand Inquisitor, Bertha Lewis the Duchess, and Winifred Lawson who here sings Gianetta (for the quality of her voice in “Kind sir,” I imagine, since I have always seen her play Casilda). Oldham always made an excellent Marco and Baker here sings Giuseppe, though I share Mr. Cameron's wish to have had Granville in the part — always, in my opinion, one of his best performances.

A glance at this selection from the cast makes plain the difficulty of choosing three or four records from the set. I should pass over the early part until the Duke and Duchess enter and where (on D1337) we soon have In enterprise of martial kind, a splendid example of Sir Henry at his Lyttonest. Each repeated hearing of this disc causes me to wonder why he has not recorded more often in the series, for as in the case of Sheffield on the next record, here is the real G. and S. touch, with all its whimsicality. On reverse Mavis Bennett and Arthur Hoskings [sic] give charming renderings of the two duets O rapture and There was a time.

Short playing-time makes me omit D1338, though it should be noted as containing Sheffield's inimitable I stole the Prince, strong evidence to support my plea for “Savoy operas by Savoyards only.” I cannot remember anyone making so much of this as does Sheffield. It was a sad day when he left the Company.

Aileen Davies' rendering of When a merry maiden marries suffices, but cannot approach that of Nellie Briercliffe. The disc (D1339) is indispensable, however, because of Winifred Lawson's perfect Kind sir; her ease is wonderful and never, I am sure, has this been better sung. With “'Tis done” in the “Yeomen” it is her best recorded work.

The long finale to Act I occupies two discs, and I prefer the first of them (D1341), partly for its longer playing-time but more particularly for the excellence of A Regular Royal Queen. The record carries the opera down to Then hail! O King and catalogues the joys of (Gilbertian) Republican equality in All shall be equal.

Rising early in the morning would, I think, have been better done by Granville, but D1342 demands inclusion for Oldham's Take a pair of sparkling eyes — indeed “a treasure rich and rare.” The final selection must rest with the individual collector: on D1343 Tessa and Gianetta sing their questioning duet Tell us all about it, followed by the Cacucha and There lived a King (Sheffield again distinguishing himself), and the quartet In a contemplative fashion. Rivalling it closely is D1345 with Lytton and Bertha Lewis in Heart of Duke and the Duchess's On the day when I was wedded, with the reverse of the disc carrying us to the end of the opera.

A capital set of records from amongst which it is difficult “a preference to declare.”

[THE GRAMOPHONE, March 1934, (Vol. XI); pg. 387]


Trial by Jury

Discussion of the 1927 HMV Recording.
Occupying but four records, "TRIAL BY JURY" is such a perfect performance and so admirably recorded on these discs as to justify going all out to obtain the whole set, for as everyone knows this is the only one of the collaborated works possible to be recorded in its entirety. Orchestra and chorus earn special praise, and in the cast we have familiar voices in familiar rôles — Derek Oldham as the fickle lover, Winifred Lawson the jilted maiden, and Leo Sheffield as the learned judge (his best recorded work), so that if one is to remain from bias free of every kind, the honours are equally divided. Possibly the two most tempting records are D1470, with the judge confiding the secret of a rapid promotion to his present high position, and carrying the story to the plaintiff's entry: or the last disc, from the quartette to the judge's skilful and commendable settling of the case. Anyone acquiring these two records will not, I imagine, long delay completing the set.

The Yeomen of the Guard

Discussion of the 1928 HMV Recording.
On hearing the "YEOMEN OF THE GUARD" it seems almost incredible that such [an] improved recording can have been issued little more than a year after the “Gondoliers” album, and especially marked is the improved reproduction of concerted numbers, many of which rank with the fine reproduction of the chorus work in the “Pirates.”

Gramophonically it would probably be impossible to reproduce with any true feeling the jester's poignant story, but I feel it would have been better done by Lytton than by Baker, who never once brings to mind Point's sad tale, being too robust, as always, and lacking the whimsicality necessary to the rôle.

The honours in this issue go to Winifred Lawson for her Elsie Maynard, a faultless performance by this soprano when at the very top of her form. The gramophone is well suited to Nellie Briercliffe, whom I always consider better as singer than as actress, so that her Phoebe is impeccable, and I should have chosen her opening song, When maiden loves, for inclusion in the collection had it not been coupled with the Overture. Dorothy Gill's Dame Carruthers is adequate and she is excellent in her big song When our gallant Norman foes, but I should personally have preferred to possess a recording of Bertha Lewis in the part.

