The only grail I own is this tiny cup. I won it at school in 1976 – yes, don’t laugh, in them days I was quite nippy – on account of being in the winning under-17s 4 x 100m house relay team. I was the anchor, and my charming comrades later regaled me with descriptions of my competitors gaining on me over the home stretch. Team sports? Humbug.
This, though, is definitely not a grail, despite what you’ll read if you ever try to buy a copy.
H.M.V. CLPC 15
Tchaikovsky, Borodin String Quartets
Haydn Quartet of Brussels:
Georges Maes, Louis Hertogh,
Louis Logie, René Pousseele
rec. early 1950s?, Brussels?
It’s a very good record, but not because it’s ‘super-rare’ or ‘the holy grail of classical collecting’ etc. etc. (That seems to be Pathé’s set ‘Mozart à Paris’ – and altarware-fetishists are welcome to it, as I’m more than happy with my EMI CDs, thank you very much. Yes, I know the Andante K.315 is missing.)
The Haydn Quartet’s discography is small, and all over it hangs this graily pall. As far as I know, these are the sum total of original issues:
Maurice Schoemaker String Quartet in D
Decca 143.383 (10-inch)
‘in Antique Modes’
Decca 143.384, Olympia LPT 3312 (10-inch)
Mozart String Quartets in Bb K.458, F K.590
HMV CLPC 14
Tchaikovsky, Borodin String Quartets
HMV CLPC 15
Telefunken LGM 65011, LB 6035 (10-inch)
rec. 4-Oct-52, Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels
If anyone can add to the above, I’d be very grateful. Was Olympia’s de Jong the origination or a reissue? Did Olympia also issue the Schoemaker? (And what else was on Olympia?)
The Mozart quartets have been transferred from LPs and issued in Japan, by Green Door on CD (GD-2041), and by Mythos Lord (see?) on a variety of CDRs (NR-6046 plus various suffixes, depending I suppose on how much gold you require on your plastic).
In 1978, Belgium’s Fonds Georges Maes issued a 3-LP set entitled ‘Georges Maes een aandenken’ / ‘Georges Maes en mémoire’. It too contains the three Mozart quartets, plus the Tchaikovsky, and there’s other material from broadcasts. Somewhere in the Cave is a copy of this box, but I can’t lay my hands on it at the moment. If memory serves, which these days it tends to less and less, I believe the quartets are also taken from LPs.
I know of no other transfers, much less reissues from original master tapes. And that’s what makes me grumpy about this chalice-chasing. If everyone the world over who covets the Haydn Quartet’s LPs clubbed together, and put up even a fraction of what the originals cost, surely there’d be enough to mount a commando raid on the lock-up, extract the tapes, dub them and then slip them back, with a box of Milk Tray, before anyone notices? Or even enough to pay the men in suits – though I gather they’ve got greedy of late.
Still, this is a nice record, and I flatter myself that it has scrubbed up very well. I tried to leave in all the bow noises and chair creaks, and there’s some foot stamping and other noises off. The performances are simply lovely, and I very much like the close, dry, slightly boxy sound - that’s how most instrumental records were balanced until the present fashion for ecclesiastical bathrooms.
Apologies, I’ve not been able to find the recording date or venue. My guesses are, early 1950s in Brussels, like the session(s) for the Quartet’s sole Telefunken LP, which I got from Michael Gray’s indispensable ‘A Classical Discography’. I should go to the British Library and see if I can’t find the info in the microfilmed EMI Archive paperwork.
I should also research these H.M.V. export LP series. ALPC was India, BLPC was sort of Scandinavia (including Iceland… but also Ireland), CLPC must have been Belgium (and Holland? – oh, and India again), DLPC seems to be southern Europe (including Israel!)… err, and that’s as far as I’ve got. Or were the different prefixes for different genres? I don’t how these series were marketed. Why are the sleeves and labels in English? Were they available in export markets only by special order? Could one buy them in Britain? Why are the Haydn Quartet LPs so rare? Seems a shame that even the Belgians didn’t get to enjoy one of their finest ensembles more. Clearly, I’ve a lot to learn. Answers gratefully received!
By the way, don’t get me wrong: I’ve nothing against collectors – I am one myself – or original copies of obsolete recording formats. Clearly, where master tapes have been destroyed or lost (a sackable offence, in my view), an original is the only source of a recording. Even after being transferred, it should be preserved rather than being discarded, as so often happened in the past. Not only are transfer equipment and techniques constantly evolving, the originals are interesting commercial, aesthetic and historical objects. I know some people like to play original records on original equipment, and they can sound very good. I’d just prefer a digital reissue from master tapes – which, in any case, need to be preserved before it’s too late. That’s if the masters survive – shouldn’t we at least find out?
In the meantime, download the 8 mono FLACs, fully tagged, in a .rar archive, plus images, here.