The Odeon 1907 Pinafore
Chorus and orchestra,
Recorded in London, Autumn 1907
This was a second Pinafore recording for many of the participants who also sang on the Russell Hunting Company set. However, unlike the earlier set, this one is nearly complete, omitting only the overture, the entr'acte, part of the Act I finale, and "A British Tar." Much of the recording is also transposed down for the benefit of Harry Dearth and Walter Hyde, but Wolfson says it is a fine recording nonetheless.
The casting information between Wolfson and Rees is inconsistent, and the allocation of roles shown above may be incorrect. Wolfson says that Harry Thornton played Deadeye, but Rees indicates that "Kind Captain" was sung by Dearth and Cunningham. Francis agrees with this.
Wolfson also indicates that Alfred Cunningham was "Boatswain" and W. Anderson was Bill Bobstay, but in most libretti Bill Bobstay is the Boatswain. Wolfson apparently relied on the original Odeon booklet, where the same mistake occurs. Bruce Miller says that, given their voice types, Cunningham likely played the Boatswain and Anderson Bob Becket.
Lastly, Wolfson points out that Rouse does not sing Sir Joseph in the Act II finale, and he suggests that this item was recorded at the first recording session of the 1907 Odeon Mikado, but there is no indication of who was Rouse's replacement.
If that isn't confusing enough, some sources list Ada Florence as Hebe, but according to Bruce Miller, Elsa Sinclair sings the bulk of the role, with Miss Burnett singing it in the "ensembles only." Francis's assignments are consistent with this.
The re-issue on CD (Symposium 1293) finally makes this rare recording available to a wide audience for the first time since early in the last century. It offers an invaluable window into performing styles in an era when Gilbert was still alive, and artists who had worked with him and Sullivan were still performing at the operas.
Some claim that early recordings can offer clues to how Gilbert and Sullivan themselves wanted the material interpreted. It is indeed possible that the artists on this recording visited a D'Oyly Carte performance and imitated what they heard. To me, however, the connection seems simply too tenuous. The performances are variable, with perhaps Willie Rouse's quaint Sir Joseph the most entertaining and Harry Dearth's Captain almost excruciating.
Most interesting are the orchestrations. Recording technology at the time captured stringed instruments poorly, and instrumental music invariably needed to be re-arranged so that it would record acceptably. The introduction to "Sorry her lot" is given in this recording entirely by the winds, for instance.
Yet, the orchestration is full of dashes of instrumental color that are nowhere to be found in Sullivan's version. Taken on their own, and without reference to what we know the originals to have been, these "improvements" are tastefully executed, and in all likelihood reflected prevailing theatrical tastes in 1907. Clearly they were arranged by someone who knew what he was doing. Nevertheless, they are not what Sullivan wrote, and they go well beyond what was minimally necessary to accommodate limitations of the recording technology.
Since the person responsible for the orchestra obviously did not consider himself bound by what D'Oyly Carte was performing, it is difficult for me to believe that the singers did so either.
Howard Friedman offered the following comments:
Symposium 1293 is positively remarkable. The sound quality is, for the times, magnificent! You've simply got to hear it!
I can understand why Willy Rouse never recorded G&S again. He has a strange Cockney accent and numerous affectations, including the pronunciation of "ribald" as "ryebald", which never should have gotten through.
Harry Dearth has his ups and down. His recitatives are pokey, but most of his arias are quite well done. Walter Hyde, of course, is an excellent Rackstraw, but he just points up the lack of Derek Oldham in this role!
Willy Rouse has a considerably higher range than Harry Dearth, and he pronounces the word "my" properly every time it occurs. Dearth, on the other hand, in "For he is the Captain of the Pinafore" in the Act II Finale, says "And so before me fall..." and "...in me humble rank of life." Also in the Finale, whoever sings Sir Joseph's role says, "I Am The Monarch...I'll be true to the devotion that me love implants..."