Sheffield's Shadbolt has all the quality one expects of it, which is saying a lot. Very few of the regular tenors can tackle the part of the Colonel under sentence of death, but it holds no fears for Derek Oldham, the best Fairfax I have ever seen, and this is, taken on the whole, his best recorded work, though isolated numbers in others of the operas may equal it.

Reluctantly passing over Dame Carruthers' first solo with chorus of yeomen, my first selection is D1551, containing the trio for Phoebe, Leonard (Walter Glynne) and Meryll (Peter Dawson), and Is life a boon?, one of Oldham's best songs. The record also gives us [Here's] A man of jollity, the chorus following the entrance of Jack Point and Elsie — a triumph of recording — and A song to sing, O!, though I agree with Mr. Cameron that this is taken too quickly. Baker starts off at a great pace, so that the climax is not sufficiently contrasted: a fault more chargeable to the conductor than to the vocalist, and perhaps due to record-playing time, but in any case we cannot see in Baker's heaviness the Jack Point qualities of outward lightness which he catalogues to Sir Richard.

For one side alone, D1552 demands inclusion, with Winifred Lawson's ineffably beautiful rendering of that difficult recitative 'Tis done, I am a bride and the Ring Song [sic]. Unfortunately the reverse is less pleasing, for I've jibe and joke is sung too “straight,” and such an interpretation could never “trick you into learning with a laugh.” The trio is better, though here again much expression has been lost. My unbounded admiration for Lytton's thoughtful and moving portrayal of the jester makes it perhaps unfair to judge harshly the interpretation of anyone less familiar with, and less able to get into, the living tragedy of the part.

For its absolute re-creation of actual performance, the third choice must rest on D1557, with the trio A man who would woo a fair maid, for Elsie, Phoebe and Fairfax have very obviously “studied the knack” and realise “it ought to be treated as such.” Equally commendable is the other side of the record with the quartette When a wooer goes a-wooing, one of the finest items in the opera, and the duet Rapture, rapture.

Either of the finales would serve equally well as being representative of the chorus work: part of the conclusion to Act I is contained on D1554 and includes the trio for Wilfred, Fairfax and Phoebe, as well as Elsie's Oh, Mercy, thou whose smile, but my own choice would be for D1558 with the end of the opera from the women's chorus Comes the pretty young bride, the trio 'Tis said that joy in full perfection and Elsie's Leonard, my loved one —another example of Miss Lawson's artistry. So well reproduced is her cry of “Leonard!” on recognising Fairfax, as completely to recapture the spirit of the whole story. On this disc, too, George Baker reaches nearer the real poignancy of Point than anywhere else in the opera.

The Pirates of Penzance

Discussion of the 1929 HMV Recording.
No comment, as a general summary of the recording and performance of the "PIRATES OF PENZANCE," can be more appropriate than that contained in the original review of the issue — “from first to last and in every bar, a simply delightful performance.” With “Trial by Jury” and "Iolanthe" I rank it as one of the best of the recorded operas. The concerted numbers, as in the “Yeomen,” are well done, particularly the finale of Act I.

In this issue Elsie Griffin carries all before her, and certainly it was not Mr. Cameron's imagination when he considered her voice better here than in any other of the recorded works. Her renderings of Poor wandering one and the greeting to her father at the commencement of Act II are superb, and one cannot refrain from renewed regret that her services were not available for the part of Aline in “The Sorcerer.”

Both Derek Oldham as Frederic and Leo Sheffield as the Sergeant of Police have the authoritative assurance of old hands, and Peter Dawson, that worthy veteran of the gramophone, is adequate as the King, though why Darrell Fancourt could not have recorded it is difficult to understand.

From so admirable a set, elimination has not been easy, but if we are to confine our choice to only four records we must pass straight on to D1680, with the bashful Frederic lamenting his garb before the gentle maidens, the girls' chorus Climbing over rocky mountains [sic] (beautifully rendered and recorded), and Oldham's always dependable version of Is there not one maiden fair? [sic], so beguilingly sung as surely to enlist the services of each and every one of the maidens into glad rescue of “such a one from his unfortunate position.”

One has no choice but to include D1681 with Elsie Griffin's Poor wandering one, the most desirable disc of the eleven comprising the set.

