Fred Gaisberg - Biography - The Gramophone Company and HMV

The Gramophone Company and HMV

In 1898 the Gramophone Company was formed in London. Gaisberg, by then working as a piano accompanist and recording supervisor for Emile Berliner, left New York for London to join the Gramophone Company as its first recording engineer. He landed in Liverpool with recording outfit, a $25 bicycle and introductions and instructions from Berliner. Among his first recordings in London were several made by Syria Lamonte, an Australian singer working at Rules Restaurant in Maiden Lane.

Gaisberg was the first person to record the tenor Enrico Caruso, in Milan on 11 April 1902. The voice recorded well even on the primitive equipment of the time, and the entire enterprise paid off financially as well as artistically. Caruso's recordings were released in 1903 on the premium-price Victor 'Red Seal' label, the first recordings to feature Nipper, the 'His Master's Voice' dog, listening to the acoustic horn of a gramophone. Caruso's Victor recordings sold prodigiously and turned him into an international star. Caruso himself said, "My Victor records will be my biography."

Gaisberg's brother William worked with him. They signed up and/or recorded such international stars as Adelina Patti, Francesco Tamagno, Feodor Chaliapin, Beniamino Gigli, Nellie Melba, John McCormack and Fritz Kreisler. Gaisberg was the only record producer to record a castrato singer (Alessandro Moreschi of the Sistine Chapel choir), and the first person to produce recordings in India and Japan. He cut India's first gramophone recordings, which featured Gauhar Jaan singing a khayal, on 2 November 1902. These sessions took place in a makeshift studio rigged up in two rooms of a Calcutta hotel. In Japan, he recorded more than 270 titles in one single month of 1903. Gaisberg made a number of trips to pre-Revolutionary Russia, where his recordings helped develop one of recorded music's largest early markets. He made the first recordings of the Russian tenor Vladimir Rosing.

Unlike his successors Legge and Culshaw, Gaisberg did not generally regard it as part of his function to influence the way performers performed. He found the best artists he could, signed them up and faithfully captured their performance on disc in the best possible sound. He told a colleague that he saw his task simply as one of making as many sound photographs or gramophone disc sides as possible during each recording session.

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