Sir Donald Francis Tovey (July 17, 1875 – July 10, 1940) was a British musical analyst, musicologist, writer on music, composer and pianist. He is best known for his Essays in Musical Analysis.
Tovey began to study the piano and compose at an early age. He eventually studied composition with Hubert Parry.
Tovey became a close friend of Joseph Joachim, and played piano with the Joachim Quartet in a 1905 performance of Johannes Brahms' Piano Quintet. He gained some moderate fame as a composer, having his works performed in Berlin and Vienna as well as London. He performed his own piano concerto under the conductorship of Henry Wood in 1903 and under Hans Richter in 1906. During this period he also contributed heavily to the music articles in the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica, writing a large portion of the content on music of the 18th and 19th centuries.
In 1914 he began to teach music at the University of Edinburgh and there he founded the Reid Orchestra. For their concerts he wrote a series of programme notes, many of which were eventually collected into the books for which he is now best known, the Essays in Musical Analysis.
Tovey began to compose and perform less often later in life. In 1913 he composed a symphony, in 1935 he wrote a cello concerto for Pablo Casals and he also wrote an opera, The Bride of Dionysus. In illustrated radio talks recorded in his last few years, his playing can be heard to be severely affected by a problem with one of his hands.
Tovey made several editions of other composers' music and in 1931 produced a completion of Johann Sebastian Bach's Die Kunst der Fuge. His edition of the 48 Preludes and Fugues of Bach, in two volumes (Vol 1, March 1924; Vol 2, June 1924), with fingering by Harold Samuel, for the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music, has been reprinted continually ever since.
In his essays, Tovey developed a theory of tonal structure and its relation to classical forms that he applied in his descriptions of pieces in his famous program notes for the Reid Orchestra. His aesthetic regards works of music as organic wholes, and he stresses the importance of understanding how musical principles manifest in different ways within the context of a given piece. He was fond of using metaphors to illustrate his ideas. A quotation from the Essays (on Brahms' Handel Variations, Tovey 1922):
"The relation between Beethoven's freest variations and his theme is of the same order of microscopical accuracy and profundity as the relation of a bat's wing to a human hand."
Tovey's belief that classical music has an aesthetics that can be deduced from the internal evidence of the music itself has influenced subsequent writers on music.
Tovey was knighted in 1935. He died in 1940 in Edinburgh.
Adila Fachiri (b. Budapest, 26 February 1889;, d. 15 december 1962) was a Hungarian violinist who had an international career but made her home in England. She was the sister of the violinist Jelly D'Aranyi.
Born Adila Arányi de Hunyadvár, her early musical education was at the Royal Academy of Music in Budapest. She began to study violin when she was ten years old, under Jenö Hubay. At the age of 17 she won the artists' diploma, the highest musical distinction in Hungary. She was a grand-niece of Joseph Joachim, and she then studied with him in Berlin until his death, being possibly the only private pupil he ever accepted. He bequeathed to her one of his Stradivarius violins.
She first went to England in 1909, and in 1915 she married Alexander Fachiri, an English barrister living in London. By 1924 she had played in public in the chief cities of Hungary, Austria, Germany, Italy, France and Holland, as well as appearing regularly at London concerts.
Adila Fachiri made a recording of the Beethoven 10th violin sonata with Donald Francis Tovey. She was the dedicatee of the two violin sonatas of Bela Bartok, and of the 1930 violin concerto by Sir Arthur Somervell. On April 3 1930, she and her sister gave the first performance of the Concerto for two violins of Gustav Holst, at a Royal Philharmonic concert at the Queen's Hall, under Oskar Fried. The sisters were concerned together in a spiritualistic séance in London in March 1933, at which the existence of the Robert Schumann violin concerto was revealed to them through the 'voices' of Schumann himself and of their late grand-uncle, Joachim.
Original surface quality: Quite crackly, with prominent swish on some sides. Quite a heavy scratch at the start of side three (opening of second movement).
Other notes: This rare instance of a recording made by Tovey - he made one other for the NGS (a single-sided filler again with Adila Fachiri of a single movement of Bach on the second side of disc 117), and a recording of his conjectural completion of Bach's Art of Fugue which can be downloaded from a 2005 Pristine Audio restoration for Divine Art here - also includes something perhaps unique in the history of commercially recorded music.
At about two and a half minutes into the first movement, the music appears to peter out. Then we hear Tovay announce "Repeat from beginning. Second time..." before the music picks up and continues. Thus what is presented here is both variations of the bars leading first to the repeat (which is announced but not played) and the bars which continue after the repeat into the remainder of the music.
What Tovey couldn't have anticipated was the ease with which digital editing allows us to do precisely what he suggests in his short interruption, and to recreate the full first movement - with fully played through repeats - from the music on the disc.