Many will wish to have Stanley's patter song — on D1682 — and though I feel it is sung too ponderously, Baker at least succeeds in the not easy task of making clear every word of this extremely difficult number. On the same record Frederic gives his Stay, we must not lose our senses, followed by the chorus after the policemen's entry. But this would not be my personal choice, for I much prefer D1686, with the beautiful duet Ah, leave me not to pine and carrying on the scene to the policemen's song, and Sheffield's inimitable rendering of When a felon, in which every inflexion is captured.

Finally, on D1687, we have the pirates' approach, with more admirable chorus work, the “cat-like tread” and attendant delightful nonsense, these last two discs being really necessary to the collection as typical examples of the material forming the foundation on which was built the fame and immortality of Gilbert and Sullivan's collaborated work. And it is only fair, I think, to pay a tribute to H.M.V. for putting within our easy reach such magnificent reproduction of these scenes: the level achieved here has been equalled certainly, but never excelled, by any records I have heard.


Discussion of the 1929 HMV Recording.
"IOLANTHE," by many considered to be musically the best of the Savoy operas, reaches so high a standard on these records, both as to rendering and recording, as to make almost any of the discs a safe choice. The cast is comprised, with one exception, of Savoyards, but the loss of Sir Henry Lytton's turns of humour as the Chancellor are sadly missed (readers will find an interesting letter dealing with the subject in issue of April 1930); for instance, it is regrettable that the Chancellor's song early in Act I should be allowed to go for nothing, to cite but one instance. Leslie Rands is a shade heavy for Strephon and serves mainly to recall the splendour of Granville in the part, but otherwise everything is as it should be, with Winifred Lawson playing a charming Phyllis, Bertha Lewis portraying the Queen, and Nellie Briercliffe as Iolanthe. Fancourt sings the Earl of Mountararat, and Sydney Granville, doing sentry-go, gives a first-class, rendering of the famous song that opens Act II.

The first disc demanding inclusion in our collection is D1787, on one side of which we have Phyllis's Good morning, good lover [sic] and her duet with Strephon, Miss Lawson being as captivating as ever in both numbers. The other side of the disc holds the March of the Peers, the symphony preceding it being given complete, though this seems one of the rare instances justifying a cut, since the chorus has to be run on to the next record: a little less orchestral work and the chorus of Peers complete on one side would, I feel, have been a more desirable arrangement. Despite this fault, however, it is a brilliant piece of recording.

When I went to the Bar is so universal a favourite that many will want it in their library: with Tolloller's Blue Blood it is found on D1789, but in a representative collection to be confined to fifty discs it does not reach the necessary standard, and in my opinion is the most disappointing record in the issue.

Mr. Cameron expressed an opinion, when reviewing the original publication of this album, that D1792 is the best of the bunch, and no one knowing their Gilbert and Sullivan will quarrel with his choice. Though the sentry-box philosophy has in some ways become old-fashioned, Granville sings the song so admirably as to make it as acceptable as ever. The same disc gives us the fairies' chorus telling of Strephon's livening up of the House of Peers now that he is become a Member of Parliament, and Fancourt's When Britain really ruled the waves.

Rivalling it closely comes D1793 with the captivating duet for Leila and Celia, In vain to us you plead, a short side but beautifully recorded with Oh, foolish fay and the quartette In Friendship's name. Mention, however, must be made and possibly the fourth choice should rest on D1794 with George Baker exhibiting marvellous staying-power in the Nightmare Song and ending it with, seemingly, a balance of breath still in hand. On the other side is perhaps the most popular item in the opera, the trio If you go in, which could not be better done, and concludes with another favourite, the Strephon and Phyllis duet If we're weak enough to tarry, so of its inclusion there can be no possible doubt whatever. This is a splendid recording throughout and a tribute is due to the orchestra under Dr. Malcolm Sargent.

