Sunday, June 21, 2015

Berg: Lyric Suite (Galimir Quartet)

Alban Berg
Of the three composers of the Second Viennese School, Alban Berg has always been my favorite, because the expressive and emotional power of his music shines through the often harsh sounds of his chosen idiom (i.e., music not based in traditional tonality) more strongly for me than it does with the works of Schoenberg or Webern, geniuses though those two undoubtedly were. Berg was, essentially, a Romantic composer, and his best interpreters, which included Felix Galimir (1910-1999), have understood this. Galimir and his three sisters founded a string quartet while they were students at the Vienna Conservatory, which learned Berg's then-newest work, the Lyric Suite, being coached by Berg himself in its performance. (The full story can be read here.) At about the time of Berg's death, in 1935, the group recorded it - the first recording of any of his works:

Berg: Lyric Suite, for string quartet
Galimir String Quartet of Vienna
Recorded c. 1935
Brunswick-Polydor set BP-2, four 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 79.54 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 49.87 MB)

My source is a superb set of pressings on the short-lived Brunswick-Polydor label, the successor to Brunswick's gold-label classical series that also featured mainly Polydor material. Introduced in 1937, the entire series, such as it was, seems to have been retired when CBS purchased the American Record Corporation in 1939.  I have been able to trace information about only eight album sets in the series, as follows:

BP-1 Stravinsky: Violin Concerto (Dushkin; Lamoureux/Stravinsky)
BP-2 Berg: Lyric Suite (Galimir Qt.)
BP-3 Roussel: Symphony No. 3 (Lamoureux Orch./Wolff)
BP-4 Beethoven: "Hammerklavier" Sonata (Kempff)
BP-5 Verdi: Quartet in E minor (Prisca Qt.)
BP-6 Bach: English Suite No. 3 (Alexander Borovsky, piano)
BP-7 Beethoven: Quartet in E minor, Op. 59, No. 2 (Prisca Qt.)
BP-8 Heinrich Schlusnus Lieder Album (Graener, Schubert, Schumann, Strauss)

The first four sets were 12-inch sets, and the other four were 10-inch.  All except BP-6 and BP-8 had "slide automatic" couplings available as well, an "A" appearing after the album number to indicate this.


  1. Alternate links:



  2. Great transfer job on this! I had a crack at it and found it very difficult to match the pitch on the 2nd side of the 4th mvt., but you seem to have done it perfectly. I can't remember if it was Newport or Testament's cd, but one of those drops nearly half a step there! Now I hear my version is too flat at the start of the movement. I think my ear is ok at hearing pitch, but sometimes I find it very difficult to MATCH a 78 side pitch to a tuner, especially in such a harmonically mobile work as this. All of your recent work really sounds superb. Bravo!

    1. Thanks, Neal - if I hadn't read your blog, I don't know whether I would have caught the fact that two of the sides (the fifth movement as well as part 2 of the fourth) were a different pitch! All I did was apply a 3% pitch increase across the board for those two sides, and it worked. Had to check it against a score, of course, to be sure....

    2. Hello Bryan, hello Neal,
      my name is Marina and I am a musicology student from Austria, currently I am studying the Galimir Quartet, I also want to analyze their Ravel recording. I tried to collect as many information as possible, but unfortunately I am lacking information on how the recording bussines worked back then, what it meant to record and what I have to be careful of when using the transfer (I bought a CD tranferred by Rockport Records). I would apreciate a lot if you would be so nice to help me out! I'd like to contact you with more detailed questions if you are ok with that.
      Thank you very much,
      (marina.kotsadam [@]

  3. Thank you again very much! I agree with you about Berg - his music rarely sounds harsh to me, such was his control of form and harmony. This is an amazing document and I'm glad to hear it again - especially after reading the fascinating interview with Felix Galimir, for which many thanks too. Your meticulous documentation made me go back to the Rockport CD and realise that, because the type on the back is so tiny, I'd misread the matrix info - talking of which, interesting that one of the labels you so kindly scanned, disc 95008, has the wrong matrix suffix! Very best wishes, Nick

  4. I want just heartly Thanking You!