Tomasz Lerski - SYRENA RECORD - POLAND'S FIRST RECORDING COMPANY 1904 - 1939
SYRENA RECORD - POLAND'S FIRST RECORDING COMPANY 1904 - 1939
published by Karin New York-Warsaw 2004
2nd Edition, revised and updated: Warsaw 2006
This magnificent work by Tomasz Lerski dedicated to “Syrena Record”, the first Polish – and fourth worldwide – phonography label, comes to light one hundred years after the foundation of the company in 1904, the year which marks the beginning of Polish phonography history.
“Syrena Record” ’s years of prosperity fell on the first 40 years of the XXth century and were interrupted by the burst out of the World War II. During that period, an uncountable number of recordings were made under “Syrena Record” label in cooperation with the highest rate Polish and foreign artists of that time. The recordings were exported to many countries all over the world, including Russia/ Soviet Union, Argentina (some Argentinian tango musicians, e.g. Eduardo Bianco’s orchestra, made recordings for “Syrena Record”), Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Holland, Palestine, Romania, South Africa, USA and many others.
When it comes to tango and – more generally – to the popular music genres in Poland, Lerski’s book describes their history in very detail. You will find here entries concerning more than 2200 tango pieces which gained popularity in Poland or were created by Polish composers between 1913 and 1939. Short biographical notes of many Polish popular and classical music authors and artists, as well as a very detailed catalogue with month exact dates of creation and recording of a given piece are also included.
To appreciate best the author’s contribution in this book, let us cite a few numbers: the book covers almost 1000 pages, 14000 titles’ discography of recordings made between 1908 and 1939, biographical dictionary with 900 entries (436 of them published for the first time), numerous illustrations (about 1000 pictures). The original work is in Polish, but you can enjoy an English translation of the first chapter as well, where the label’s history is presented in brief.
The book has been awarded various prizes and special awards, among them the President’s of Warsaw prize ex aequo with famous “Rising ‘44” by Norman Davies in 2004.
26 lutego br. w Archiwum Głównym Akt Dawnych w Warszawie miała miejsce promocja monografii Tomasza Lerskiego Syrena Record – pierwsza polska wytwórnia fonograficzna 1904-1939 wydanej przez Editions “Karin”. Książka ta jest niezwykła nie tylko ze względu na swą objętość – 916 stron – ale też i zawartość. Już same liczby robią wrażenie: jak dowiadujemy się ze strony tytułowej, jest tu opisanych około 14 tys. tytułów, biogramy prawie 900 kompozytorów, śpiewaków, dyrygentów, piosenkarzy, aktorów, autorów tekstów, itd., 1000 ilustracji.
Monografia została podzielona na trzy części. W pierwszej przedstawiono historię powstania i działalności Syreny Record oraz opisano poszczególne sfery działalności, w tym operę, nagrania symfoniczne, kameralne, instrumentalne, osobny rozdział poświęcono nagraniu Halki z roku 1929. W części drugiej zawarta została dyskografia – chronologicznie ułożone opisy poszczególnych nagrań zawierające spis wykonawców, utworów, numery katalogowe i – w niektórych przypadkach – cytaty z tekstów reklamowych. W części trzeciej znajduje się niezwykle bogaty indeks osobowo-rzeczowy. Można tu znaleźć biografie wielu artystów tych czasów uwiecznionych na płytach Syreny Record wraz ze spisem katalogowych numerów ich nagrań: Wandy Wermińskiej, Janiny Korolewicz-Waydowej, Heleny Zboińskiej-Ruszkowskiej, Barbary Kostrzewskiej, Matyldy Polińskiej-Lewickiej, Stanisława Gruszczyńskiego, Ignacego Dygasa, Eugeniusza Mossakowskiego, Jerzego Czaplickiego, Wacława Brzezińskiego a także artystów rosyjskich z Opery Cesarskiej w Moskwie czy Teatru Maryjskiego. Są tu także odnotowane rejestracje Konkursów Chopinowskich, nagrania wielkich pianistów: Aleksandra Michałowskiego, Alexandra Uninsky’ego, Imre Ungara, Aleksandra Kagana, Zbigniewa Drzewieckiego, Józefa Turczyńskiego, Jerzego Lefelda, Stanisława Korwin-Szymanowskiego, skrzypków: Eugenii Umińskiej, Wacława Niemczyka, Józefa Kamińskiego, Wacława Kochańskiego, pierwsze nagrania Dawida Ojstracha. Wszystkie trzy części są bogato ilustrowane fotografiami miejsc i osób związanych z Syreną Record, można obejrzeć, jak z czasem zmieniały się okładki i etykiety płyt, a także jak w 1934 roku wyglądał cykl produkcyjny płyty.