[THE GRAMOPHONE, May 1934, (Vol. XI); pg. 471]


H.M.S. Pinafore

Discussion of the 1930 HMV Recording.
Major-General Stanley's jestful reference to “that infernal nonsense ”PINAFORE” may safely be disregarded as the mere playfulness of a man of such enviable — albeit self-extolled — erudition, since this opera contains some of the most popular numbers in the whole series. The music is recorded complete on these discs and rendered by an almost all-Savoyard cast, so that the interpretation leaves nothing to desire — with one glaring exception, mentioned later. George Baker sings the Captain, and it is important to note Goulding's presence amongst the crew, as Rackstraw is the only principal part he has recorded. Mr. Herman Klein, when reviewing these discs on their publication, was praiseful of most of the artistes, but sparing in his approval of Miss Griffin, scarcely attributing to her the credit her performance of Josephine invariably warrants and receives: she is especially suited to this type of part, and this rôle, together with Mabel in the “Pirates,” was very generally considered as her best work. One doubts if her rendering of The hours creep on has ever been excelled.

The first disc from this set that I should include in the collection is D1845, with Goulding's flawless rendering of the madrigal The nightingale sighed, and the equally delightful ballad A maiden fair to see. With so few recorded specimens of this popular tenor's work to draw upon, this disc — whereon he is at his best — is indispensable. Unfortunately the Captain's first song — taken too fast — completes the disc, and this is the “glaring exception” aforementioned, for it always seems to me the worst piece of recording in the whole series: to sing this song “straight” is to ruin it, and anything more unlike the real pompous Captain Corcoran than this rendering conjures up I cannot imagine. We must, apparently, content ourselves gramophonically with memories of the delightful touches Sheffield used to get into it.

The chorus work throughout this set is excellent, as shown on D1846, with Josephine's big song, Sorry her lot, perfectly rendered here. Carrying on the action through the Barcarolle, the sailors' chorus Sir Joseph's barge, and the entry of Porter's female relatives, it takes us up to I am monarch [sic], prelude to Henry Lytton's entertaining contribution throughout the recording. This will rapidly become one of the most popular discs in the collection.

When I was a lad continues to “make a mark” on D1847, but I must curb further eulogium, having already been charged with undue “Lyttonism.” The reverse holds two more admirable numbers — the glee A British tar and the Josephine-Rackstraw duet, Refrain, audacious tar. A first-rate record.

Things are seldom what they seem is disappointing, despite Bertha Lewis's assistance, but this record contains Baker's best work in this opera — Fair Moon. The final choice, however, should unquestionably rest on D1850 with Josephine's The hours creep on, already mentioned, and an equally perfect recording of both Never mind the why and wherefore and the duet Kind Captain.


Discussion of the 1930 HMV Recording.
After playing through PATIENCE, many might be tempted to disagree with much Mr. Klein wrote when originally reviewing the records, but none will question his final verdict of an “admirable version.” Limited space has compelled such severe pruning of these articles as to leave them but shadows of their former selves; detailed comparisons of past and present Savoyards in particular rôles, quotations regarding the operas themselves, etc., have had to be deleted to permit the brief selection of a representative collection. But I feel the review published when these records first appeared might have deterred some readers from acquiring them. Mr. Klein approached the discs, I imagine, purely and simply on their merits or demerits as examples of the vocalist's art; were it otherwise he could scarcely have stated a preference for Mr. George Baker rather than either George Grossmith or Sir Henry Lytton as Bunthorne in the recorded version of this opera. Few indeed would ever question the opinion of so eminent and fair a critic as Mr. Klein in any matter touching on his specialised subject, and I hasten to agree that this is by far the best of Mr. Baker's work in these recordings — an agreement founded, however, not on his merit as a vocalist (never in question) but because this robust, rather ponderous music is better suited to him. So perfectly did the work of these two great collaborators blend, that whilst listening to Baker rendering Sullivan's music in this recording, we are able to visualise the Fleshly Poet of Gilbert's creation. The point is, of course, the old question of (1) interpretation and whether these discs are to be judged as works of purely musical value, or whether they are to serve as souvenirs of the operas in actual performance (a matter of personal inclination); and (2) whether or not Mr. Cameron was right in his letter, already referred to, when he wrote “...I fervently hope, and so I am sure do all other enthusiasts, that the policy of an all-Savoyard cast is going to be maintained.... No disparagement of George Baker is intended; the fact simply is that certain experience is needed that it is not possible for him to have had. It is difficult enough for Savoyards....”

Nor can I agree with the criticisms of Darrell Fancourt and Winifred Lawson in the rôles of the Colonel and Patience respectively; both artistes are eminently suited by the material offered them in this opera. Bertha Lewis sings her always pleasing Lady Jane, as does Nellie Briercliffe in the Lady Angela. Mr. Martyn Green makes his recording debut as Murgatroyd, and Leslie Rands is excellent in Grosvenor's big songs, even though he may not get so thoroughly into the part as did Sydney Granville.

