1924 - Victor Acoustic Recordings of Serge Rachmaninoff

with Leopold Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra

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Leopold Stokowski - Serge Rachmaninoff and the Philadelphia Orchestra - 1924

        Serge Rachmaninoff shipboard in about 1922

 

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1924 - Rachmaninoff - Piano Concerto no 2 in c minor opus 18

 

In January, 1924 Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra joined Victor artist Serge Rachmaninoff in what was the beginning of an historic collaboration.  After initially recording for Edison, Rachmaninoff had become an exclusive Victor artist in 19201.  Somewhat like Stravinsky's collaboration with Columbia and Elgar with the Gramophone Company, Rachmaninoff with Victor was one of the first extensively recorded composer-artists in phonograph history.  The collected issues of his recordings, all originally on 78 RPM disks, spans 10 CDs in the Victor reissue. These recordings were restored by Ward Marston, and then apparently further processed (to their detriment) by Victor engineers.  The 1929 Piano Concerto no 2 and Rhapsody on a theme of Paganini reissue received a Grammy award, which went to Victor, but not (as it should have in my opinion) to Ward Marston who made these legendary recordings available for us to enjoy.

 

Stokowski, Rachmaninoff and the Philadelphia orchestra were to record the first and only acoustic recording, by any artists, of a Rachmaninoff concerto.   This was Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto no 2 in c minor, opus 18, composed in 1900-1901.   This recording was also Victor's first attempt to capture record a concerto with symphony orchestra and soloist with the acoustic process1.

 

December, 1923 and January, 1924 Recording Sessions for the Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto no 2

 

The recording sessions for the concerto actually began on Monday, December 31, 1923, with the concerto's second movement.  However, these sides were not approved by Rachmaninoff, so recording began again the following Thursday, January 3, 1924, in Camden, when successful recordings of the second and third movements were achieved2.

As with other acoustic recordings made during this period, the orchestral composition was greatly reduced, and instrumentation changed.  At this recording session, there were 7 first violins, 4 second violins, 3 violas, 2 cellos, 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 4 French horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, a baritone horn, a bass saxophone, and a contrabassoon3. The bass saxophone would have replaced the string basses, since no basses were used in the recording. The contra-bassoon would have replaced timpani.  Rachmaninoff played a Steinway grand piano, but a smaller model - a Steinway Model B which was raised on a platform to allow the recording horn to have better access to the piano sound.

 

Also, of course, Rachmaninoff scored the concerto for a full string complement, and with other percussion instruments besides the timpani - bass drum and cymbals.

 

These recordings of the second and third movements were released by Victor in May, 1924 according to the Victor catalogue2.  The second movement was issued on the first three faces of two Victor double sided Red Seal disks 8064 and 8065, matrix numbers C-29233-4, C-29234-3 and C-29235-4. The third movement was issued on the final face of Red Seal disk 8065 and the two sides of 8066. The matrix numbers were C-29236-3, C-29251-2, and C-29252-2.

 

Rachmaninoff in a Victor advertisement of 1921

 

December, 1924 Recording Session for the Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto no 2

 

So, the second and third of the three movements of the concerto were successfully recording at one session on January 3, 1924.  As to the first movement of the Concerto, marked 'moderato', the plan was to record two 12 inch sides and one side of a 10 inch disk to encompass this first movement which typically lasts about 10 minutes in most performances.  On December 22, 1924, Rachmaninoff, Stokowski, and the Philadelphia Orchestra recorded two successful sides of the 12 inch disk covering the first seven minutes of the first movement. They also recorded three takes of the 10 inch side for the final 3 minutes of the moderato movement. However, Rachmaninoff did not approve any of the December takes of this 10 inch disk3.  

 

Consequently, only the two 12 inch sides were complete and approved.  The incomplete beginning of the first movement was not issued by Victor at the time, nor was it later completed, probably due to the introduction of electrical recording less than six months later.  However, the matrices for the 12 in disk remained in the Victor archives, and was later released, in the Victor "Rachmaninoff: His Complete Recordings ", restored by Ward Marston. None of the 10 inch disk sides seem to have survived, at least to current research. However, although the concerto recording is therefore incomplete, we are missing only about three minutes of the end of first movement.

 

This unsatisfactory result of an incomplete concerto was later to be corrected by the legendary 1929 recording by Rachmaninoff, Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra (see 1929 Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto no 2).  However, in some ways, this 1924 recording seems to me more flexible and nuanced than the later recording.  I find the 1924 performance to be spontaneous, alive and supple.  This is surprising, given the physically cramped and technically difficult characteristics of recording with the acoustic process.

 

Click below to hear this superb and satisfying performance.

 

 

Click here to listen to (download) movement the beginning of movement 1 of the 1924 Rachmaninoff Concerto no 2

 

Click here to listen to (download) movement 2 of the 1924 Rachmaninoff Concerto no 2

 

Click here to listen to (download) movement 3 of the 1924 Rachmaninoff Concerto no 2

 

May, 1924 Advertisement for Movements 2 and 3

of the Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto no 2

 


1   Page 104.  Barnum, Frederick O.  "His Master's Voice" in America.  General Electric Company. 1991.  Also, Sooy, Raymond.  Memoirs of my Recording and Traveling Experiences for the Victor Talking Machine Company. Manuscript, not dated, but ending with events of 1931. An important contribution to the history of recording, the David Sarnoff Library edited and reproduced these memoires on their website. http://www.davidsarnoff.org/soo-maintext.html

 

2   Bolig, John R. The Victor Red Seal Discography Volume 2: Double-Sided Series to 1930.  Mainspring Press. Denver, Colorado. 2006. ISBN 0-9772735-5-5

 

3  Harrison, Max.  Rachmaninoff: Life, Works, Recordings.  Continuum International Publishing Group. London. 2006. ISBN 0-8264-9312-2.


