A unique achievement
EMI's golden years
of the gramophone -
'... total fascination ...'
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.
Copyright © 24 November 2004
Robert Anderson, London UK