This fascinating post prompted some questions:
1. what sort of recording equipment was use to "take" (I love that word, like taking a photograph,
which is more akin to what acoustic recording is) the 10 records at Melba's home? Are there any
photos of this equipment? Do we know what size horn was used, what sort of mechanism was used to
inscribe the wax? In 1904, was this pretty much the system described in the Berliner patents or had
improvements already been made?
2. why would fragile wax platters be taken all the way to Germany for plating? Were there no plating
facilities in England?
3. are there any descriptions extant of the size, thickness and composition of the wax platters used
in these sessions?
4. how did the vinyl reproductions made from the metal parts turn out? I'm curious if the problem
mentioned, of getting quality pressings in 1904, related to the wax having to travel to Germany
before plating, or if good shellac compounds and/or pressing technology hadn't yet been developed
-- Tom Fine
----- Original Message -----
From: "Michael Quinn" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Tuesday, October 22, 2013 10:22 PM
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Nellie Melba' 1st records
> Hi Steve,
> Unfortunately the original recording registers and Fred Gaisberg's
> works diary for 1904 no longer exist.
> However some telegrams and letters sent from England to Hanover
> concerning the Melba recordings give good indication of dates of
> There were probably 4 separate sessions all at Melba's house in London.
> The first session consisted of 10 records taken in the first week of
> March 1904 - these are all piano accompanied. A March 7th telegram to
> the factory manager in Hanover deals with this group and interestingly
> Sinkler Darby is the one taking the waxes to Germany.
> The second session consisted of matrix numbers 11 to 16 and supposedly
> happened on March 27th 1904 following a concert tour of England by Melba.
> This second session was also piano accompanied and involved the noted
> flautist Gaubert on several of the discs.
> The third session is claimed to have happened several days after the
> third but still in March 1904 and consisted of orchestrally accompanied
> matrixes 17 to 24.
> The final session of matrixes 25 to 28 occurred in the first week
> of April 1904 and is referred to in a telegram dated in the second
> week of April.
> There were reportedly lots of problems obtaining quiet pressings and a
> great deal of care was taken to preserve the primary metals. Many of
> these first shells survived in the DGG archive and were used for vinyl
> pressings issued by Historic Masters several years ago.
> I believe Fred Gaisberg is still credited with being the recording
> expert on these 1904 Melba discs but it would be instructive to read
> Sinkler Darby's diaries which survive and are held by the EMI
> Best Wishes
> Mike Quinn
> On 10/21/13, Steve Smolian <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>> This week Iíll be listing on Ebay a Melba test pressing from a master, not a
>> stamper, , ď12 Melba,Ē Lucia. Mad scene, recorded in March, 1904.
>> It is on a Gramophone Monarch white label ďSample for Approval.Ē
>> In the white title area is only the penciled note, ď1st copy good, the
>> others to do overĒ
>> This might be in Melbaís hand but I not a handwriting expert. Iím assuming
>> it is that of another person.
>> Iíve been unable to find specific dates for these sessions beyond March,
>> 1904. Itís not likely they did all 28 sides the same day.
>> Iíve checked various sources for more exact dates with no success. Neither
>> Landon Ronald, who was there, nor Fred Gaisberg, who infers he was there but
>> may not have been, give dates in their memoirs. Sinkler Darby, who sees to
>> have been the recording engineer (his initials are in the wax under the
>> label,) left no memoir as far as Iíve been able to learn. It was a
>> significant occasion and recognized as so by many. Were these made on
>> consecutive days or did the crew record a week or so apart? Anyone looked
>> at the local newspapers?
>> If they were done consecutively, then the comment on the record could cover
>> any number of her 28 or 30 recordings, given the time gap required to
>> process the plates and press the tests. If not, this item may show that all
>> but one of a particlar group were unapproved. The masters of only 17 sides
>> from these sessions seem to have survived. Unapproved metal parts seem to
>> have been given to Melba to destroy. She seems also to have been persuaded
>> to approve some sides she initially rejected.
>> How many sides were recorded each day? Has anyone a real date for these?
>> Is this record a curiosity or does add a bit of significant information to
>> the history of recording?
>> Steve Smolian