Before the Revolution
PERFORMER: Various artists
CATALOGUE NO: TSCD 921
Oldies of the month, however, have to be the assorted residents of the then Russian Empire who show up on a British Library National Sound Archive selection, Before the Revolution. This really is time travel, back to a six-month journey through Central Asia and the Caucasus in 1909 by the recording engineer Franz Hampe.
The motives were strictly commercial, to give the Gramophone Company a hold on local markets, and several hundred releases were made from Hampe’s efforts. Naturally everything was chosen to attract the casual ear as well as the devotee, and given that top-ranking artists were used, the results still triumph over the limited frequency range of the recordings.
Among the huge variety of places and styles the highlights come from the male singers, including the light-toned, highly ornamental Armenian tenor Bagrat Bagramiants and the intense virtuoso mugham singer Jabbar Karyagdy, who must have been as astounding in his day as Alim Qasimov is in ours. There are choruses too, and it isn’t all men, though instrumental music does take a back seat.