Baker, as written above, sings an admirable Bunthorne, and is supreme in his big song If you be anxious for to shine [sic], which should be noted as a possible “extra” for the collection since short playing time of the reverse (the charming Long years ago) excludes it from my selection. The number is D1912.

The second disc of the set must find inclusion, however, with Patience in high spirits despite the doubtful blessing of being loved by a poet. Her I cannot tell is beautifully rendered, whilst on [the] reverse we have the Dragoons' famous chorus Soldiers of our Queen and the Colonel's If you want a recipe, [sic] with Fancourt at his best. One of the Colonel's two big numbers must find place in a small collection, the alternative being When I first put this uniform on which occurs on the next record (D1911), completed by the girls' chorus In a doleful train and the ensemble Now, is not this ridiculous? I should unhesitatingly choose the former disc for the flawless rendering and recording of Fancourt's song and also for Miss Lawson's work on the other side of it.

The duet Prithee, pretty maiden, is well sung by Leslie Rands and Winifred Lawson (on D1913), with the reverse carrying the Finale of Act I down to Stay, we implore you!, the accompaniments being especially well recorded on both sides. Rands here, in my opinion, reaches the level of Granville's high standard.

Most important of all, however, is the first disc from Act II with Bertha Lewis's Sad is that woman's lot and the beautiful Silvered is the raven hair, a recording that in its perfection leaves nothing to desire. On reverse is the maidens' chorus Turn, oh turn and then a cut to Grosvenor's always popular A magnet hung, finely sung by Rands: no wonder a man with so delightful a voice and so charming a manner is “sick of conquests.” Even when detached from its stage setting this song retains all its beauty.

Of the two concluding records I should select the waltz song, by Winifred Lawson, the lively Bunthorne-Jane duet So go to him, and the trio for Duke, Colonel and Major, It's clear that mediæval art, as excellent a disc as we will find in our collection.


Discussion of the 1931 HMV Recording.
That RUDDIGORE is more popular now than during its first (comparatively) short run is universally acknowledged and not to be wondered at, for this opera contains some of the most beautiful music contributed by Sullivan to the Savoy series. Original indifference to the work was doubtless due to Gilbert's too subtle humour in the “book” and the rather experimental technique he employed (whilst the title could not have helped it in those very proper days!). My space is already overrun, however, so I commend to every reader the interesting article by Mr. Klein, "Ruddigore in Retrospect," printed on the album's publication, wherein he treats at length on the original production of this opera, the doubtful reception it received and the “most charming, original and delightful music,” as well as its rendering on these discs. Mr. Klein was, of course, more competent than myself to pass verdict on the quality or otherwise of the diction, but with only a few exceptions (mostly the women's choruses) I find little difficulty in hearing the words when reproduced on an E.M.G. machine.

The honours in this set go to Dorothy Gill for her Dame Hannah, with Nellie Briercliffe's Margaret running her a close second. Muriel Dickson's Rose Maybud is admirable also, though unable to get the light touch into the famous duet that one would have liked to hear; nevertheless these records confirm the impression that indifferent recording did her an injustice in the more recent “Sorcerer” issue: her work in the Etiquette Song (DB4006) is proof enough of this.

Of the men, George Baker is better suited in Robin Oakapple than in many of the rôles allotted to him, Sydney Granville is as at home in Murgatroyd as one would expect, and Derek Oldham sings Dauntless, though scarcely breezy enough for the part and, one suspects, rather past his prime when the recording was made. I doubt if anyone has ever excelled Goulding in this rôle, and should be interested to hear readers' opinions on this point. Even H.M.V. sometimes nods, for Darrell Fancourt's name was omitted from the cast on the album fronting page, despite his singing Sir Roderic!

Not until we reach Robin's self-praising My boy, you can take it from me (DB4008) should I select my first disc from the set, for with it we have the chorus If well his suit has sped following the Richard-Rose duet, but mainly for Nellie Briercliffe's magnificent rendering of the Mad Margaret scene. Mr. Klein cherished a great and probably justified admiration for the “old brigade” expressed alike in his reviews and in Musicians and Mummers — and I feel sure he could not have paid higher tribute to Miss Briercliffe than “a masterpiece of verbal and vocal humour, rises well on the way to the Jessie Bond level.”

