27 Feb 2013

Sir Edward Elgar conducts... Enigma Variations - String Serenade - Cockaigne - HMV 1926/1933

Sir Edward Elgar:
"Enigma Variations", op.36         
Royal Albert Hall Orchestra          Rec: 28 April + 30 August 1926 - Queens Hall    (D.1154-7)
Serenade in E minor for Strings, op.20         
London Philharmonic Orchestra            Rec: 29 August 1933 - Kingsway Hall   (DB.2132-3)
"Cockaigne" Overture, op.40        
BBC Symphony Orchestra            Rec: 11 April 1933 - EMI Studio 1, Abbey Road    (DB.1935-6)
3 files zip FLAC  Mega Download  (new link: 'went missing')
HMV  ALP 1464   First edition 1957 pressing/matrices: 2XEA1103 -3N / 2XEA1104 -2N    Transferred from metalwork (afterwards destroyed)
Subsequent issues from shellac pressings. (Treble = < +1.5dB due to some 'dullness': "Enigma" has some mild matrix crackle)     Sleeve-note >>>


  1. I'm beginning to run out of adjectives to describe my gratitude: this is an astonishing offering. I listened to the Serenade three times consecutively: it sounds so natural and immediate, the string tone is lifelike, I can hear the notes that the basses play pizzicato (rather than a dull thud). Its also a pleasure to hear portamento that is just part of the natural expression, as opposed to a scholarly exercise. Plus the fact that Elgar takes the music in a lyrical sweep without self-indulgence. I always thought JB, wonderful though he was, tended to add syrup in the slow movement, and I'm not sure AB was ever really at home in this work. Surprisingly, TB came quite close to Elgar here, even if he professed not to be at one with the music - I suppose it was the Edwardian background.
    So, many , many thanks and utter gratitude. (But you must know that by now!)

    Andrew Smith

    1. Hello Andrew.
      Well - I do appreciate your kind comments!!
      Being a bit 'techy' I did listen to the CD-RW for each item and decided a bit of treble 'lift' would help: as you say the recordings are 'natural' (though the Enigma isn't too consistent.
      I've always liked his performances of these/other works (being 'brisk/no nonsense'): but this LP (also the 10" 'Falstaff': don't have + the Violin Concerto) does have the advantage of not being derived from material akin to the pavement: so you certainly hear finer 'detail' (and the Cockaigne really is 'wide-range' in terms of frequency-response).
      First heard the Enigma in Griffith's shellac transcription in the 'Images of Elgar' box-set: £6.10 (rrp £6.95) from Opus Records - mail order - bought January 1974: apparently that set (have 2) was limited to 750 copies.

      I have been (sort of) meaning to 'do' the Beecham of the above: have the 10" Philips discs - 2 copies of Enigma - 1 being 'superior' sonically - also the CBS Classics: but recall the latter had some tape-wow problems??

    2. Hi TinEar, I've found that I have the Cockaigne on a CD, which I must try out, but you mentioned that it was transcribed from shellac. I don't think I have Images of Elgar - my filing is appalling, I rely on serendipity. I have the Beecham on 10" vinyl and on Sony CD, and I can confirm that the CDs have tape problems; not so much wow as a sort of background gurgling. Beecham's Enigma takes the music at face value - he just plays it for all its worth, and it comes off very well. Any chance of Anthony Collin's Falstaff? Now there's a performance!

      Andrew Smith

    3. I'll have to 'take your word' about Collins' Falstaff - as have yet to play (the original) LXT2940 - bought in 1986!! (the ACL reissue is also one I'm missing in that series: additionally has some B.Neel I otherwise don't have)..but have done a transfer of Irving's 1953 LP - LSO Facade/Horoscope: not on CD - but not edited it...

      I believe the EMI CD's were derived from Griffith's transfers (no-one is quoted as doing this ALP in the 'Elgar on Record' box-set/book) - hence I've never uploadsed the 11 LP's from those boxes (as with Beecham's Delius WRC Vol.1: on CD - same Griffith's transfers..).