The recording offered for purchase here is as recorded, including the Tovey interjection - which can be heard in our streamed sample at the top of the page. However, if you wish to replace the first movement with the fully reconstructed version, as per Tovey's instruction but without hearing him, you can download for free the alternative version of that movement here:
Free Download of Alternate First Movement (with repeats)
National Gramophonic Society recordings- a technical perspective
As a collection of recordings, the National Gramophonic Society discs contain some of the toughest challenges possible for the restoration and remastering engineer. There are no master discs to work from, and those regular pressed shellac discs which do exist are extremely rare. A daunting proportion of these are very poorly pressed, and many have particularly noisy, hissy or crackly surfaces.
The vast majority of the original discs came from Gramophone magazine's own near-mint collection, carefully preserved in the EMI vaults at Hayes and largely unplayed for many decades. Where a choice of discs was present, naturally the very best sides were chosen for transfer, which took place at Pristine Audio over the spring, summer and autumn of 2006. Discs were carefully cleaned and a choice of custom-made stylii were available to achieve the optimum replay possible. Transfers were made at 24-bit resolution and then archived in 32-bit sound. Some initial restorations were carried out at the time of transfer, but all of the recordings presented here have been newly XR-remastered, starting in February 2008, directly from those high-quality transfers.
Without the benefits of modern audio restoration technologies, it is safe to say that a good number of the Society's output would be beyond the listening tolerance of all but the most devoted and dedicated music-lover. Of the 165 numbered discs it is not until we reach discs 103-4 (the Malipiero String Quartet No. 2) that something truly remarkable happens sonically, a result of switching allegiances to the Columbia Record Company for recording and pressing duties.
Prior to this the results are variable in the extreme - and the problems don't really stop after disc 104 either - we are still talking about the early days of electrical recording, and it seems clear from this history of the Society that money was tight. But for the 1920's listener, these matters would surely have been secondary to being able to hear any of these works at all, as the National Gramophonic Society's remit was to record music that had been ignored by the other record companies.
The challenge for the 21st Century therefore is to render these recordings in such a way as to be faithful to the musicians as well as sparing the listener too much pain. I've tried to strike a careful balance between noise reduction and the dangers of over-processing and deadening the sound which, in some cases, may leave some of the blemishes more obvious than you might be used to hearing - if this is the case in any particular recording, I can only respond with "well you should have heard it before I started work on it!"
There are many fine recording here, and I hope you will enjoy them as much as I have.
Andrew Rose, March 2008
The National Gramophonic Society
The National Gramophonic Society (NGS) was founded in 1923 by the novelist Compton Mackenzie to promote music which was ignored by major music companies.
The Society was established for the recording and publication by subscription of classical music, principally chamber music, which was of limited circulation. Prominent on the committee for the selection of material was Walter Willson Cobbett, who was joined by Spencer Dyke (leader of a string quartet), W. R. Anderson, Alec Robinson, Peter Latham and Compton MacKenzie.
Cobbett (b 1847), a chamber-music specialist, had founded the Cobbett Competition in 1905 for a short form of String Quartet composition or 'Phantasy', and for other short chamber works, prizes won variously by William Yeates Hurlestone (1876-1906, pianist) (1905), Frank Bridge (1908), John Ireland (1909), J. Cliffe Forrester (1916), H. Waldo Warner (viola of the London Quartet) (1916), York Bowen (1918) and Cecil Armstrong Gibbs (1919). In 1921 he was offering further awards to Royal Academy and Royal College of Music graduates, and commissioned many new chamber works from English composers.
The National Gramophonic Society was therefore an expression of this impetus to the development of the taste for modern chamber music. The records, issued on 12-inch 78rpm (or in some cases 80rpm) discs with distinctive yellow labels, included the first-ever recordings of familiar works such as the C major quintet of Schubert and Brahms's clarinet quintet, along with pieces (then relatively little known) by Henry Purcell, Vivaldi and Mozart.
The organization also helped several living composers such as Ralph Vaughan Williams, Arnold Bax, Peter Warlock (first recording of The Curlew), Eugene Goossens, Arnold Schönberg (original chamber version of Verklärte Nacht) and Sir Edward Elgar to gain greater recognition for their works. The repertoire consisted largely of chamber music, featuring the Spencer Dyke Quartet and the International String Quartet, but included some works for small orchestra and a few vocal items. Musicians who took part included John Barbirolli (as both cellist and conductor), the clarinettists Charles Draper and Frederick Thurston, the oboeist Leon Goossens, the violinist Adila Fachiri, and the pianists Donald Francis Tovey, Harold Craxton, Kathleen Long and Ethel Bartlett.