Friday, August 8, 2014

Telemann: Suite in A Minor (Kincaid, Ormandy)

William Kincaid
The great Philadelphia Orchestra, which no less a perfectionist than Sergei Rachmaninoff preferred to any other (as both pianist and conductor) would not have been what it was without its great players. A prime example of this is its first-chair flutist from 1921 to 1960, William Kincaid (1895-1967). Here is one of several recordings that showcased him as a soloist:

Telemann: Suite in A minor, TWV 55:a2
William Kincaid, flute
The Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by Eugene Ormandy
Recorded March 15, 1941
Victor set DM-890, two 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC file, 60.06 MB)
Link (MP3 file, 41.15 MB)

I am indebted to Christopher Steward, who maintains this wonderful page devoted to early flute recordings, not only for making the transfer but for sending it to me with permission to use it on this blog.

Telemann was an almost unknown composer at the time this recording was made; in fact this Suite was, I believe, the first work of his to be offered in the Victor catalogue - the Fiedler Sinfonietta's recording of the Don Quichotte Suite was the second (actually the first to be recorded, but the second to be released), and for most of the decade of the 1940s these two sets constituted all the music of Telemann available to the American record buyer.

The playing by Kincaid and by Ormandy's string section is stylish and delightful, but be prepared to be shocked about 4 minutes into the recording by the sound of a piano, with its action altered so sound like a harpsichord, playing in the continuo passages! This was the best the Philadelphia Orchestra could do in 1941. Mengelberg had a similar instrument in Amsterdam when the Concertgebouw Orchestra recorded Vivaldi for Telefunken, and Mahler is said to have used a similar hybrid when presenting his arrangement of a Bach orchestral suite in New York in 1910. By the time Ormandy recorded Telemann again, in 1968 when four concertos were recorded by various Philadelphia first-chair soloists, the orchestra had acquired a real harpsichord.


  1. Thank you so much for this lovely performance of a wonderful work, Bryan! And for Don Quichotte, which I have just downloaded again in FLAC format (I only had your .mp3). On the continuo, I might put it, 'This was the best the Philadelphia Orchestra *chose* to do in 1941'... Not that I mind the 'harpsipiano'. (You don't suppose it was a Móór with harpsichord attachment?) As you say, there was rather little Telemann on 78s; he was one of those composers who really burgeoned on LP. I'm a huge fan, so I'm trying to gather everything I can. One day, I'll get round to sharing it, though I'll never be able to equal your industry and generosity! Another thing you might enjoy is a 1936 British Decca recording of excerpts from TWV43:e4, one of the Nouveaux Quatuors (wrongly identified in WERM and Nelson, by the way), which I got transferred for CHARM. It's part of a delightful musico-dramatic tableau entitled 'At The Court of Frederick the Great: A Musical Picture of Bach's Visit', issued on X 154-56; just search the CHARM sound-files by 'Artist' for 'Musica Antiqua'. AFAIK, it was never issued in the US. It must be one of the earliest recordings of a concerted work by Telemann, though there are some obscure German ones I need to locate and date... Thanks again and very best wishes, Nick

    1. Hi Nick, I knew you'd like it! I did get the Frederick the Great set from CHARM when I first discovered the site. It actually did surface on American Decca, as 25725 through 25727 in the cheap (75 cents per disc at a time when Victor was $2!) classical series, but it can't have had wide distribution. That series (25000 and up) really deserves some research; very little advertised, they were mostly put on the market during '36 and '37, and were deleted by '42 I should think, It was a dumping ground for Parlophone and Odeon material, and even a few Mengelberg Columbias via Odeon, but a few English Deccas did slip in there, none however higher than about X 181 or K 863. Most of my information about them comes from Kolodin's and David Hall's books; I've never seen an American Decca catalogue listing them, nor, alas, are they listed in Michel Ruppli's American Decca discography.

    2. Ah, thanks! I did wonder. I saw those numbers in Nelson's flute book, but prefixed with an F - possibly French issues? I couldn't find them in any US library, so I drew the wrong conclusion. I vaguely seem to remember seeing the set in Hall's book but now can't find it. More work to do! Best wishes, Nick

    3. I couldn't find it in any of the Hall books either. But a quick check at the library today revealed that the 1942 Gramophone Shop Encyclopedia listed the Decca 25000s, and the Frederick the Great set was indeed listed, so that must have been where I got the information about it, lo these many years ago. As for the F prefix I've never seen an American Decca with one, but I have seen them with G prefixes; perhaps a typo in the flute book?

    4. Dear Bryan, Apologies - I've been away! And it's not a typo in Nelson, it's me being an idiot! - yes, the prefix is G. Thanks for the tip about the GS Encyclopedia; I've only got the 1948 one (which is fascinating), so another trip to the library for me! All the very best, Nick

  2. Bryan, you probably already know this, but in case not Victor M-108 is nos.
    1510-16, per E. Riekena's Stokowski discography.

    Mike in Plovdiv

    1. Thanks Mike, I did not know that. Presume those are the manual numbers, and the automatic ones would be 1517-23?

    2. Dunno, Enno doesn' give any auto nos. in his discography.
      One would need a current numerical catalogue to check whether any of those nos.were used for something else....


    3. Info about this set is FINALLY up on the online EDVR, and confirms that 1517-23 are the auto numbers.