My Older Legacy Literary Blog

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Ancient Recordings of Oscar Wilde, Robert Browning, Brahms

A long time ago, I wrote a minor story about a guy that walks into a curio shoppe looking for some rare recordings of Johannes Brahms.  Piano rolls, what have you.  At the end of the story, the supernatural shopkeeper shows him a Polaroid of Caesar Augustus while orating.  Well, it turns out that there really is a recording of Brahms from 1893, playing the piano, and possibly speaking.   I never would have dreamed there is a recording of Robert Browning speaking, nor Tennyson.  People still argue to this day about whether the recording of Oscar Wilde speaking is real or not.  

See below:.

Robert Browning (1889 Edison Recording)

Robert Browning reciting poetry

Alfred, Lord Tennyson speaking, around 1890

Tennyson reciting his poetry

Some notes on this recording, above: 

It is interesting to note that the Edison phonograph on which this cylinder was made was taken to Tennyson’s home on the Isle of Wight in 1890 by Staedtler, an assistant of Col George Gouraud, Edison’s British agent, and left there for the poet to make a number of further cylinders, several of which survive.  ;.


Oscar Wilde supposedly recites from “The Ballad of Reading Gaol” around 1900, but it is possibly a fake recording-others insist it is real (people are still arguing about it on Youtube in the comments):


Arthur Conan Doyle :  

Doyle talking about his invention of Sherlock Holmes, filmed for about 9 minutes. The filming of him was shot in 1928.


The voices of Tchaikovsky and Anton Rubenstein (1890), Tchaikovsky died three years later:  

Tchaikovsky speaking:

 Here is a translation of the conversation:  Translation    A. Rubinstein: What a wonderful thing [the phonograph].
 J. Block: Finally.
 E. Lawrowskaja: A 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) 


 Johannes Brahms (from 1889):   

Brahms playing piano and possibly speaking.

Here are some comments from various listeners on YouTube about this Brahms recording:.

Aimiklingsor93 (1 month ago) Show Hide . There is a DVD on which one can hear Brahms’ voice. He speaks in English and introduces himself:  ”I am Doctor Brahms, Johannes Brahms ” Very short but quite moving...... 

 pianiplunker (3 weeks ago) Show Hide  +1   That recording is of Brahms playing a snippit of his Hungarian dance #1. Most scholars agree it is not Brahms himself speaking but the announcer saying: house of Herr Doctor Fellinger, I have Dr. Brahms,Johannes Brahms..Still I’d rather have Brahms playing piano than talking. 

leonengard (4 days ago) Show Hide . Reply  I’m trying to listen something in german, but I just hear something like  ”I have Doctor Brahms, Johannes Brahms ” and with a clear american accent. I know I’m wrong, but that’s what I hear :) Anyway, I’m happy because I can listen quite well the hungarian dance. It is a treasure to my ears. And I hear it better in the first version. Thanks for posting.  

davidgee100 (3 weeks ago) Show Hide . Reply  Can we hear energy and emotional complexity and fanfare in this playing? Does this playing shake up the house? 

 castromonteiro (1 month ago) Show Hide  +4   Reply  Well, it was not Brahms’s voice. But I don’t care, since listening to Brahms himself playing his compositions at the piano is quite enough for me ;-)

  TheAspenTom (1 month ago) Show Hide  +2   Reply  There was an analysis of this recording at Stanford Univ. The jist: it wasn’t Brahms or Felinger speaking, although it was at Felinger’s house. It was likely Theo Wangemann, a representative from Edison, introducing Brahms:  ”Dezember Achtzehnhundertneununachtzig. Haus von Herrn Doktor Fellinger, bei mir ist Doktor Brahms, Johannes Brahms. ” The researchers cleared up some preliminary noise before the first easily audible word,”\ which was the date: December 1889.  

voolare (1 month ago) Show Hide  +1    Reply  It’s not Brahms’ voice here. this is Dr Felinger saying  ”I have Dr Brahms ” not  ”I am ”. It’s in German! Brahms is at the piano in the background. 

 FranzFerencLiszt (1 month ago) Show Hide  +1    Reply  @voolare  Yep. It’s also quite strange that he says  ”I I am DOCTOR Brahms, Johannes Brahms ”. I’m Johannes Brahms. full stop.  


And for the believe it or not Dept, Now, for the first known recording of a human voice from 1860: 

The first known recording of a human voice, from April 9th, 1860. (Phonautograph Etching) : On 9th March 2008, this  ”ethereal ” 10 second clip of a woman singing the French folk song  ”Au Clair de la Lune ”, was played for the first time in 150 years. It is currently thought to be the oldest...    

If this is true, we could have had a recording of Abraham Lincoln’s voice(in Sandburg’s LINCOLN, it is accounted that Lincoln had a rather shrill voice), and countless others.  If Poe would have lived a little longer we would have his voice on a wax cylinder.

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