TT-4010 - In memoriam Alfred Seiser (1931 - 2000)

Raritäten aus der Sammlung Alfred Seiser (jetzt im GHT-Archiv):
Ausgewählte Berliner-, G&T-, Gramophone- und Zonophone-Aufnahmen 1899 - 1917

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TT-4010 - In memoriam Alfred Seiser (1931 - 2000)

Rarities from the important 78rpm collection of Alfred Seiser (now preserved in the GHT Archive):
Selected Berliner, G&T, Gramophone and Zonophone recordings 1899 - 1917

For the most part never before on CD or even never reissued at all anywhere. All items carefully restored at correct pitch.

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Alfred Seiser (1931 - 2000)

After a tough childhood made worse by the hardships of the second World War, young Alfred Seiser starts his professional life as a baker in Wien-Fünfhaus, to help his family make a living. In his spare time, he attends business school and takes music lessons.
Gravely affected with tuberculosis at an early age, he loses one lung at age 18. Unable to continue in his craft, he becomes executive director of EUROPAFUNK in Wien-Mariahilf, and in 1969 he takes up the position of a corporate executive with PHILIPS in Vienna.
Musically talented since childhood, Seiser plays the piano and trains his singing voice. He visits the opera and concerts whenever he can. And he collects records....
His father had once owned a valuable record collection, but had to sell everything to make ends meet after the War.
Alfred Seiser thus begins again from zero. He finds most of his 78rpm records at the Vienna flea market which he doggedly combs every week in rain or shine; also on his travels through the territories of the former Austro-Hungarian monarchy.
His main collecting interest is classical singing and opera, but he soon adds other styles, like popular songs, cabaret, historical speeches, Jewish and Russian music, broadening the range and variety of his collection. In addition, he collects autographed photos and letters by singers and actors, music autographs, playbills and similar ephemera. These treasures today reside in the Nationalbilbliothek, while his records form the foundation and core of the GHT Archive.

For this CD, we have chosen a selection of particularly fine, rare, beautiful, or otherwise remarkable records from Seiser's collection. To accomodate the limits of CD playing time, we restricted ourselves to Gramophone Co. products (Berliner, G&T, Zonophone, HMV) up to the Great War - a type of record Seiser avidly collected and which forms a sizable part of the collection as it exists at GHT today. The music attempts to reflect the variety of Seiser's taste, except that we, on purpose, have largely avoided the most well-known and oft-reissued singers like Caruso or Battistini, to make room for some less hackneyed items which the collectors of today hopefully might not have on their shelves already.


01: El Capitán (John Philip Sousa)
March on motives from Sousa's eponymous operetta
The Musical Avolos (xylophone: Charles Avolo, piano: Harry Avolo)
7" disc Berliner 2056 (6756) • key F, 72.5 rpm, 1:34 min
London, Cockburn Hotel, 31 Maiden Lane, Thursday 4 May 1899 (Fred W. Gaisberg)
The earliest recording in Seiser's collection, and stunning in its vivid sonic quality despite the primitive recording equipment in use during the first year of record production in Europe. The pressing heard here, like several other Berliners in the collection, is remarkably free from wear.

02: Wiener Künstler-Marsch (Johann Schrammel)
The Honeymoon March (George Rosey)
Schrammel-Quartett "D' Grinzinger" (violins: Karl Steher, Franz Reisinger, bandoneon/leader: Johann Werdegg, bass guitar: Karl Strohmayer)
7" disc Berliner 2554 (78030) • keys E/D, 70.9 rpm, 2:06 min
Wien, circa Monday 19 June 1899 (Fred W. Gaisberg)
The oldest Viennese recording in the collection, made on Gaisberg's first tour of Europe, and living proof that even the earliest type of gramophone was very well able to record bowed and plucked string instruments. The preponderance of brass bands on early records thus was not so much a technical necesseity, but largely a reflection of the popular taste of the period.

03: Charlotten-Walzer (Hans Franzos)
piano: Hermine Mayer
7" disc Berliner 2788 (75527) • key C, 69.6 rpm, 1:57 min
Wien, circa Monday 26 June 1899 (Fred W. Gaisberg)
Another example from Gaisberg's 1899 tour, this time a piano solo: Another allegedly impossible subject matter for the earliest recordings, despite a number of counter-examples in the earliest catalogues. We were unable to find a trace of Hermine Mayer apart from this solitary recording.

04: Hans und Liese (Franz von Woyna / Franz von Woyna)
"Der Hans schleicht umher" 
soprano: Aennie Dirkens • piano: unidentified
7" disc Berliner 1507 A (43002) • key A, 76.3 rpm, 1:47 min
Wien, circa Saturday 28 April 1900 (William Sinkler Darby)
Female voices, according to anecdotal recording history, were just as hard to capture as strings (viz. track 2) and piano (viz. track 3). Frl. Dirkens nonetheless delivers a charming performance with every syllable of the text clear as a bell and, as usual with her, bubbling with personality.

05: LA PETITE MARIÉE (Charles Lecocq / Eugène Leterrier, Albert Vanloo)
Act 3. Couplets du Podestat {Rodolpho}: Vraiment, est-ce là la mine
Rodolpho: André Maréchal • piano: unidentified
7" disc Berliner 1228 G (32960) • key F, 72.0 rpm, 2:28 min
Paris, mid-July 1900 (Fred W. Gaisberg)
The wax-cut process that quickly replaced Berliner's zinc-etched masters meant a huge step forward in audio fidelity, and Maréchal's vibrant baritone is captured here with an immediacy not generally found even in recordings 10 or 20 years younger than this one.

