A classic Kreutzer from one of the greatest British violinists
Plus an unreleased 1937 Fauré sonata from super-rare private HMV shellac 78s
Albert Sammons, violin
William Murdoch, piano
Recorded 15 December, 1926
Transfers from UK Columbia L1884-5 and 9354-6
Matrix Numbers AX 2288-2297
Albert Sammons, violin
Edie Miller, piano
Recorded 10 & 12 November, 1937
Private HMV yellow-label 78rpm pressings, Ref. No. JG 60-62
Matrix Numbers CPTX. 4918, 4891-3, 4919, 4894, all first takes
FLAC downloads include pdf scores of both works
Notes on the recordings:
I am very grateful to collector Paul Steinson for the loan of these rare 78rpm discs used for these transfers. Both presented some initial difficulties - the first disc of the Kreuzter Sonata appeared to have seen far more use than any of the others in the set, and my initial impression was that this had rendered it unusuable, with excessive surface noise and scratches. Fortunately this was very much a problem that was only surface deep - when I experimented with different stylii I discovered that, by using a diamond ground to approximately 20% narrower than usual, I was able to track a 'sweet spot' in the grooves which slipped under the wear and tear and provided a very clean and clear sound for any record of this era.
Thereafter it's an astonishingly clear recording, with a nice ambient acoustic of its own, suggesting an unusual, non-studio recording location. There was some treble peak blasting to deal with and quite a bit of swish, but generally I'm very pleased with what I've been able to recover of this truly superb, if truncated, performance.
The Fauré has clearly benefitted from a further decade or so of microphone development, though the discs were typically crackly HMV 1930s fodder. Each side of this apparently private recording was a first take, which is a shame as the pianist was obviously struggling under the pressure of the recording studio.
Sammons, though, rescues the whole thing with a wonderful performance, and it's a real honour and privilege to be able to finally release this recording, from possibly the only surviving copy of the discs - although these were "proper" pressed 78rpm discs, it is unknown how many copies where made and who may have received a set. We do know that the present set was originally a part of the Sammons family archives, which were sold off following the death of his daughter in the late 1990s.
Notes from Wikipedia
Albert Sammons was born in Fulham, London, the second eldest of four children. His father was a shoemaker and good amateur violinist. Sammons started to receive some lessons from his father around the age of seven. Apart from these lessons, he was virtually self-taught. His first professional engagement was in the band at the Earls Court Exhibition in 1898; the conductor was so impressed by the 12-year old that he made him leader. He left school at this time and became a professional musician - partly to bring extra income to the household, as his father was a compulsive gambler.
Sammons's father took both Albert and his eldest brother Tom to symphony concerts at St James's Hall and Queen's Hall. The boy began to gain a reputation for his reliability and was engaged by many London musical establishments, as well as in the 'Hungarian' and 'White Viennese' bands popular at the time. Sammons also received a few free lessons from the Eugène Ysaÿe-trained Spanish violinist Alfredo Fernandez. At 16, relations with his father reached a point where Albert and his brother left home to stay with friends, only returning when his father walked out to join the band on an ocean liner and the two brothers were obliged to provide for the rest of the family.
His first concerto performance was the Mendelssohn E minor Concerto at the Kursaal Concert Hall in Harrogate in 1906. He married Laura Tomkins in Middlesbrough on 31 October 1907 (divorced 1920). Around this time Sammons was recruited to play at musical parties for the upper classes at their country houses. In 1910, with Thomas Petre (2nd violin), Warwick Evans (cello), and H. Waldo Warner (viola), he formed the London String Quartet. He was also engaged by Ernesto Bucalossi at the Waldorf Hotel and Wyndham's Theatre. It was at the Waldorf that Thomas Beecham heard him and in August 1909 offered him the position of sub-leader (soon to be leader) of his orchestra, which later included opera seasons at Covent Garden, and the 1911 Diaghilev season. He also consolidated his solo career by playing the Bruch Violin Concerto No. 1 with the London Symphony Orchestra at the Queen's Hall in 1910.
