NY Phil - 1926 sound movie

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John F
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NY Phil - 1926 sound movie

Post by John F » Tue Jun 05, 2018 4:56 pm

The music is the overture to Wagner's "Tannhäuser," nearly complete. The conductor is Henry Hadley, the orchestra's associate conductor at the time, but the virtuosity of the playing is surely due to their work with Mengelberg, their music director from 1922 to 1930 (the last two seasons jointly with Toscanini).


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jxaLAuZYdho

The Vitaphone process was quite different from conventional sound movies, which came a little later. The soundtrack was recorded on discs, which were played to synchronize with the movie. The orchestra was surely playing while the cameras rolled, but that's not what we hear. Conventional sound movies also typically had separately recorded audio which was dubbed onto the film's soundtrack, so this movie is no more artificial in that respect than most of the movies you've ever seen.
John Francis

Belle
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Re: NY Phil - 1926 sound movie

Post by Belle » Tue Jun 05, 2018 6:13 pm

That moved me ineffably; thank you. (It was the year of my late mother's birth.) And, John, there is the added element of variable film speeds in the silent era - anywhere between 22 and 26 fps. This would have to have been adjusted to the standardized 24 for this film to be synchronized for our consumption. So, a more complex adjustment than at first obvious. Nascent sound films were part-synchronization so this process would have been taking place since about 1926; I'm guessing here. And some astonishing silent films were made that year as well!

I would hope that over time the images could be cleaned up for more clarity.

The orchestra is in fine form alright!! I didn't hear really much evidence of portamento which you still hear in orchestras at this time.

maestrob
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Re: NY Phil - 1926 sound movie

Post by maestrob » Wed Jun 06, 2018 9:37 am

Thanks for that, JohnF. Brilliant playing. I've heard some early opera films from the 1930's, with Schipa, for example, but this is the earliest sound film that I've heard of, given that tube amplifiers were just invented that year, IIRC. Elgar didn't start recording his works until 1927. Here, the NY Philh. sounds like it's just coming off of a Toscanini performance! I notice that the violins are split across the stage, and there's a cellist seated to the left of the conductor.

John F
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Location: New York, NY

Re: NY Phil - 1926 sound movie

Post by John F » Thu Jun 07, 2018 7:00 am

Another Vitaphone film, this one particularly for Belle. The Italian baritone Apollo Granforte - splendid name! - toured Australia with Nellie Melba in 1924, and he returned in 1932 when your mother was six. While with the Williamson-Imperial Grand Opera Company, he was filmed singing Figaro's "Largo al factotum" in concert but in costume and with plenty of spirit. Here it is:


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WxFOQVsE2Oo

If he were singing today, Granforte would surely be recognized as one of the great ones. He is certainly one of the most striking Iagos on records, in the complete EMI recording of 1931. He doesn't just sing the part, he inhabits and becomes it. The conductor is Carlo Sabajno with the La Scala orchestra.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0MWyFHyiDTA
John Francis

Belle
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Re: NY Phil - 1926 sound movie

Post by Belle » Thu Jun 07, 2018 11:25 pm

Thanks for that. In that first clip he seems to be overwhelming the orchestra with his voice! Perhaps due to the limitations of one-dimensional sound recording, or the size of the orchestra, it's very noticeable. And he was quite a personality too, I'd say.

This was still the early days of sound film where "Singing in the Rain" later captured and lampooned many of the problems they experienced from poor modulation control to huge microphones hidden in pot-plants or sound booths.

By the mid-30s musical pictures still had the bands sitting behind the camera to accompany the performers, as in this wonderful clip. I notice that when Mark Sandrich moves his camera for another view of the two dancers the music volume dims, as it also does towards the end!! I know I'd be bursting with pride if I came from a nation which produced such artistry.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ydxcHACwX4Y

This particular topic interests me very greatly.

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