06: Kellner, zahl'n! — Scherz-Polka (Carl W. Drescher)
Drescher-Kapelle (leader: Carl W. Drescher, vocal: unidentified band members)
7" disc Berliner 1397 B (40529) • key B, 71.7 rpm, 1:51 min
Wien, during October 1901 (William Sinkler Darby)
A popular Viennese dance orchestra of the time. The sound is again dominated by strings, and there's none of that cliché oom-pah brass most laymen take for granted with early recordings. The gusto and spirit of the performance sparkle despite the rather distant recording.

07: Der schneidige Tymian (Emil Winter-Tymian / Emil Winter-Tymian)
vocal: Emil Winter-Tymian • male chorus and marching band: Emil Winter-Tymians Sänger-Gesellschaft • piano: unidentified
10" disc Gramo 753 x (42824) • key A-flat, 75.3 rpm, 2:51 min
Dresden, during March 1902 (William Sinkler-Darby)
This very early attempt at recording a complete stage "number", not just a solo voice, presents the then very popular singer-songwriter-impresario Emil Winter, who changed his stage name to "Winter-Tymian" because of this song which became his "signature tune".

08: CARMEN (Georges Bizet / Henri Meilhac, Ludovic Halévy)
Act 3. Air des cartes {Carmen}: En vain, pour éviter "Wenn dir die Karten einmal"
Carmen: Marie Gutheil-Schoder • piano: unidentified
10" disc Gramo 886 x (43281) • key F minor, 74.6 rpm, 2:33 min
Wien, during April 1902 (William Sinkler Darby)
Gutheil-Schoder, a major star during Gustav Mahler's tenure at the Wiener Hofoper, made only one effort to have her voice recorded which resulted in eight sides that, as a group, are rather disappointing. Seiser unearthed what may well be the only surviving copy of the present item. Careful restoration has toned down the traces of wear just enough to reveal a fascinating account of this crucial scene, with a poetic and emotional depth one would not necessarily expect after hearing her oft-reissued, rather bland Seguidilla or her duets with Franz Naval.

09: Ausheben der Thora (composer unidentified / Biblical)
"Adonai, Adonai, El rachum V'chanun"
cantor: Béla Guttmann • Chor vom Leopoldstädter Tempel • harmonium: unidentified
10" disc Gramo 1038½ x (11562) • key A, 79.9 rpm, 2:38 min
Wien, during May 1902 (William Sinkler Darby)
One of the earliest cantorial recordings from Vienna, certainly the earliest in the collection, by a very capable cantor who only made a small handful of discs for G&T and Dacapo. The sonic quality of this pristine unworn copy is, again, rather impressive.

10: LE PROPHÈTE (Giacomo Meyerbeer / Eugène Scribe)
Act 3. Hymne triomphal {Jean}: Roi du Ciel et des anges
"E vedo, il ciel s'aprì... Rè del Ciel"
Jean: Francesco Tamagno • piano: unidentified
10" disc Gramo 3011 R-FT (52677) • key B-flat, 72.2 rpm, 2:53 min
Ospedaletti, Villa Tamagno, Sunday 8 February 1903 (Will C. Gaisberg, Belford Royal)
We have chosen this justly famous recording by Tamagno, with its exceptionally vivid sound, as an example of the many excellent "mainstream" records to be found in Seiser's collection.

11: DER MANDARIN VON TSING-LING-TING (Julius Einödshofer / Julius Freund)
Walzerlied: Komm, Liebster mein "Ach, wie sind wir armen Frau'n doch zu erbarmen"
soprano: Mizzi Günther • piano: possibly Alfred Grünfeld • intro: Louis Treumann
7" disc Gramo 972' C (43329) • key E-flat, 77.8 rpm, 1:50 min
Wien, during May 1903 (Franz Hampe)
From the world-famous back to the obscure: Seiser's three 7-inch G&Ts by operetta diva Mizzi Günther are the only copies of these records reported anywhere, and the music she sings on them has also disappeared from view almost without a trace. We were not even able to find the name of the character that Günther performs here. It is an often overlooked aspect that collections of early records do not only preserve individual interpretations and historical performance traditions, but also much music that has not been otherwise brought down to us. 

12: FRÜHLINGSLUFT (Ernst Reiterer, after Josef Strauß / Karl Lindau, Julius Wilhelm)
Act 2. Pfeiflied {Hildebrandt}: Morgen wollen wir hinaus in Freie zieh'n
Hildebrandt: Johannes Semfke • piano: Bruno Seidler-Winkler
10" disc Gramo 1876 x (2-42745) • key A-flat, 77.0 rpm, 2:30 min
Berlin, Deutsche Grammophon AG, Ritterstr. 36, during July 1903 (William Sinkler Darby)
Semfke, after a youthful career as light baritone in operetta, studied with Jean de Reszke as a Heldentenor and went on to greater fame under the name of Johannes Sembach. 

