Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Robert H. Hull: An Early Bax Champion, 1934

In a letter to the The Gramophone magazine (November 1934) Robert H. Hull presented a plea for the expansion of the Bax record ‘catalogue.’ At that time it stood at just a handful of recordings [1]. Unfortunately his pleas seemed to fall on deaf ears, as it was to be a number of years before Bax’s music began to be made widely available for listeners.  Hull is a name who crops up in musical journalism in the 1920s and 30s. He is probably best recalled for an important study on Bax’s symphonies [2] as well as a booklet about Delius. [3].
The present situation (2014) where the majority of Arnold Bax’s music is available on CD or download, including four versions of all seven symphonies and some 22 versions of Tintagel would have seemed unbelievable to Hull and the readers of The Gramophone.

To the editor…
Possibly a good many of your readers feel the urgent need for gramophone records of Arnold Bax’s principal orchestral works, more particularly the five symphonies and of his chamber music. At present only a bare handful of Bax’s works are available to the gramophone public. The expense of production, especially in the matter of rehearsals, is cited as a prohibiting factor. There is no early prospect of the symphonies being recorded, and very little hope of anything similar, unless a wide circle of intending purchasers can give positive assurance of their support.
It seems highly desirable, therefore, to establish how far the many admirers of Bax’s genius can be relied upon to purchase future records of his orchestral and chamber music. Information is quite imperative if we are to end the present deadlock. I shall be extremely grateful if all those who are anxious that further works shall be recorded, particularly the Third Symphony, [4] will write to me as soon as possible at 463 Oxford Street, London W.1. [5] It will be a great help if writers will state the names of the Bax works to which they give preference. I am making this appeal with the approval of the composer and his publishers.
Once an adequate list of names has been collected – and we beseech every Bax enthusiast – it maybe possible, I hope, to come to some agreement with the Gramophone Company [6] and to submit the names of the works for which there is the greatest demand. Whether, ultimately, the records would be issued through the Company’s lists, or through the medium of a Bax Society, is a question which must await the decision of the Gramophone Company when the amount of promised support is definitely known.
Yours faithfully,

Robert H. Hull.

[1] Works available on record in 1934 included:-
  • Mater, ora Filium, Leeds Festival Chorus/Albert Coates, HMV D1044/5
  • Fantasy Sonata for harp and viola, Raymond Jeremy (viola) and Maria Korchinska (harp), National Gramophonic Society NGS118/120
  • Mediterranean, New Symphony Orchestra/ Eugene Goossens, HMV C1620
  • Mediterranean for piano, Harriet Cohen, Duo-Art 0355
  • Quartet No.1 for strings, Wilson String Quartet Gramophonic Society 153/155;   
  • ‘Cradle Song’ from Three Irish Songs and ‘I heard a piper piping’ from ‘Five Irish Songs’, Carmen Hill (soprano) Arnold Bax (piano) listed in CHARM but possibly not released as no record number given (December 1923)
  • ‘Cradle Song’ and ‘Rann of Exile’ from ‘Three Irish Songs’ Ann Thursfield (Soprano) and unknown pianist. HMV E410
  • Sonata for two pianos, Ethel Bartlett and Rae Robinson, duo pianists, National Gramophonic Society 156/158.
  • Hardanger, Ethel Bartlett and Rae Robinson, duo pianists, National Gramophonic Society 158.

[2] Hull, Robert H., A Handbook of Arnold Bax’s Symphonies (Murdoch, London 1932) 
[3] Hull, Robert H., The Hogarth Essays Second Series ‘Frederick Delius’ (London, 1928)
[4] According to Graham Parlett’s discography printed in Lewis Foreman’s Bax: A Composer and his Times (The Boydell Press, Woodbridge, 1983, 1987, 2007) Bax’s Symphony No.3 had to wait until  1943 Hallé Orchestra conducted by John Barbirolli HMV C3380/5 in 1943. It was recorded in Manchester.
[5] 463 Oxford Street, London were the offices of Arnold Bax’s publisher Murdoch, Murdoch and Co. The premises were bombed during the Second World War.
[6] The Gramophone Company was an early recording company which in 1931 along with the Columbia Gramophone Company formed English and Musical Industries Ltd (EMI) HMV was a trademark. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Who was it that said When Britten breaks wind there's someone there to record it? Paul from Ohio......