Sunday, August 23, 2015

Beethoven's Ninth - The First Recording

This is my 300th post on this blog - can you believe it? Something really big seemed called for, so I offer a recording that I have posted before, but this time, it's complete! Seven years ago I offered all I had of this pioneering recording of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, almost certainly the first complete one ever made, but that was only the first two movements. Now I have the whole thing, complete with album (the cover is pictured above) and I am pleased to present it now:

Beethoven: Symphony No. 9 in D Minor, Op. 125
Neues Symphonie-Orchester conducted by Bruno Seidler-Winkler
with soloists and the chorus of the Berlin Staatskapelle
Recorded c. 1923
Deutsche Grammophon 69607 through 69613, seven 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 185.69 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 114.34, MB)

Bruno Seidler-Winkler (1880-1960), the hero of this undertaking, had been the music director of Deutsche Grammophon since 1903, and left that position the year this recording was issued, so this must have seemed at the time a fitting cap to his career there. But in fact, it was the opening salvo in Deutsche Grammophon's bid to have all nine Beethoven symphonies recorded and available for sale. In the same month as this Beethoven Ninth recording was issued (December, 1923), Seidler-Winkler's of the Fifth and Pfitzner's of the Sixth were also released, according to Claude Arnold's "The Orchestra on Record, 1896-1926" (Greenwood Press, 1997). Here are the details of DGG's first Beethoven symphony cycle, in order by catalogue number:

69607-13: No. 9 (Neues S.O./Seidler-Winkler, issued Dec. 1923)
69638-41: No. 5 (Neues S.O./Seidler-Winkler, issued Dec. 1923)
69642-47: No. 6 (Neues S.O./Pfitzner, issued Dec. 1923)
69659-62: No. 7 (Berlin Staatskapelle/Walter Wohllebe, issued March 1924)
69663-67: No. 4 (Berlin Staatskapelle/Pfitzner, issued Aug. 1924)
69706-11: No. 3 (Berlin Staatskapelle/Oskar Fried, issued July 1924)
69760-63: No. 1 (Berlin Staatskapelle/Klemperer, issued Dec. 1924)
69786-88: No. 8 (Berlin Staatskapelle/Klemperer, issued May 1925)
69799-802: No. 2 (Berlin Staatskapelle/Fried, issued Nov. 1925)

Parlophon, with the same pool of Berlin players working under Eduard Mörike and Frieder Weissmann, entered the race as well in 1924 (intriguingly, also with the Ninth). By March, 1925, they had all nine recorded and available for sale, while DGG lagged with their last two issues.

The Seidler-Winkler Ninth seems to have been more widely disseminated than some of the other Beethoven symphony sets. Vocalion in the USA carried it - in fact it appears to be the only album set they ever issued from DGG sources. They took out an ad in the Talking Machine World magazine of November 15, 1924 (image borrowed from Allan Sutton's "Recording the Twenties", Mainspring Press, 2008):
And from eBay I borrowed this image of one of the Vocalion labels (notice their characteristic red shellac was used):
In Europe, outside Germany, the set was first marketed with the "dogless" Gramophone label (one of the spookiest designs on a record label I have ever encountered! - again, an image borrowed from eBay):

My copy, however, is a German one, with Nipper in full-color glory:


  1. Alternate links:



  2. Thank You!

    Also, there is one more edition - British Polydor 66267-73.
    In the Net I found only this very small cover -

  3. To quote a 1917 memo from Admiral Sir "Jacky" Fisher to Winston Churchill: OMG!

    Many many thanks.

  4. I have a digital copy of what was described as the Morike Beethoven 9th finale which IS missing the orchestral introduction. So I presume it is the 1921 version. The bass soloist is not identified but what he sings as the opening recitative does not match what every other singer I have heard sings. Most of the notes are the same but top notes in the passage are lowered, though he does get back to the correct pitch by the end. Wish I remembered where I got this from.

    1. I just found it on YouTube. Fascinating! It isn't missing ALL of the orchestral introduction, just the first three minutes or so. It actually starts with the "Freude schöner Götterfunken" melody played by the double basses as a theme for variations. It does omit the fugal orchestral interlude after the tenor solo with chorus. If this is indeed the 1921 finale (and, with the cuts, I have no reason to doubt that), it actually was conducted by Weissmann, not Mörike (quoth Frank Andrews and Michael Smith in their Parlophone discography) and the singers were Wally von Roemer, soprano; Hilde Ellger, contralto; Waldemar Henke, tenor; and Adolf Schopflein, bass. The 1921 finale was only issued in England, and then, only belatedly, along with the Weissmann-conducted first three movements. The German and US issues used instead a January 1925 recording conducted by Mörike, and hence all the confusion.

    2. wonder where the Bass solo rewrite came from, or was it just "I'm trying to get there but I can't, so what should we do?"

  5. geez, i know the solo tenor part is a bitch but near the end of the last movement he is just screaming whatever will come out! Surprisingly, the soprano handles her exposed solo pretty well. No squally tone and she actually gets up to the top note of the phrase.

  6. Congratulations with your 300th post! I'm very glad with such a wonderful blog. Thanks again for sharing! This is a very interesting recording,

  7. Happy 300th!

    I'm a great fan of your blog, I should post more often, but this was the occasion to say thank you!

  8. Congratulations on your 300th post! I have read every single one them. Appreciate all the hard work. Can't wait to read the next 300.

  9. Bryan: Congratulations for this epic effort. A true historical document. I can find no words. Infinitely pleased for this gift.- Go on and waiting for your next goal: 400. On 2017 perhaps?

  10. Hi Bryan, can you contact me, pls. I would like to discuss one point with you. Thanks Andrea (