13: DER ZIGEUNERBARON (Johann Strauß II / Ignaz Schnitzer)
Act 2. Werberlied {Graf Homonay, chorus}: Her die Hand, es muß ja sein
Graf Homonay: Rudolph Hofbauer • piano: unidentified
10" disc Gramo 775 e (Zonophone X-22294) • key E minor, 77.5 rpm, 2:39 min
Wien, during June or July 1904 (Will C. Gaisberg)
Gaisberg's summer 1904 session in Vienna was not a lucky one. The records turned out tinnier and fainter in tone than in previous years, and were for the most part either quickly withdrawn or demoted to the cheaper Zonophone label. Careful equalization helps a lot to recognize a spirited performance by the underrated and mostly forgotten baritone Hofbauer.

14: UN BALLO IN MASCHERA (Giuseppe Verdi / Antonio Somma)
Act 3. Aria {Amelia}: Morrò, ma prima in grazia "Der Tod ist mir willkommen"
Amelia: Betty Schubert • piano: unidentified
10" disc Gramo/Zono A 593 e (X-23049) • key E-flat minor, 78.3 rpm, 3:05 min
Wien, during June or July 1904 (Will C. Gaisberg)
Another important singer badly under-represented on records: Apart from the ill-fated 1904 Zonophones, she only recorded a couple of duets for Odeon later the same year that also suffer from technical problems. This is the first reissue of a solo recording of hers on modern media.

15: BARBE-BLEUE (Jacques Offenbach / Henri Meilhac, Ludovic Halévy)
Act 1. Légende {Barbe-Bleue, chorus}: Ma première femme est morte "Welch ein liebliches Frauenbild"
Barbe-Bleue: Karl Meister • piano: unidentified
12" disc Gramo 338 i (042100) • key A, 75.6 rpm, 3:26 min
Wien, mid-October 1904 (William Sinkler Darby)
Shortly after Gaisberg's poor results during the summer, Darby was sent to Vienna to finally make state-of-the-art new recordings there, and he did so with exceptional success, as this brilliant specimen shows. If Meister rarely sang opera, it was surely not for lack of voice or musical talent!

16: Nachgeb'n tan ma net! — Marschlied (Carl Lorens)
Matauschek-Quartett (2 violins, bandoneon, bass-guitar, male vocal group)
7" disc Gramo 6866 a (Zonophone 24038) • key E-flat, 72.7 rpm, 1:46 min
Wien, during April 1905 (Fred W. Gaisberg)
A late example of the 7-inch discs that disappeared from the market soon after, presenting an early performance of an unspecified group involving brothers Fritz and/or Hans Matauschek. The song petering out after just one verse shows why these short records were becoming unpopular.

17: LE NOZZE DI FIGARO (Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart / Lorenzo Da Ponte)
Act 4. Aria {Don Basilio}: In quegli anni in cui val poco "In den Jahren, wo die Stimme"
Don Basilio: Arthur Preuss • piano: unidentified
12" disc Gramo 487 c (042123) • key B-flat, 73.0 rpm, 4:07 min
Wien, during April 1905 (Fred W. Gaisberg)
The earliest (and for several decades only) recording of this aria, often cut from performances but apparently not so under Mahler, on a record just as rare as the music. Once again, Seiser's disc, cracked as it is, seems to be the only surviving copy, at least it has not been reported elsewhere nor was it included in previous reissue projects. Painstaking retouching has hidden the cracks and brought out a masterful performance by Preuss who was much more than a comprimario tenor!

18: Auf dem Meere (Robert Franz op.36,1 / Heinrich Heine)
"Das Meer hat seine Perlen"
baritone: Leopold Demuth • piano: unidentified
10" disc Gramo 6732 b (3-42293) • key E-flat, 73.3 rpm, 2:09 min
Wien, during April 1905 (Fred W. Gaisberg)
A rarely recorded song and a rarely encountered yet excellent disc by Demuth: reasons enough to prefer it for this anthology over his many well-known opera excerpts.

19: EICHENDORFF-LIEDER (Hugo Wolf / Joseph von Eichendorff)
№ 3. Verschwiegene Liebe
tenor: Leo Slezak • piano: unidentified
10" disc Gramo 6848 b (3-42265) • key D, 73.2 rpm, 2:32 min
Wien, during April 1905 (Fred W. Gaisberg)
The youthful splendour of Slezak's voice here will come as a revelation to those only familiar with his (still very good) electric Lieder recordings from the 1920s. Not a rare record, but certainly one worth listening to, especially from a flawless mint pressing like this!

20: LA FORZA DEL DESTINO (Giuseppe Verdi / Francesco Maria Piave)
Act 2. Finale {Leonora, Guardian, chorus}: La Vergine degli Angeli
Leonora: Celestina Boninsegna • Coro e Orchestra del Teatro alla Scala, Milano • choirmaster: Aristide Venturi • conductor: Carlo Sabajno
10" disc Gramo 7309½ b (53416X) • key G, 78.7 rpm, 3:05 min
Milano, late September 1905 (Fred W. Gaisberg)
You may be forgiven for thinking "Oh! I know that record!" because 53416 was indeed one of Boninsegna's bestsellers for decades, and every collector who wants it likely has it. However, to everybody's surprise, our research found however that Seiser's copy is pressed from a previously undocumented alternative take (7309½ b rather than the usual 7309 b) of which neither Alan Kelly nor anybody else was aware. Something to add to your Boninsegna discography!

