Monday, August 25, 2014

Kryl and Haines from 1903

I found myself listening to a bunch of records from the first five years of the 20th century today, and decided to share one. The public's taste at this time, as least as the record companies read it, leaned toward novelty songs, marches, and what the British still call "light music." It was only with the onset of Caruso's recording career that music of any profundity began to be recorded.

But there is a certain charm in many of those early-20th-century records. I've chosen one because it's a typical brass showpiece record of the time, and because it's in remarkably excellent condition. Most of my records from this period are pretty worn, but I would guess that my copy of Oxford 1189 had never seldom played before I took it home from an antique store in Woodstock, Georgia.

Oxford was the second label used by the Sears, Roebuck & Co. chain of department stores. Their first label was Harvard; their most well-known and longest-running label was Silvertone. But between those two labels, from 1907 to 1915, they used the name Oxford on their records. The first Oxfords were pressed for Sears by Victor, using material from Victor's Zonophone subsidiary, but they soon turned to Columbia to provide their records. Oxfords were single-sided, and featured a confusingly-worded legal notice on their reverse sides; many labels used a similar notice at the time.

Oxford 1189 was pressed around 1908 from a master made for Columbia in early 1903: "Birds of the Forest." There is no composer credit on the label, but a little research reveals that this "Polka de Concert" is Sebastian Mayr's opus 75, and that it was a brand-new composition at the time of this recording. There is no artist credit, either, but the performers are the flamboyant Czech cornet virtuoso Bohumir Kryl and his frequent musical partner Leroy Haines on trombone. Kryl was a businessman and art collector in addition to being a soloist and bandleader; he was a well-known and much-recorded figure in the first few decades of the 20th century.

Enjoy this very nice recording of "Birds of the Forest" by Kryl and Haines.

Birds of the Forest

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