Sammons, William Murdoch (piano), Lionel Tertis (viola) and Lauri Kennedy (cello), founded The Chamber Music Players in 1921, giving their first private performance on 6 January of that year, and first public concert at Haverstock Hill, London on 13 January, and going on to give many concerts at the Wigmore Hall and around the UK.
He mainly appeared in the UK, although he did lead the Beecham orchestra for a six-week season with the Diaghilev company at the Kroll Opera House, Berlin, in 1913 and, having played under Pierre Monteux for the Diaghilev seasons, was invited to lead the orchestra at the Casino de Dieppe, giving two concerts a day, and extending both his orchestral and chamber music repertoire.
Sammons was particularly associated with the Elgar Violin Concerto, which he first played on 23 November 1914. He made the first complete recording of the concerto on 18 March and 10 April 1929 with the New Queen's Hall Orchestra conducted by Henry Wood, which displays "wonderfully assured portamenti carried as if on the breath of a great singer" and "immense structural strength". He estimated that he played the concerto over a hundred times, including at The Proms. He gave his last performance of the Elgar on his 60th birthday in 1946, with George Weldon conducting the BBC Symphony Orchestra. Among other concertos in his repertoire were those by Beethoven, Brahms, Bruch, and the Mozart G major.
In May 1915 a chance encounter in London with Frederick Delius led directly to the composition of a violin concerto in which Sammons probably assisted considerably even to the point of writing some link passages. On 13 July 1916 Sammons gave the first UK performance of the Violin Sonata of Claude Debussy, only six weeks after its Paris premiere. After the end of the First World War, Sammons all but gave up string quartet and orchestral playing in order to concentrate on a large, regular programme of solo work and chamber music recitals throughout Britain and Ireland, and later, broadcasts. He played a part in the rehabilitation of Fritz Kreisler, by presenting (along with Dame Nellie Melba) a laurel wreath at the Austrian violinist's first appearance in England after the war. Between May and the autumn of 1929 Sammons and Tertis carried out around 1,000 string auditions for the new BBC Symphony Orchestra.
He married Olive Hobday (the daughter of one of his accompanists) on 5 December 1921. Shortly after, they moved to Bognor Regis, in the same road as William Murdoch.
During the Second World War, he continued his busy concert schedule around the UK travelling by train, as well as appearing at the National Gallery concerts.
From 1946 Sammons spent less time playing and more teaching. As a teacher, he had worked at the Midland Institute in Birmingham from the 1920s but from 1939 he taught privately and at the Royal College of Music. His pupils included Alan Loveday, Hugh Bean and Samuel Kutcher . He became a Fellow (FRCM) in 1944.
He composed many short pieces for violin and piano, which he included in his recital programmes and recorded. A Cradle Song of 1915 is dedicated to his second daughter and the Lullaby of 1923 to the third, Colleen. His Phantasy Quartet of 1915 won the Cobbett Prize. He also made editions of others' works and published books of studies and exercises.
The onset of Parkinson's disease forced his retirement from public performance in June 1948. He attended a testimonial concert at the Royal Albert Hall on 7 December in a wheelchair, and heard a tribute from Sir Arthur Bliss, with others in the programme from Joseph Szigeti, Fritz Kreisler and Adrian Boult.
He died at Middleton-on-Sea on 24 August 1957, having lived in Bognor Regis since 1921.
His violins included a Gofriller (he bought another, 1696, Gofriller in 1927) and a Nicolas Gagliano. At the Cobbett competition in February 1923 he played in a 'blind' comparison of a 1731 Stradivarius and a modern instrument by Alfred Vincent. When Sammons sold the Gofriller in 1951 he gave the new owner a list of all the works he had played on it.
As leader of the London String Quartet (1910-1919):
Notes from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albert_Sammons
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