21: TRISTAN UND ISOLDE (Richard Wagner / Richard Wagner)
Act 1. {Tristan}: Wohl kenn' ich Irlands Königin "Los den Anker! Das Steuer dem Strom!"
Tristan: Erik Schmedes • Wiener Grammophon-Orchester • conductor: unidentified
10" disc Gramo 676 r (test pressing) • key C, 76.3 rpm, 1:57 min
Wien, during November 1905 (Max Hampe)
One of two unique test pressings of Schmedes singing Tristan that were found and preserved by Seiser. What's more, a passage of Tristan's music otherwise unrecorded before the Great War. This is the first professionally engineered modern transfer of the rather worn original record.

22: DIE FLEDERMAUS (Johann Strauß II / Carl Haffner, Richard Genée)
Act 2. Uhren-Duett {Rosalinde, Eisenstein}: Dieser Anstand, so manierlich
Rosalinde: Else Gieger • Eisenstein: Oskar Braun • Grammophon-Orchester, Berlin • conductor: Bruno Seidler-Winkler
12" disc Gramo 528 i (Messter's Biophon MP 627) • key C, 74.7 rpm, 4:33 min
Berlin, Deutsche Grammophon AG, Ritterstr. 36, during March 1906 (William S. Darby)
A "playback" disc for an early synchronized sound-film system. Shellac is more durable than celluloid, so it is usually the discs that survive rather than the films. In this case, the vivid vocal acting displayed by both singers makes up for the loss of the pictorial element and largely transcends the remaining traces of heavy wear on this apparently well-loved record.

23: IL BARBIERE DI SIVIGLIA (Gioacchino Rossini / Cesare Sterbini)
Act 2. Terzetto {Rosina, Almaviva, Figaro}: Ah! qual colpo inaspettato!
Rosina: Josefina Huguet • Almaviva: Fernando De Lucia • Figaro: Antonio Pini-Corsi • piano: Carlo Sabajno
12" disc Gramo 630 c (054083) • key D, 75.7 rpm, 3:07 min
Milano, late April 1906 (Fred W. Gaisberg)
Little need be said about this famous recording by three legendary singers, except that we have never heard it so startlingly clear and lifelike as from the mint copy in the Seiser collection. Enjoy!

24: VERGELTSGOTT! (DER BETTELGRAF) (Leo Ascher / Victor Léon)
Act 3. Duettino {Graf, Bogumil}: Fang mich, Bübchen, fang mich ein
Graf: Louis Treumann • Bogumil: Elli Wolf • Wiener Grammophon-Orchester
10" disc Gramo 4173 L (2-44108) • key A-flat, 75.1 rpm, 2:18 min
Wien, during June 1906 (Franz Hampe)
A charming duet from an operetta that enjoyed brief success but was overshadowed by "Die Lustige Witwe" that succeeded it. Luckily, Treumann and the little girl who played his five-year-old son during the initial run resumed their parts once more for the gramophone half a year later.

25: DIE SCHÖNE GALATHÉE (Franz von Suppé / Poly Henrion)
№ 6. Couplet {Ganymed}: Wir Griechen, wir sind sicherlich
Ganymed: Hermine Kittel • Wiener Grammophon-Orchester • conductor: unidentified
10" disc Gramo 4247 L (43828) • key E-flat, 77.0 rpm, 2:41 min
Wien, during June 1906 (Franz Hampe)
Frau Kittel, like little Elli Wolf, occasionally donned trousers on the operetta stage. The tenorial lower range she displays here must have helped a lot in making her a convincing "male hero".

26: LA MASCOTTE (Edmond Audran / Henri Chivot, Alfred Duru)
Act 2. Air de Saltarello {Pippo, chorus}: Salut à vous, seigneurs!
Pippo: Alexis Boyer • orchestra and conductor: unidentified
10" disc Gramo 5934 o (Zonophone X-82611) • key A, 76.6 rpm, 2:17 min
Paris, during September 1906 (Cleveland Walcutt)
One of comparatively few French recordings in Seiser's collection. Although he thus does not seem to have laid much weight on the French repertoire, he surely was impressed by Boyer's virtuosity.

27: Mein Liebster ist ein Weber (Eugen Hildach op.5 / Johann Georg Keil)
soprano: Beatrix Kernic • piano: unidentified
10" disc Gramo 4649 L (43838) • key G, 76.8 rpm, 2:27 min
Frankfurt am Main, during September 1906 (Franz Hampe)
Kernic's all-too-few recordings are rarely encountered and therefore unknown even to most experts. The present item certainly has not been heard since its original issue 113 years ago.

28: LES DRAGONS DE VILLARS (Louis Aimé Maillart / Lockroy, Eugène Cormon)
Act 3. Air {Rose Friquet}: Espoir charmant "Wie ist mir doch, seit ich geliebet werde"
Rose Friquet: Grete Forst • Wiener Grammophon-Orchester • conductor: unidentified
10" disc Gramo 9952 u (43905) • key B-flat, 75.9 rpm, 3:11 min
Like most opéras-comiques, this work has fallen out of fashion with theatres long ago and now is only a memory preserved on old records. Grete Forst, like in all her records, combines skill and charm in a fashion that belie her "second-rate" status at the Hofoper behind Selma Kurz.

