Elgar opens Abbey Road recording studios
Not only was Elgar the brightest star in the British classical music firmament of his day, but he was also fascinated by technology – he built himself a makeshift chemical laboratory at home, for example. He was thus the natural choice to open HMV/EMI’s brand new recording studios in St John’s Wood, on Abbey Road, in the grand ceremony marking the event on the morning of November 12 1931.
Elgar in what looks like a tweed suit, the grand old man of British music, can be seen in film of the event, conducting the all-male orchestra in his Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1, before he starts asking them: “Please play this tune as though you’ve never heard it before.” The inaugural recording at the studios, again conducted by the great man, was of his Falstaff symphonic study.
Abbey Road, while more famous now perhaps for its Beatles connection, has a long history of excellence in classical music recorded there in studio number one. Though Elgar died just three years later he made use of the art deco facilities several times, including famously conducting the young Yehudi Menuhin and the LSO in the first recording of Elgar’s Violin Concerto, still available in a much re-mastered form today.
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