The Madrigal — surely the most beautiful of all the madrigals a quite certain inclusion, this exquisite music being most beautifully rendered and recorded, but I hesitate to give its number (DB4010 in current catalogue) as there was an error of pressing in my set, the work coming out of proper sequence and the labelling somewhat muddled. The remaining records for inclusion in the collection should assuredly be the two concluding discs of the set, for this is perhaps the best part of the opera. DB4012 contains In bygone days and Chorus of Portraits, Painted emblems of a race, the orchestra here meriting special mention, whilst the concerted work is also particularly fine. On the same record we have Fancourt at his admirable best in When the night wind howls, taken perhaps a little on the fast side.

Finally, after omitting Robin's recitative and song following return of the portraits to their frames, we have (DB4013) the Despard-Margaret duet I once was a very abandoned person, faultlessly sung, and the patter song where certainly the diction leaves something to be desired. Then follows what is for me the gem of the whole opera — There grew a little flower — exquisitely rendered by Dorothy Gill and Darrell Fancourt. A cut takes us to the final chorus and a fitting conclusion to a wholly praiseworthy series of records.

Princess Ida

Discussion of the 1932 HMV Recording.
Although it contains much beautiful music — I have often heard it said that musically this is the finest opera of the lot — “PRINCESS IDA” is perhaps the least popular of all, due I should say to the rather silly “book” and the poor part of the “lead,” the three sons having more than their fair share of prominence. The second act is undoubtedly rich material, and every advantage is taken of the opportunities in this recording. Though the last of the “complete” recordings, “Ida” (very much cut!) is far from least — so far as concerns volume, anyway, for in places the records are ear-splitting and the battle royal between orchestra and vocalists is at times a great strain on fibre needles!

Muriel Dickson and Dorothy Gill share the laurels with their work as Ida and Lady Blanche respectively, whilst of the men Richard Watson sings an excellent King Hildebrand, with Derek Oldham for his son Hilarion (one notices the same falling off of quality here as in "Ruddigore," though the music is more difficult), whilst Sir Henry Lytton's King Gama is a classic. We are fortunate in having these permanent souvenirs of his work, particularly his celebrated number I'm such a disagreeable man from Act I.

King Gama's first entrance indicates our premier selection (DB4018) for his famous song, aforementioned, catalogued in usual label-style from its first line If you give me your attention. What character this master of his art gets into this song; listen carefully to his marvellous touches in the last verse and then reconsider whether this type of part really calls for fine singing! Scope enough for that by the other characters in these operas. The work is then cut to the Gama-Hildebrand duet, Perhaps if you address the lady, and on reverse the Finale of Act I, including therefore the popular trios Expressive glances (Goulding as Cyril and Baker well suited as Florian) and For a month to dwell, all excellently done, so that this is a first-class record from beginning to end.

The redeeming feature of DB4019 is Muriel Dickson's lovely rendering of Oh goddess wise, but otherwise the disc is dull and I therefore omit this record and select her big song from Act III. The score is again cut severely and DB4020, which must be included, takes up again at the trio Gently, gently, sung by the sons [] after surviving the perils of cactus, stinging-nettles, glass-topped walls and whatnot, the disguised gentlemen's voices blending perfectly. Their big scene continues on [the] reverse, with Every maid is the maid for me — a sheer delight this performance of it — and here is an instance when Mr. Baker's fine voice is truly an asset. The quartette The world is but a broken toy completes the disc.

The next selection must include the popular Now wouldn't you like to rule the roast?, splendidly done on this record, and so to the satisfaction of a keen appetite with Cyril's Would you know the kind of maid?, sung by Goulding, so that we must have DB4022, possessing as we do too few specimens of his work.

Similarly a place must be found for DB4024, with Ida's big song from the last Act, I built upon a rock, in which Dickson surpasses herself. What a glorious piece of music this is — enough in itself, one would think, to popularise the entire opera! Gama's amusing patter song Whene'er I poke follows Ida's song on the record instead of preceding it as in the printed “book,” and needless to comment on what Lytton makes of it! With every replaying of this set I wonder why such a tuneful opera is not more popular; this fact is scarce1y an argument in favour of those who contend that Gilbert's share in the collaboration was and is of so much less importance than Sullivan's. Were this the case, “Princess Ida” would assuredly rank amongst the most popular of all the series.