29: The Lost Chord (Sir Arthur Sullivan / Adelaide A. Proctor)
tenor: Ernest Pike • baritone: Peter Dawson • chorus (soprano: Gertrude Shrimpton, mezzo: Amy Augarde, tenor: Ben Ivor, baritone: Stanley Kirkby) • harmonium: Frederick R. Kinkee • piano: Mme Adami • chimes: unidentified
10" disc Gramo 6573 e (Zonophone X-44073) • key F, 75.2 rpm, 3:21 min
London, Gramophone Co., 21 City Road (Will C. Gaisberg)
An ambitious production combining soli, chorus, and harmonium to create a convincing "sacred" atmosphere. Dawson's splendid baritone arguably does Sullivan's song better justice than Caruso.


01: LOHENGRIN (Richard Wagner / Richard Wagner)
Act 2. {Heerrufer, chorus}: Des Königs Wort und Will' tu ich euch kund
Heerrufer: Hermann Bachmann • Grammophon-Orchester, Berlin • conductor: Bruno Seidler-Winkler
10" disc Gramo 3490 r (3-42934) • key F, 78.8 rpm, 3:11 min
Berlin, Deutsche Grammophon AG, Ritterstr. 36, late October 1907 (Max Hampe)
The skilful arrangement by Seidler-Winkler, eliminating the choral interjections that would have overtaxed the playing time and coaxing a credible Wagnerian sound from an orchestra of maybe two dozen men, gives us the "complete" Act 2 Heerrufer scene on just one disc side. On the evidence of his records, Bachmann would have made a useful Telramund, too.

02: Das Zaubermittel (Rudolf Nelson / Willi Prager)
soprano: Lucie König • piano: unidentified
10" disc Gramo 11935 u (2-43063) • key B-flat, 75.0 rpm, 2:47 min
Wien, during December 1907 (Charles Scheuplein)
From Wagner to Nelson is a big jump not every collector would be willing to take. It says a lot about Alfred Seiser's catholicity of taste that he found a place for both discs in his collection.

03: A nagymama (Albert Szirmai / Jenő Heltai)
soprano: Vilma Medgyaszay • piano: unidentified
10" disc Gramo 4187 r (V*103524) • key D minor, 76.3 rpm, 3:05 min
Budapest, during February 1908 (Max Hampe)
Collectors of 20th century music will know Medgyaszay's recordings of Bartók songs with the composer at the piano. Here she is at the outset of her career, as a charming cabaret singer.

04: BÁNK BÁN (Ferenc Erkel / Béni Egressy)
Act 3. Tiszaparti jelenet {Melinda}: Álmodj szeliden, édesdeden, angyalom te!
Melinda: Teréz Krammer • orchestra and conductor: unidentified
10" disc Gramo 4274 r (V*103688) • key A, 75.2 rpm, 3:15 min
Budapest, during February 1908 (Max Hampe)
Krammer's few recordings are highly prized by collectors, and although the voice as captured here already shows some traces of fatigue after twenty years of singing heavy roles, she negotiates Erkel's considerable vocal demands (not totally unlike those in the same composer's "Hunyádi László" so memorably recorded by Nordica) impressively enough.

05: Maggio (Pietro Duffau)
soprano: Maria Galvany • Orchestra del Teatro alla Scala, Milano • conductor: Carlo Sabajno
12" disc Gramo 1450 c (053193) • key F, 73.3 rpm, 3:50 min
Milano, during May 1908 (Fred W. Gaisberg)
Galvany's legendary staccato virtuosity is of course in evidence here, but not as excessively as in certain other (in-)famous recordings, instead she displays a solid legato and full-bodied warm tone for the most part of this otherwise unknown and untraceable waltz song. The orchestra is captured extraordinarily well and might easily be mistaken for an early electric recording.

06: Puer natus est nobis — Weihnachtsmotette für 8-stimmigen Chor
Chor der Dom- und Metropolitankirche zu St. Stephan, Wien • choirmaster: possibly August Weirich • harmonium: unidentified
10" disc Gramo 13112 u (44674) • key A, 79.9 rpm, 2:50 min
Wien, during June 1908 (Charles Scheuplein)
Several aspects of this recording are shrouded in mystery: The original labels and catalogues mention neither the composer nor the conductor, and the piece has proved unfamiliar to several experts in the field of choral music. Also, these same experts are divided in their opinion whether it is boys or ladies (or a combination of both) singing the soprano and alto parts. We suspect the composer might be choirmaster August Weirich, who quite possibly also conducted the recording. The music library of St. Stephan was tragically destroyed by fire in 1945, so once again, we are very likely dealing with a piece of music that survives only in the present recorded form.

07: Eine lustige Heurigen-Partie
including: Schnauzbart-G'stanzeln (Viennese folk song)
vocal: Franz Wolfert • Original Wiener Schrammel-Quartett "Lenz" (2 violins, bandoneon, bass guitar) • company, possibly including Karl Huber
10" disc Gramo 13182 u (Zonophone X-24381) • key B-flat, 78.6 rpm, 3:20 min
Wien, during June 1908 (Charles Scheuplein)
Despite this recording being a staged studio re-enactment, the atmosphere of a Viennese "Heurigen" tavern with folk-dancing and slightly bawdy singing is convincingly evoked. The label lists a vocal duet by Huber and Wolfert, and Wolfert actually greets Huber in his opening spoken sentence, but Huber does not sing. Maybe he is responsible for some of the clapping and shouting that goes on in the background, or he was included in the original credits simply because he was present at the session.

