The HMV - E Series

The following is a rather lengthy excerpt from 'Voices of the Past" Volume 5. It was so concise and well written, it seemed to sum up the E series perfectly so we thought it was better to reproduce it here rather than rewrite...

The Black label series have never excited the same interest as their more glamorous Red label counterparts. The notion is current that the recordings were almost exclusively of the type known as "domestic", i.e. records intended to find a market principally in their country of origin, and by artistes of lesser importance. While this is partially true of records issued during the period of acoustic recording, i.e. up to mid-1925, during the "electric period" the names represented include those of some of the foremost musicians of the century. The reason is to be found partly in the history of gramophone recording, partily in that of musical taste, and it is probably true that the two are closely interconnected. The acoustic process was kindest to singers, least satisfactory with symphony orchestras.

Orchestral music is practically unrepresented in the acoustic Red label series, and, apart from concerto recordings, in which the interest lay chiefly in the soloist, the situation was little changed during tike first five years or so of electric recording, i.e. before the early thirties. In the pages of the present the gramophonic reputation - and so helped to enhance the "live" the gramophonic reputation - and so helped to enhance the "live" reputation - of such names as Toscanini, Stokowski, Koussevitsky, Mengelberg and Albert Coates. 

Equally eminent in their own sphere, singers who made Black label records include Elena Gerhardt, Elisabeth Schumann, Frida Leider, Elisabeth Rethberg, Lauritz Melchior, Friedrich Schorr and Alexander Kipnis. The selection of mirrors two things - the growth of interest in lieder as a challenge to the pre-eminence of opera, and, within the operatic field, the newly-found possibility of recording Wagner with something approaching adequacy. Comparable instrumentalists are less numerous, since by this time many first-rate artistes were appearing on Plum label, but among names that come to mind are those of "Arthur de Greef, Frederic Lamond, Benno Moiseiwitsch, Andres Segovia". It would be hard to assemble, even from the ranks of exclusive - Red label celebrities, a group of names of such all-round distinction. 

Of still greater historic importance are some of the personalities whose records were included, as Black label issues, in the No.2 "Historic" catalogue. Although many of these were admittedly primitive, even by contemporary standards, the names of Grieg, Joachim and Sarasate, of Van Rooy, Slezak and Renaud, of Sarah Bernhardt and Ellen Terry speak for themselves. 

At the same time, one should not overlook the many fine artistes whose records do fall into the "domestic" category. Florence Austral, Walter Widdop, Robert Radford and many others made records which stand comparison with those of their internationally more famous contemporaries while, also included in the acoustic D and E series, were re-pressings of records by a number of foreign "Black label artistes" who deserve more attention than is commonly accorded to them. 

You can access the 'E' Search Engine here.

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