Three Recordings of Princess Ida
A Comparison of Timings
Much has been made of timing differences between the recordings of Princess Ida—particularly of the two that Malcolm Sargent made, over thirty years apart (1932 and 1965). Chris Webster timed the tracks on both recordings with a stopwatch. He also benchmarked Isidore Godfrey's 1955 recording. The results are shown below.
Webster points out that recordings may have had cuts in some movements that make the timings not directly comparable.
|Search throughout the panorama||2:39||2:51||2:56|
|Now hearken to my strict command||2:39||2:51||2:56|
|Today we meet||1:29||1:29||1:50|
|From the distant panorama||3:41||3:35||3:47|
|If you give me your attention||2:13||2:23||2:15|
|P'rhaps if you address the lady||6:11||7:08||7:18|
|Towards the Empyrean Heights||3:23||3:47||3:43|
|Mighty maiden with a mission||1:13||1:22||1:23|
|I am a maiden||2:15||2:25||2:51|
|The world is but a broken toy||3:01||3:14||3:02|
|A lady fair of lineage high||2:08||2:12||2:32|
|The woman of the wisest wit||2:08||2:12||2:32|
|Now wouldn't you like to rule the roast||2:29||2:43||2:35|
|Merrily ring the luncheon bell||1:31||1:44||1:46|
|Wouldn't you know the kind of maid||1:56||2:54||2:24|
|Oh joy! Our chief is saved||10:24||12:19||12:24|
|Death to the invader||2:40||3:13||3:13|
|I built upon a rock||3:04||3:44||3:30|
|Whene'er I spoke sarcastic joke||1:35||1:41||2:02|
|When anger spreads his wing||1:05||1:17||1:20|
|This helmet, I suppose||2:18||2:37||2:14|
|This is our duty plain||:44||:48||:49|
|With joy abiding||2:20||2:19||2:25|
These were Webster's observations on the timings:
It can be clearly seen from the above that Sargent's 1965 recording was nearly always slower in each instance than the other two, but there are enough moments when he was actually faster than Godfrey (or should we say when Godfrey was slower than Sargent) to bring the two "modern" recordings down to the same timing. It may also be seen that Sargent's 1932 recording was nearly always faster in each instance than the other two, which may be because of the conditions brought about by the limitations 78 sides, but there is also evidence that his tempi were far too fast anyway in those days.
In Charles Reid's biography of Sargent, there is a passage specifically dealing with his stage tempi for Ida (pp. 141-2) that would certainly suggest that he was a fast conductor anyway (there are many other items that assist this theory), but there is also an incident referred to later in the book (p. 166) which occurred during the recording of the 32 Ida, in which Rupert D'Oyly Carte was actually called to the studio because of an argument that had broken out concerning what must be assumed was an even faster tempo than the already objected to stage tempo. "Too fast, much too fast for the stage tempo" was his critics' argument. "But we aren't on the stage. We making a gramophone recording" was Sargent's response.