08: Mazurka in F minor (Alfred Grünfeld op.17)
piano: Alfred Grünfeld
10" disc Gramo 13297 u (45557) • key F minor, 77.9 rpm, 2:54 min
Wien, during July 1908 (Charles Scheuplein)
Alfred Grünfeld was the first pianist of repute to record commercially (in 1899), and remained a mainstay of the smallish list of solo piano recordings available before the Great War. It must be said that the piano, after the pipe organ, was the second-least congenial instrument for acoustic reproduction, but Gramophone's experts pushed the limits of the technology to get at least acceptable fidelity. The present recording has never been reissued, probably because of a small, all-too-human slip-up halfway through the single take.

09: PRIMA-BALLERINA (Otto Schwartz / Max Reimann, Otto Schwartz)
Hahnlied {Rudolf von Strehlen}: Nun denkt euch mal, ich wär' ein Hahn
Rudolf von Strehlen: Hermann Schramm • Grammophon-Orchester, Berlin • conductor: Bruno Seidler-Winkler
10" disc Gramo 440 ab (V*22998) • key C, 74.0 rpm, 2:33 min
Berlin, Deutsche Grammophon AG, Ritterstr. 36, Friday 22 January 1909 (Ivor R. Holmes)
Schramm, one of the leading buffo tenors of the era, displays an ebullient sense of humour in this grotesque "rooster" song, but also a voice of remarkable power and range. This was certainly a Mime and David to make any below-par heroic tenor shake in his shoes! His final "crows" in each verse carry him up to high E the first time around and (almost) to high F at the end: In an era more interested in virtuosic belcanto than in vocal acting, his training and career might well have been very different, resulting in an Arturo rather than the (remarkable!) Pedrillo he was....

10: MAJSKAYA NOCH' (Nikolaj A. Rimskij-Korsakov / Nikolaj A. Rimskij-Korsakov)
Act 3. Kolybel'naya pësnya {Levko}: Spi, moya krasavica
Levko: Leonid V. Sobinov • orchestra and conductor: unidentified
12" disc Gramo 1988½ c (022162) • key A, 79.0 rpm, 3:15 min
Moskva, Sunday 6 February 1910 (Fred W. Gaisberg)
Another timeless "desert-island" disc and cornerstone of any tenor collection, often reproduced on LP and CD, but rarely with the beauty of tone we have found on Seiser's perfectly mint copy.

11: Sehnsucht nach dem Frühling (Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart K.596 / Christian Adolf Overbeck)
"Komm, lieber Mai, und mache die Bäume wieder grün"
soprano: Elisabeth Ohlhoff • piano: Bruno Seidler-Winkler
10" disc Gramo 7873 r (2-43370) • key F, 77.2 rpm, 2:59 min
Berlin, Deutsche Grammophon AG, Ritterstr. 35, Friday 16 September 1910 (Max Hampe)
A sought-after concert singer in her time, Ohlhoff is all but forgotten today. Certainly the pure simplicity of her style seems far removed from modern Lieder singing - but doesn't that justify rather more than less interest in her records, as representative of an era when every musician still followed the unbroken pre-modernist European tradition instinctively and didn't have to imitate it as "historical performance practice", that is, as a studied, stilted, museal mannerism?

12: HERR UND FRAU BIEDERMEIER (Carl Michael Ziehrer / Wilhelm Sterk)
Mein altes Wien: "G'horsamster Diener, ich habe die Ehr'"
tenor: Joseph Josephi • Wiener Grammophon-Orchester • conductor: unidentified
10" disc Gramo 11598 L (242036) • key E-flat, 77.1 rpm, 2:58 min
Wien, Monday 17 October 1910 (Franz Hampe)
Viennese nostalgia a century ago. The lyrics lament the "Disneyfication" of Vienna, with century-old houses being torn down or turned into hotels in the city, while at the same time imitation "Old Vienna" amusements and taverns were put up elsewhere. The performance, with its vocal and orchestral styles audibly from a now distant era itself, invariably adds a second layer of nostalgia for the modern listener - Josephi's modern age has itself become "Old Vienna". Plus ça change...

13: DIE SIRENE (Leo Fall / Leo Stein, Alfred Maria Willner)
Act 2. Terzett {Lolotte, Clarisse, Armand}: O Asinus, was fängst du mit zwei Weibern an?
Lolotte: Mizzi Günther • Clarisse: Lizzi Latour • Armand: Louis Treumann • Wiener Grammophon-Orchester • conductor: Leo Fall
10" disc Gramo 12066 L (244109) • key D, 76.4 rpm, 2:54 min
Wien, Monday 23 January 1911 (Franz Hampe)
Even an assembly of first-rank stars including the "dream team" Günther & Treumann was not enough to pull this operetta through beyond a short-lived initial success. As a consequence, the original cast recordings - like those from many other "one-day wonders" of the musical stage - are very thin on the ground today. Our example is typical for Leo Fall's unsentimental rapid-fire ensemble style, fluently realized under the composer's baton. 

14: Nachtfalter-Marsch (possibly Josef Hantzer)
Schrammel-Quartett Neuwirth (leader: Adolf Neuwirth, 2 violins, bandoneon, bass guitar)
10" disc Gramo 12552 L (Zonophone 528110) • key D, 77.9 rpm, 2:27 min
Wien, during June 1911 (Franz Hampe)
More Viennese folk music, this recording being remarkable for its audio fidelity as much as for the stylish playing. The composer is not given on the label; Hantzer did write a "Nachtfalter-Marsch" but we are not sure whether that is the composition heard on the record or just a namesake.

