Monday, 20 February 2012

By the ungracious condescension of His Grouch the Archgrump

WRC T[P] 36 cover

Beethoven Piano Trio in Bb Op.97 ‘Archduke’
Loveridge-Martin-Hooton Trio
rec. 1958/59?
World Record Club T[P] 36

Grumble. Mumble. Wumble! Mutter. Splutter. Whinge. Grizzle. Grouse. Kvetch. Rouspète. Râle.

On the other hand, what a nice chap who sold me this via eBay. Very happy. Thank you.

The sleeve says ‘T 36’ but the labels say ‘TP 36’ – anyone know why? The labels also say, rather charmingly, ‘First issued 1939’! As it happens, I have seen the WRC supplement for June-July 1959 which lists this LP. I don’t know of a stereo issue; the Club was already putting out stereo records but only of orchestral music, as far as I can make out.

Iris Loveridge is quite well represented on CD, by a 3-CD set of Bax’s piano music and a mixed recital of Moeran and Gordon Jacob, all on Lyrita. There’s an excellent article about her by Rob Barnett on Musicweb International. Loveridge also made other LPs and 78s.

Florence Hooton currently has just one CD to her name, also on Lyrita, of ’cello music by Bax and Jacob. She appears on many 78s, in different trios (one with Frederick Grinke) and duos (one with Gerald Moore). On CHARM, you can hear her playing Sammartini and – wait for it – Webern’s String Trio! (Unfortunately, she has been spelled ‘Hooteon’ in CHARM’s metadata for the Webern.) I found a short obituary in a music journal, which told me that she died aged 75 in 1988, a highly respected teacher, and had studied with Emanuel Feuermann.

In 1938 Hooton married the Canadian-born violinist David Martin, who is written up by Giles Bryant in the wonderfully useful Canadian Encyclopedia. From that, I learn that Martin studied with Kathleen Parlow, led the Philharmonic String Trio and after the War founded his own String Quartet and Piano Trio. Martin made 78s and LPs with all groups, as well as with the Boyd Neel String Orchestra; a fair number have been reissued on CD.

I really like this record. The sound is a little iffy: at the start the piano is too recessed and almost sounds like a Graf or Beethoven’s own Broadwood. But I love the sound Loveridge gets from it: it has a gentle, plummy quality which makes me suspect it’s an old-fashioned, less famous make, possibly British? The recorded balance is not ideal (not easy, recording piano trios, I know) and, on my otherwise nice copy of this LP, there is distortion on some peaks at the end.

This is excellent music-making of the second rank, the kind of thing the self-appointed arbiters (arbiter?) of taste at RMCR don’t want you to hear, still less enjoy. By ‘second rank’, I only mean in comparison to international stars. The performance really comes into its own in the slow movement, where Loveridge achieves a serene, generous calm. After a well managed transition, the finale is unruffled but purposeful, rather than hectic. Yet there is power in reserve.

It’s also the kind of performance, I imagine, one might have heard at, say, the South Place Sunday Concerts in the 1950s. I recently went to the Concerts’ home for many decades, the Conway Hall, for the first time, I’m ashamed to say, to hear Beethoven’s ‘Ghost’ and two other piano trios played with passionate commitment by a young ensemble led by a friend, the gifted and versatile Australian violinist Madeleine Easton.

The ‘Ghost’ slightly showed up its neighbours, even Mendelssohn’s Op.66. And with the ‘Archduke’, we’re in yet another league. What a work. This is what it’s all about, eh? In a sense, I’m only here because of the ‘Archduke’. In 1982, helping to decorate my parents’ house during the university summer holidays, I listened non-stop to BBC Radio Three and, one day, while I was blow-torching paint from a door frame or a skirting board (or was I sand-papering stair balusters?), someone put on the Cortot-Thibaud-Casals version.

Bingo. Damascus. That was the single experience which opened my ears to the pleasure – not only the value and the interest, the sheer pleasure – of historical recordings. Soon after, I went to the Music Discount Centre, newly opened in Dean Street, and bought the Opal LP transfer. And the rest is grumpiness.

Because I didn’t want to separate the last two movements, only three mono, fully tagged FLACs, in a .rar file, here.

Snarl. Gnash. Fume. Grind. Introspect! Curse. Blast. Seethe…


  1. Wow - what a surprise - I remember this well from my youth and shall be fascinated to hear it again.

    Re the T and TP numbering, WRC offered free copies or reduced price copies of certain LPs to newly joining members. Although the performances and pressings were exactly the same, for some unknown reason they numbered the freebies separately, with the P suffix. Additionally, the freebies had red labels, the normal ones green.


    1. Dear David, Thank you so much, very kind of you to clear up this small but unguessable mystery! Yes, the label is red, as you say. I hope you enjoy the record again as much as I have. Think of it as my little present for joining Grumpy's Club of Curmudgeons! (Not that I'm implying you're one...)

  2. This one was so AWESOME! Who cares about "imperfections" when there's so much "alive-ness" to this record...This proves without a doubt that there's more, MUCH MORE, to Beethoven than "duh-duh-duh-DUUUUUUUH!" I wish more people of my generation (age 33) could realize this!