On this basis I definitely side with Wolfson, who says that that Rouse does not sing in the finale. It is not his voice, and sounds more like Cunningham, although it could have been Harry Thornton. Wolfson and also confirms this in the artists listed on the back of Symposium 1293, where he is given credit, "From The Collection of John Wolfson."
|1907||Odeon||20 10-3/4" single-sided discs||See #1 below|
|10 10-3/4" double-sided discs||See #2 below|
|Dec. 1907||Odeon||10 10-3/4" double-sided discs||See #3 below|
|1||Lx2154-3||78||44938||764||0437||We sail the ocean blue||Chorus|
|2||Lx2162-2||74||44875||I'm called little Buttercup||Florence|
A maiden fair to see
|4||Lx2160||79||44873||I am the Captain of the Pinafore||Dearth|
|*5||Lx2177-3||78||66034||805||0439||Sorry her lot||Sinclair|
|6||Lx2166||74||44879||Over the bright blue sea||Chorus|
|7||Lx2165||74||44878||733||0440||I am the monarch of the sea||Rouse, Sinclair|
|*8||Lx2178-2||74||44882||Refrain, audacious tar||Sinclair, Hyde|
|9||Lx2179-3||75||44883||734||0441||Act I Finale, Part 1||Sinclair, Hyde, Thornton|
|10||Lx2173-2||74||44881||Act I Finale, Part 2||Sinclair, Burnett, Hyde, Thornton|
|*11||Lx2172||74||44880||735||0442||Fair moon, to thee I sing||Dearth|
|12||Lx2192-2||75||44884||Things are seldom what they seem||Florence, Dearth|
|13||Lx2197||75||44887||736||0443||The hours creep on apace||Sinclair|
|*14||Lx2193||75||44885||Never mind the why and wherefore||Sinclair, Dearth, Rouse|
|15||Lx2161||75||44874||A116||0444||Kind Captain, I've important information||Dearth, Cunningham|
|16||Lx2171-3||76||66063||Carefully on tiptoe/He is an Englishman||Sinclair, Dearth, Hyde|
|*17||Lx2194||75||44886||737||0445||In uttering a reprobation||Sinclair, Dearth, Rouse|
|18||Lx2164||74||44877||Farewell, my own||Sinclair, Florence, Hyde|
|19||Lx2163||74||44876||764||0446||A many years ago||Florence|
|20||Lx2220-2||80||44937||Act II Finale||Sinclair, Florence, Hyde, Dearth|
- In column #1 above, those sides marked with a * were replaced with different takes in some later copies of the set, according to Francis.
- In column #3 above, Francis assigns 733 to three sides and 734 to only one side. This cannot be correct, so I assume that the correct number for part 1 of the Act I finale is 734. Similarly, he assigns 736 to 3 sides and 735 to only one, so I assume that the correct number for "Things are seldom what they seem" is 735. Bruce Miller has kindly confirmed these assignments from a copy of the original Odeon booklet.
- Francis notes that EMI gives 1908 as the recording date for "The nightingale."
A maiden fair to see
|1||Lx2154-3||78||We sail the ocean blue||Chorus|
|4||Lx2160||79||I am the Captain of the Pinafore||Dearth|
|15||Lx2161||75||Kind Captain, I've important information||Dearth, Cunningham|
|2||Lx2162-2||74||I'm called little Buttercup||Florence|
|19||Lx2163||74||A many years ago||Florence|
|18||Lx2164||74||Farewell, my own||Sinclair, Florence, Hyde|
|7||Lx2165||74||I am the monarch of the sea||Rouse, Sinclair|
|6||Lx2166||74||Over the bright blue sea||Chorus|
|16||Lx2171-3||76||Carefully on tiptoe/He is an Englishman||Sinclair, Dearth, Hyde|
|11||Lx2172||74||Fair moon, to thee I sing||Dearth|
|10||Lx2173-2||74||Act I Finale, Part 2||Sinclair, Burnett, Hyde, Thornton|
|5||Lx2177-3||78||Sorry her lot||Sinclair|
|8||Lx2178-2||74||Refrain, audacious tar||Sinclair, Hyde|
|9||Lx2179-3||75||Act I Finale, Part 1||Sinclair, Hyde, Thornton|
|12||Lx2192-2||75||Things are seldom what they seem||Florence, Dearth|
|14||Lx2193||75||Never mind the why and wherefore||Sinclair, Dearth, Rouse|
|17||Lx2194||75||In uttering a reprobation||Sinclair, Dearth, Rouse|
|13||Lx2197||75||The hours creep on apace||Sinclair|
|20||Lx2220-2||80||Act II Finale||Sinclair, Florence, Hyde, Dearth|