15: DALIBOR (Bedřich Smetana / Ervín Špindler, after Josef Wenzig)
Act 1.4. Aria {Dalibor}: Když Zděnek můj " Zapírat nechci"
Dalibor: Karel Burian • orchestra: unidentified • conductor: possibly Arnošt Herman
10" disc Gramo 15507 b (2-72214) • key A-flat, 79.9 rpm, 3:39 min
Prag, Saturday 1 July 1911 (Fred W. Gaisberg)
Not all Burian's recordings are as successful as this one: In particular, the familiar "Tristan" and "Walküre" excerpts are among his weakest and can leave the listener wondering why this man was so famous in his day. He sounds much more at home here, singing in his mother tongue!

16: Afsked (Gunnar Wennerberg / Gunnar Wennerberg)
"Så skiljas vi åt och träffas igen"
tenor: Torsten Lennartsson • piano: unidentified
10" disc Gramo 2127 y (2-82917) • key G, 77.0 rpm, 3:00 min
Stockholm, during October 1911 (Arthur S. Clarke)
Neither song nor singer will be familiar to many non-Scandinavian listeners, which proves only how irrationally selective our musical history and experience is. Scandinavian records, much like French ones, form only a tiny minority in Seiser's collection, but those that are there include gems like the present one and show that they were not just random flea-market finds, but consciously chosen by a knowledgable and discriminating collector.

17: HEIMLICHE LIEBE (Paul Ottenheimer / Julius Bauer)
Act 2. Der Überfall von Montenotte {Profoß}: Tiefdunkle Nacht lag auf den Landen
Profoß: Alexander Girardi • Wiener Grammophon-Orchester • conductor: unidentified
10" disc Gramo 13124 L (942166) • key E-flat, 80.1 rpm, 3:11 min
Wien, Monday 23 October 1911 (Franz Hampe)
Yet another forgotten operetta, this time a vehicle for the aging super-star Girardi, and indeed he pulls off this showpiece (one of several in the work) very amusingly. The spoken interjections and dialogue, intended for a female role according to the libretto, are possibly voiced by tenor Carlo Böhm, who is credited with bird imitations on another excerpt recorded the same day.

18: LE POSTILLON DE LONJUMEAU (Adolphe Adam / A. de Leuven, L.-L. Brunswick)
Act 1. Ronde du Postillon {Chapelou}: Mes amis, écoutez l'histoire "Freunde, vernehmet die Geschichte"
Chapelou: August Bockmann • Grammophon-Orchester, Berlin • conductor: Bruno Seidler-Winkler
10" disc Gramo 737 ak (12365 [942282]) • key G, 76.7 rpm, 3:04 min
Berlin, Deutsche Grammophon AG, Ritterstr. 35, Sunday 12 November 1911 (George W. Dillnutt)
Bockmann, a popular concert tenor with a side career as a touring "guest attraction" in German opera houses, cannot hide his severely limited bottom range that must have kept him from ever achieving "star" status, but then surprises us with a ringing high D "di petto" followed by a no less impressive C at the end. No wonder that top-note-hungry audiences were delighted wherever he came to sing roles like Chapelou, Raoul, Arnold, Manrico, or George Brown in "La Dame Blanche". 

19: EVA (Franz Lehár / Alfred Maria Willner, Robert Bodanzky, Eugen Spero)
Act 2. Marsch {Octave, chorus}: Pariser Pflaster [sung in Hungarian]
Octave: László Asszonyi • orchestra and conductor: unidentified
10" disc Gramo 16312 b (2-72270) • key F, 78.9 rpm, 3:12 min
Budapest, during February 1912 (Fred W. Gaisberg)
This disc is probably a souvenir from one of Seiser's journeys to Hungary and has been included as such. Asszonyi was a minor star in Budapest, but maybe the most interesting aspect here is the internationality of pre-Great-War European amusement: We hear the praises of Parisian nightlife as imagined by Viennese authors, translated into Hungarian for the local Budapest audience!

20: Alexander's Ragtime Band (Irving Berlin)
Orchester des "Palais de Danse", Berlin • leader: Giorgi Vintilescu
10" disc Gramo 13918 L (12379 [2-940609]) • key F, 77.4 rpm, 2:51 min
Berlin, Deutsche Grammophon AG, Ritterstr. 35, Wednesday 22 May 1912 (Franz Hampe)
This is maybe an even better example of the international entertainment industry in those distant days that today are often painted as stereotypically bigoted and nationalist: American rag-time as played in Berlin's most fashionable dance-hall by a Romanian bandleader. The exceptional bass response of this track is partially due to a freak in the recording machine and only apparent on modern equipment: Certain low frequencies in the music accidentally caused vertical vibrations between cutting stylus and wax disc that would have been inaudible on an acoustic gramophone or using a mono cartridge, but are heard loud and clear - though phase-reversed - when the disc is played in stereo. We were able to align these low frequencies (phasewise) with the rest of the signal and thereby recover an extra octave at the bottom.