  2. Thanks a lot for this - the sound is really excellent, and the music played like this opens a window on to a lost world. - Yes, the CBS LP of the Beecham Enigma Variations etc had terrible wow; I still have it somewhere, but have never listened again. A pity, because the performance seemed to be very enlivening. I do hope you or somebody can offer a good transcription of that interpretation.

    1. Philips pressings of the late '50's vintage are invariably easy to edit - so that should be possible: & have a gaggle of other 10" Beecham/Philips SBR series (earlier Columbia 33C's are none too good) - so could add 'Nutcracker''- or Delius: S.Garden/Over Hills - from the 'dead before 1944' Pristine list.

      Unfortunately (?) both my RAHO/Enigma HMV 78 albums got broken...

  3. Beautifully done. Thank you so much for this (and all the other transfers!).

    1. Don't recall ever seeing the 10" BLP 'Falstaff'.
      The ALP Violin Concerto had a partial recut for later pressings; the recut side being somewhat superior to the 1957 transfer/s.
      These sound OK - and 'Cockaigne' is surprisingly 'Hi-Fi' (have that/most Elgar electrics on 78's).

    2. Anonymous05 May, 2013

      I agree with the previous comments - your offerings are much appreciated. If you intend to post the Beecham Enigma, may I suggest the Philips 10 inch LP which has the most vivid recording and the quietest surfaces. Also don't forget he also did the Serenade for Strings and Cockaigne also on 10 inchers. While you are about it,have you come across The Enigma by Sargent? Not the flabby 1953 LSO or the 1958 Stereo Philharmonia HMV. but the 1947 Decca ffrr with P & C 5 as a filler. This is really fine IMO. It seems that the 4 min sides concentrated his mind and produced taut and characterful performances. Also Boyd Neel's In The South Decca ffrr. Both issued by Dutton some years ago.
      Howard Cooper

    3. Don't have the 12" ABL. The 10" Enigma had a re-cut (or 3) - and 8/9 is quite superior to 5/6. My Cockaigne/Serenade is 1/2.

      Was rather taken with the sound of the original Philips ABL mastering of Tchaikovsky 2..but all/most are/were on CD..so have no idea if they were sonic bloopers compared to the old vinyl's -of which I've 'quite a few' in the Beecham line..

      Have the Decca/Sargent 'Enigma' (Nat SO) - but suspect it isn't viable to transfer (was on Dutton CD?).

      Maybe Sargent/LSO didn't get along too well, as his Planets is lesser than Boult's LPO that I've just uploaded on PRISTINE - though the Purcell-Coates arrangement is possibly not available.

    4. Anonymous06 May, 2013

      I am confident that your evaluation of the various Philips pressings of Beecham's CBS recordings is correct. I do remember that the master tapes suffered serious deterioration and so when reissued on the CBS Classics label, they had to use a 2nd generation tape. I believe they used the damaged master tapes for the Sony CD release but with substantial processing and leaving the pitch instability uncorrected. This applied to all the Beecham repertoire CD reissues.
      For many years I have looked out for the Henry Wood Enigma. It seems particularly elusive. Perhaps you may be able to help here please?

      With Thanks, Howard Cooper

    5. OK - will 'do' Beecham's Elgar next..in response to 'some interest shown' !!!

      I tend to prefer original Philips/Fontana UK masterings but I don't have the time to transfer, eg, his Delius - despite the 'Hassan' (PRISTINE) being so popular (that Fontana surpasses the GBL re-cut/CBS Classics - but not by a huge amount).

      Wasn't aware of a Henry Wood 'Enigma'; my only other 78 set is the pre-war BBC/Boult - which received a v.good 'transformation' by Bill Anderson.

  4. What a treasure, thank you for making this available in such sound! (Did download this a long time ago, but saved listening to now that am familiar enough with Enigma Variations to begin to tell the difference between performances.)

    1. Only a few days back realised I'd lost my WAV files - as forgot to back them up onto the 2 hard-drives after deleting this blogs folder from laptop #1.

      Managed to get both mint albums of the Enigma 'smashed-up' - but have the other 2 as new/original 78's.

      The Enigma here is probably better than the shellac transfer on World Records/RLS box-set - which I recall (probably haven't played it in almost 40years!!) as being a bit 'worn'.