The new Gramophone Archive will be launched on October 30!
For the last 90 years Gramophone has built up an unrivalled collection of interviews with the leading classical artists and composers of the 20th and 21st centuries. From October 30 you will be able to read every page of every issue of Gramophone since 1923 on your iPad, iPhone or desktop computer as part of your digital magazine subscription. Follow this link for more information about the digital magazine, soon to include the new, unrivalled, Gramophone Archive.
Reprinted below is just one of the thousands of interviews that you will be able to enjoy in the Gramophone Archive – Rachmaninov on the future of radio (Gramophone, April 1931):
Not long ago I was asked to express my opinion as to the musical value of broadcasting. I replied that, to my mind, radio has a bad influence on art: that it destroys all the soul and true significance of music. Since then many people have appeared and surprised that, disliking wireless so intensely, I should lend myself to recording for the gramophone, as though the two were, in some mysterious way, intimately connected.
To me it seems that the modern gramophone and modern methods of recording are musically superior to wireless transmission in every way, particularly where reproduction of the piano is concerned. I agree that piano recording was not always so successful as it is to-day. Twelve years ago, when I was making my first records with Edison in America, the piano came out with a thin, tinkling tone. It sounded exactly like the Russian balalaika, which, as you may know, is a stringed instrument resembling the guitar. And results produced by the acoustical process in use when I began to record for His Master’s Voice in 1920 were far from satisfactory. It is only the perfecting of electrical recording during the last three years combined with recent astonishing improvements in the gramophones themselves that has given us piano reproduction of a fidelity, a variety and depth of tone that could hardly be bettered.
I have no hesitation in saying that modern piano recordings do the pianist complete justice. Speaking from personal experience, I feel that my records can only help to increase my prestige as an artist. Not that excellent results are by any means limited to my own work. I have heard many fine records by many different pianists and in every case the essentials of the individual artist's performance have been captured and preserved.
In fact, through the medium of the gramophone we can now offer the public performances closely similar to those we give on the concert platform. Our records should not disappoint the most critical listener who has heard us in the flesh; to the millions who have no opportunity of doing so, they convey a just and accurate impression of our work. In addition, what is to me most important of all, recording for the gramophone enables the artist to satisfy himself.
For I am by nature a pessimist. It is so seldom that I am sincerely satisfied with my performance, so often that I feel it could have been better. And when making records it is actually possible to achieve something approaching artistic perfection. If once, twice or three times I do not play as well as I can, it is possible to record and re-record, to destroy and remake until, at last, I am content with the result.
Can the radio artist, who has no opportunity to hear how his performance comes through, ever know a similar satisfaction in his work? Myself, I dislike radio music and listen to it very seldom. But from what I have heard I cannot believe that the best broadcast performance imaginable would ever satisfy a sensitive artist.
On this account alone, I deplore the present depression in the gramophone industry. It is a curious fact that when I began working for HMV ten years ago business was excellent, though only indifferent records were available. Yet today, when we have first-class recording, business is worse than it has ever been. For this, I can only think that the universal craze for radio is to blame.
Not for a moment would I wish to belittle the scientific value of broadcasting, its wonders, or its benefits to humanity. I can well imagine that if I were exiled in Alaska, for instance, I might he grateful for even the pale ghosts of music the radio would bring me. But to listen-in in great cities like London or New York when one could actually be present in a concert hall – to me that would seem sacrilege. Radio is a very great invention, but not, I think, for art.