21: At Love's Beginning (Liza Lehmann / Thomas Campbell)
soprano: Eleanor Jones-Hudson • baritone: Peter Dawson • orchestra and conductor: unidentified
12" disc Gramo z 6522 f (Zonophone A 89 [Z-044006]) • key A-flat, 79.4 rpm, 3:25 min
London, Gramophone Co., 21 City Road, Thursday 29 August 1912 (Arthur S. Clarke)
For some reason (maybe just a case of the old "familiarity breeds contempt" rule, since the collecting of historical vocal records as a hobby seems to have started in England), the singing and the songwriting of Victorian and Edwardian Britain have never gained the same prestige as the various Continental varieties of these arts. Quite unfairly so, as a huge number of delightful records show, some of which found their way into Seiser's hands. Both Jones-Hudson and Dawson could easily outsing many less prosaically-named celebrities hailing from Germany, France, or Italy!

22: DER LACHENDE EHEMANN (Edmund Eysler / Julius Brammer, Alfred Grünwald)
Lied {Ottokar}: Ich bin damisch verliebt in meine eigene Frau!
Ottokar: Fritz Werner • Wiener Grammophon-Orchester • conductor: unidentified
10" disc Gramo 15426 L (12850 [942433]) • key F, 78.9 rpm, 2:12 min
Wien, Tuesday 22 April 1913 (Franz Hampe)
This original cast recording is not only a very enjoyable combination of amusing words set to a spirited tune and delivered to maximum effect, but (like Girardi's and Treumann's discs) it exemplifies a type of tenor that was almost de rigeur in operetta at that time but which would become extinct soon after 1918. Later "typical operetta tenors" like Tauber or Heesters brought a very different style to the genre, focused on mellowness and lushness of voice rather than the rapid laconic delivery of pointed, often rather sarcastic and self-deprecating, comedic verse. As a consequence, many earlier works either disappeared from the repertoire or had their tenor roles re-imagined almost beyond recognition (e.g. Danilo), long before the Nazis began their brutal castration of German-language entertainment that today is often given as an excuse for the disappearance of operetta as a mainstream genre.

23: Wenn der Stern überm Kirchturm steht (Heinrich Diehl op.24,1 / Julius Wolff)
Rothaarig ist mein Schätzelein (Max von Weinzierl / Julius Wolff)
bass: Paul Knüpfer • piano: Bruno Seidler-Winkler
10" disc Gramo 13753 r (4-42576) • keys G/A, 82.3 rpm, 2:55 min
Berlin, Deutsche Grammophon AG, Ritterstr. 35, Friday 27 March 1914 (Max Hampe)
Two little songs from Julius Wolff's then popular verse-novel "Der Rattenfänger von Hameln" (The Rat Catcher Of Hamelin), for which mighty Wagnerian basso Knüpfer scales down his voice almost to a whisper - actually putting the sensitivity of the recording machine to the test in certain passages. The intimate effect is exactly right for the situation in which these verses are sung in the novel: Knüpfer really becomes the traveling medieval minstrel who is regaling a few friends during a late-night session in the wine cellar with cheeky tales of his amorous adventures.

24: LALLA ROOKH (Frederic Clay / William G. Wills)
№ 6. Song {Feramorz}: I'll sing thee songs of Araby
Feramorz: Sydney Coltham • piano: unidentified
12" disc Gramo z 8601 f (Zonophone A 217 [Z-042114]) • key A-flat, 78.9 rpm, 3:32 min
London, Gramophone Co., 21 City Road, Wednesday 19 July 1916 (Arthur S. Clarke)
The prevalent underestimation of pre-Jazz-era English singers strikes again: The excellent tenor, Sydney Coltham, has fallen into complete oblivion less than a century after a considerable career in concert, on records, and finally broadcasting, to the extent that neither date nor place of his birth and death can be found in any available source, let alone details of his life and career, or a portrait other than the stamp-sized one found in a record catalogue. And yet his records unfailingly reproduce a first-class lyrical voice of beautiful silvery timbre. As mentioned before, the presence of records like this one in Seiser's collection shows his eagerness to look for musical beauty "among the untrodden ways".

25: JOCELYN (Benjamin Godard op.100 / Armand Silvestre, Victor Capoul)
Act 2. Berceuse {Jocelyn}: Cachés dans cet asile [sung in Italian]
Jocelyn: Fiorello Giraud • Orchestra del Teatro alla Scala, Milano • conductor: Carlo Sabajno
10" disc Gramo 20092 b (R 3853 [7-252238]) • key E-flat, 76.2 rpm, 2:51 min
Milano, Wednesday 18 July 1917 (Fred W. Gaisberg)
Our selection closes with one of the little-known records Giraud made for HMV's low-priced Green Label at the end of his career. He had previously recorded only once, in 1904, without particular success (in fact, the recordings were well-sung but technically defective, displaying random speed variations that compromise the reproduction, and were quickly withdrawn from circulation). The fate of the 1916-1917 recordings was not much better: Though free from obvious defects, wartime conditions prevented their being sold in quantity when first issued, and the pressing quality often suffered from shellac shortage. When business picked up after the war, Giraud had retired and was quickly fading from public view. It is a real curiosity that the creator of Canio never thought of recording any of that character's music, which would surely have suited his Latin temperament and vocal equipment much better than this quintessentially French "Jocelyn"!

Notes: Christian Zwarg, Ⓒ 2019

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