BBC Radio 4 - His Master's Voices
A series of 5 x 15min podcasts about the history and influence that
HMV had on recorded sound.
Beginnings - His Master's Voices
Episode 1 of 5
Singer Cerys Matthews and music expert Tristram Penna go back to
summer 1898 when The Gramophone Company opened offices in London's
This was the very first disc record company in the UK, later becoming
well known as HMV and EMI, and was the London affiliate of inventor
Emile Berliner's US National Gramophone Company.
The first inventory consisted of imported parts for 3,000 gramophones
and 150,000 American records. It was swiftly obvious that British
tastes meant local repertoire was vital, so Berliner sent his top
engineer and talent man Fred Gaisberg to London. On 9 Aug - the day of
the very first gramophone recording session - Fred recorded Adam
Umbach, clarinettist from the Trocadero, playing Mendelssohn's Spring
Close by, Rules Restaurant, London's oldest restaurant which opened in
1798, also played an important part as a place where artists and
Gramophone Company staff could fraternise. Here Gaisberg heard
Australian singer Syria Lamonte, leading to a legendary recording of
Coming Through The Rye on the 2 September.
Fred wanted to record everything and anything that he thought might
sell and the very first gramophone record catalogue contains several
thousand very diverse recordings.
The early recording process may have been primitive, but many artists
were persuaded to record by a pioneering spirit. By Christmas 1898 the
company had sold out of all machines and records so the entire staff
poured into Rules to celebrate.
We hear from Christopher Proudfoot, CLPGS chairman, academic Peter
Adamson, and music manager/author Simon Napier-Bell. The early
recordings are courtesy of the EMI Archive Trust.
A Sue Clark Production for BBC Radio 4 first broadcast in November 2015.