Various Artists

Centenary Edition 1908-1917, Vol. 2

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The second volume in EMI's Centenary Edition covers the years between 1908 and 1917, a period marked by improvements in sound quality and increased duration. The Gramophone Company, as EMI was known then, sought out the greatest talents of the day and captured samples of their art in these brief but telling recordings. This disc opens with Joseph Szigeti's 1908 recording of Bach's Prelude from the Partita in E major, made when the performer was still in his teens and prone to flamboyant playing. Elena Gerhardt's 1911 performance of Schubert's An die Musik, with Arthur Nikisch's clear piano accompaniment, is an example of the fine results achievable with just a few performers playing close to the recording horn. Paderewski's rendition of Chopin's Etude in F minor is a remarkable recording, even by today's standards. Operatic performances are well represented, from such famous stars as Luisa Tetrazzini and Feodor Chaliapin, to the less celebrated artists Elvira de Hidalgo, Emmy Destinn, and Hipolito Lazaro. The most ambitious recording here is Nikisch's performance of the first movement of Beethoven's Symphony No. 5, one of the earliest attempts to record a symphony, albeit with considerably reduced forces. Connoisseurs will have no trouble listening past the sound defects, which are incredibly minimal for such old recordings.

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