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A unique achievement

EMI's golden years
of the gramophone -
reviewed by

'... total fascination ...'

Golden Years of the Gramophone. © 2004 EMI Records Ltd

Nothing is more reassuring in connection with this CD than the little dog on the front cover listening in puzzlement to the flaring gramophone in front of him. The original painting was by Francis Phillip Barraud (1824-1900), best known for his stained-glass designs (seek out his 'Finding of Moses' and 'The Good Samaritan; in St Anne Brookfield towards the foot of Highgate West Hill). EMI acquired the dog as early as 1899, and he inspired so much of my young listening that it is unalloyed pleasure to renew his acquaintance.

It must be admitted that not all these 23 tracks provide an equivalent pleasure. It is of course a wonder that we can listen to Alessandro Moreschi (1858-1921), known as 'the last of the castrati'. Pius X forbade castratos his chapel in 1903; but Moreschi continued to perform in St Peter's, and issued a recording of the Bach-Gounod Ave Maria in 1904. The sound may be as evocative as that of a steam engine's whistle, but it is hardly more musical. Even less can be said for Florence Foster Jenkins as Queen of Night. Tears of merriment used to course down my cheeks when I first heard her; now I just hope she expired happy in what was always a unique achievement.

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Copyright © 24 November 2004 Robert Anderson, London UK


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