 

Note on listening to the Stokowski recordings

 

The recordings in this site are files in mp3 format (128 mbps) encoded from my recordings.  Links to the mp3 files are located in two places:

 

First - in the page covering the year of the recording.  For example, links to a 1926 recording are found in the page:   1926 - Stokowski - Philadelphia Orchestra Recordings  

 

Second - in the Chronological Discography page.  For example, links to a 1926 recording are also found in the electrical recordings chronological discography page:  Chronological Discography of Electrical Recordings    This page lists all the electrical recordings from 1925 to 1940 made by the Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by Leopold Stokowski and issued by Victor, including of course the 1926 recordings.

 

The mp3 files in this site are encoded at 128 mbps.  This means that the files are of different sizes, according to the length of the music.  For example, the second electrical recording, the April 29, 1925 Borodin ‘Polovetzki Dances’ is small (3.6MB).  In contrast, the 1929 Le Sacre du Printemps file is large.  Le Sacre part 1 is 14MB and Le Sacre part 2 is 16MB.

 

This means that a large file will take a longer time to download, depending on your internet connection speed.  Please keep this in mind when you click to listen to - download a particularly music file.  You may click the link to the music file, but need to wait a number of seconds or even minutes to listen to the file.

 


If you have any comments or questions about this Leopold Stokowski site, please e-mail me (Larry Huffman) at e-mail address: leopold.stokowski@gmail.com   


 

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L'Héritage de Stokowski - Accueil français

Victor Talking Machine Company, Eldridge Johnson, et le développement de la technologie d'enregistrement acoustique

1917 - 1924 les enregistrements acoustique Victor de Leopold Stokowski et l'Orchestre de Philadelphie

1917 -  Premiers enregistrements acoustique de Stokowski - Orchestre de Philadelphie

1917 - 1919 autres enregistrements acoustique Stokowski - Orchestre de Philadelphie

1920 - 1921 autres enregistrements acoustique Stokowski - Orchestre de Philadelphie

1922 - 1924 autres enregistrements acoustique Stokowski - Orchestre de Philadelphie

1919 - 1924 enregistrements acoustique Russe Stokowski - Orchestre de Philadelphie

1920 - 1924 enregistrements acoustique français - Stokowski - Orchestre de Philadelphie

1921 -1924 enregistrements acoustique Tchaïkovski - Stokowski - Orchestre de Philadelphie

1921 - 1924 enregistrements acoustique Wagner - Stokowski - Orchestre de Philadelphie

1924 enregistrements acoustique Rachmaninov - Stokowski - Orchestre de Philadelphie

 

Développement de l'enregistrement électrique

Permis d'exploitation du système Westrex donné à Victor et Columbia

1925 Premier enregistrement électrique Stokowski - Orchestre de Philadelphie

1925 autres enregistrements électriques Stokowski - Orchestre de Philadelphie

1926 enregistrements électriques Stokowski - Orchestre de Philadelphie

1927 enregistrements électriques Stokowski - Orchestre de Philadelphie

Encore des enregistrements 1927 électriques Stokowski - Orchestre de Philadelphie

1928 enregistrements électriques Stokowski - Orchestre de Philadelphie

1929 enregistrements électriques Stokowski - Orchestre de Philadelphie

1930 enregistrements électriques Stokowski - Orchestre de Philadelphie

1931 enregistrements électriques Stokowski - Orchestre de Philadelphie

1932 enregistrements électriques Stokowski - Orchestre de Philadelphie

1933 enregistrements électriques Stokowski - Orchestre de Philadelphie

1934 enregistrements électriques Stokowski - Orchestre de Philadelphie

Encore des enregistrements 1934 électriques Stokowski - Orchestre de Philadelphie

1935 enregistrements électriques Stokowski - Orchestre de Philadelphie

1936 enregistrements électriques Stokowski - Orchestre de Philadelphie

1937 enregistrements électriques Stokowski - Orchestre de Philadelphie

1939-1940 enregistrements électriques Stokowski - Orchestre de Philadelphie

 

D'autres documents sur Stokowski et l'Orchestre de Philadelphie

Camden église studio - Victor Talking Machine studio d'enregistrement

Leopold Stokowski - Orchestre de Philadelphie Enregistrement à l'Académie de musique de Philadelphie

Interviews avec Leopold Stokowski

Leopold Stokowski Orchestrations

Leopold Stokowski, Harvey Fletcher et les laboratoires Bell expérimental enregistrements

Maîtres de restauration moderne de disques historique

CDs de Stokowski et l'Orchestre de Philadelphie

Leopold Stokowski Discographies chronologique

      Leopold Stokowski Discographie chronologique - enregistrements acoustique

      Leopold Stokowski Discographie chronologique - enregistrements électriques

Leopold Stokowski - Orchestre de Philadelphie bibliographie, des sources et crédits

 

L'Orchestre symphonique de Boston - musiciens principaux

L'Orchestre symphonique de Chicago - musiciens principaux

L'Orchestre de Cleveland - musiciens principaux

L'Orchestre du Metropolitan Opera de New York - musiciens principaux

L'Orchestre philharmonique de New York - musiciens principaux

L'Orchestre de Philadelphie - musiciens principaux

L'Orchestre symphonique Russe de New York - musiciens principaux

L'Orchestre symphonique de San Francisco - musiciens principaux

L'Orchestre symphonique de St. Louis - musiciens principaux