Friday 10 February 2023

The firsts shall last

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Eine kleine Nachtmusik in G K.525
I. Allegro; II. Romance. Andante
Nicolas Lambinon String Quartet
matrices: XXBo 8016-2 / XXBo 8017-2
recorded: c. November 1923, Berlin
Odeon O-6068 = AA 79467

Just flagging a few ‘firsts’ recently added to the ‘collection’ at the Internet Archive. Above is a label from the first record of Mozart’s Eine kleine Nachtmusik – strangely, only the first two movements were recorded. Wos zum Deifel!? In truth, that is of a piece with Lambinon’s other discs, which were all of ‘snippets’ from popular chamber works by Beethoven, Brahms, Gade, Haydn, Mozart (just this), Schubert and Schumann. Lambinon (1880-1958), born in Liège and a pupil of Joseph Joachim, was a sometime concert-master of the Blüthner Orchestra and, from 1930, a member of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. I have one other record of him, playing in a piano trio – must get that up, too.

This label seems to show Odeon transitioning from ‘face numbers’ to one catalogue number per disc, by then rapidly becoming the standard. The shy little Bestell-Nummer (‘order number’) is on this label only, up in the left-hand corner of the cartouche, whereas the face number (Platten-Nummer, ‘record number’) is prominently printed in the lower centre. That’s where Odeon would soon put the O-prefixed Bestell-Nummer, which we tend to call the catalogue number. But in the first catalogue in which this disc was listed, the Odeon Musikplatten Deutsches Haupt-Verzeichnis 1924/25 (p.192), the Bestell-Nummer is given the old way, as AA 79 467. Another oddity is that ‘1925’ in the top right-hand corner of the cartouche, again only on this side; yet the catalogue clearly states it lists discs issued up to and including July 1924. Whatever.

One of my favourite organ works by J.S. Bach has long been the Fantasia (or, as in early MSS, Pièce d’orgue) in G BWV 572. So I’m happy to report we’ve just put up the first recording, by the French organist Noëlie Pierront (1899-1988). In October 1936 she made three discs of Bach and one of Buxtehude for the Bedford schoolmaster and organ enthusiast Aubrey C. Delacour de Brisay (1896-1989), who devised, sponsored and marketed a series of 12-inch records of this music played by Pierront, Ralph Downes and, he hoped, George Thalben-Ball. Frank Andrews’ characteristically thorough account of the venture in the CLPGS’s Hillandale News is here (if you have access to the Gramophone archive, you can also read de Brisay’s own article about it and Alec Robertson’s reviews).

I’m rather proud that we have now rescued from oblivion all but two of the seven issued Private Organ Recordings, three played by Pierront and two by Downes. The fifth in the series had to be withdrawn for copyright reasons – I’ve never found out what was on it, so bravo to the unnamed publisher for erasing it more completely from the face of the earth than time or neglect could ever do. Trottel. Poor de Brisay’s series didn’t make it past eight; he hoped to have more Buxtehude recorded by Thalben-Ball, but failed to muster enough subscriptions. Now I just need to find the first and last.

A couple of other firsts and lasts: the first (and, for a long time, only) recording of the fine String Quartet by John Alden Carpenter, by the Gordon String Quartet for Schirmer; and the last recording of the wonderful and pioneering ensemble Ars Rediviva and its founder, the harpsichordist and musicologist Claude Crussard (1893-1947), a 1946 Swiss radio broadcast issued by La Boîte à Musique as a posthumous tribute after the whole group died in an air crash while touring Portugal in February 1947. It’s also a first: the debut on disc of François Couperin’s superb early trio sonata of 1692 ‘L’Astrée’ (so named after a romance, apparently), itself not that often recorded – usually, people have gone for the revised version incorporated into Les nations as the opening Sonade of La piémontoise. I’m especially proud to have tracked down a copy of this uncommon set, which took a long time; the sound of the Radio Lausanne lacquer, transcribed to shellac, is not great, but Andrew Hallifax has restored it so that we only hear what is a deeply intense performance and a fitting and moving memorial to an immortal band of women. (Do hear their unusual Bach passion aria too.)


François Couperin
Sonata for two violins & continuo in g ‘L’Astrée’
Ars Rediviva, Claude Crussard (harpsichord / director)
matrices: PARTX 6090-1/6091-1, 6092-1/6093-1
recorded: 7 April 1946, Lausanne
Boîte à Musique 58-59


  1. Thanks, Nick - I enjoy reading about your various finds! I hope you keep posting your comments here.

  2. Dear Buster, thank you! You're right, I should get out of the cave more - but I'm working on a bit of a mammoth-bone... I promise I'll post again soon :) All the very best, G