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Published on Dec 24, 2008
This Edison phonograph cylinder recording from 1890 was made by Julius Block, a Russian Businessman of German descent (The Old Man with the Umbrella in this video) who became fascinated with the phonograph (and even convinced Tchaikovsky to sign an endorsement).
The recording was kept by Block until his death in 1934. His family donated the cylinder (with other cylinders made by Block) in a German Archive after his death. The recording was re-discovered in the Pushkin archive of St.Petersburg, Russia in 1997, and was labelled with the names of the participants: Anton Rubinstein (composer), Elizaveta Lavrovskaya (singer), Peter Tchaikovsky (composer), Vassily Safonov (pianist and conductor), Alexandra Hubert (pianist), Julius Block (the host himself).
One can imagine the scene - a group of eminent musicians each standing around this new 'wonderful invention', being gently encouraged to say something. So there are a few words of banter, some musical scales, whistles, etc., much of which is only just audible.
Here is the translated contents of this recording:
A. Rubinstein: What a wonderful thing [the phonograph]. J. Block: Finally. E. Lawrowskaja: A disgusting...how he dares slyly to name me. W. Safonov : (Sings a scale incorrectly). P. Tchaikovsky: This trill could be better. E. Lawrowskaja: (sings). P. Tchaikovsky: Block is good, but Edison is even better. E. Lawrowskaja: (sings) A-o, a-o. W. Safonow: (In German) Peter Jurgenson in Moskau. P. Tchaikovsky: Who just spoke? It seems to have been Safonow. (Whistles)
A Real Treasure from the Past!
* Note: There is a recent CD issue released by Marston Records(the company owned by Ward Marston, the famous recording restorer.) with 90 excerpts of Julius Block cylinders. It is worth buying!