Książka ta jest już dostępna w księgarniach, w sprawie zakupu można się zgłaszać również do jej autora: tel. (0-22) 812-05-18, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
very interesting label with a broad repertory - but it wasn't the forth phonography label worldwide, as at least the following were marketed earlier:
Berliner (with its successors "G & T" & "Victor"),
but it wasn't the forth phonography label worldwide, as at least the following were marketed earlier:
I agree with many on your list. I assume the word 'label' implies discs and therefore excludes, Edison, Pathe, Edison Bell and others who didn't enter the disc matket until later.
1904-5 seems to be the time when many firms started, or started making discs. Odeon and Nicole and possibly Rebikoff and Beka were I believe 1904 startups so I can't say if they're earlier or later than Syrena. Of standard commercial offerings to add to your list, I can think of Polyphon and Bettini discs, also Climax though they were made by Columbia, but it's suprisingly hard to think of more of 1903 or earlier.
I only listed flat disc manufacturers that started before 1904, with the exception of "Beka" and "National Phonogramm". They entered the scene early in 1904. Later that year came "Neophon", "Favorite" and "Lyrophon", which may also have preceeded "Syrena". The same can be said about "Polyphon" and "Bettini".
"Climax" is just the 1901 version of Columbia Graphophone with "Columbia" already mentioned on its labels.
And what about the etched "Gramophone Concert" by Richard Jacob on this site?
Yes, I thought of Richard Jacob after I posted. I'd only heard of that label on this site. And I see that Odeon started in 1903 not 1904. Polyphon discs are supposed to have started in 1901 and there's a Bettini disc of Pope Leo XIII who died in 1903, though it could well be a later transfer from cylinder. And I agree that Climax was effectively Columbia, though it may have been a separate company for some technical/legal reason.
Do you know if there were patent reasons why there were so few disc labels in Europe before 1904, or was that simply when it first seemed a good market to enter commercially?
As far as I know, Polyphon started to make flat discs in 1904. "Bauer" states 1901 for some early editions. I think he estimated that from their "antique" look, as they consist of brown stuff (celluloid?) pressed on a metal plate.
Bettini also introduced his flat records in 1904. Pope Leo's recording is indeed a transfer from cylinder and retained the "hill & dale" script as all Bettini discs did. "Stollwerck" and "Neophon" worked on the same principle.
What concerns the relationship between "Climax" and Columbia: "Climax" is just the early label name of the Columbia Graphophone Company, which had used the trade mark "Columbia" for their cylinders. I believe they first wanted to distinguish the two different systems... Perhaps the brand "Climax" derived from the Globe Company of which Columbia bought their factory?
There weren't that few disc labels in Europe; as a matter of fact there existed much more than in the USA in the early days.
Patent restrictions were responsible for so little competition in the states, whereas Europe's entrepreneurs took effords to either invent their own recording systems or get technical knowledge by spying Berliner's factories. When Zonophon was bought up by Berliner's Gramophone Company, some of their engineers founded companies of their own...
The name of the company was "Ideal", but it issued records under label "Intona-Record". See more information here.
It looks like this book became a bibliographical rarity right after the publishing. It is mostly in Polish (with some Russian fragments transliterated in Latin), but one chapter is entirely in English. I tried to persuade him to publish this English chapter on our website, but I did not succeed to convince him to make this bold step.
I also advice you to read Alexander Tikhonov's "Syrena-Record" article that is available in English here.
Thank you for the references to "Intona-Record" and Mr. Tikhonov's article. Your website collects amazing data! By the way: I searched by the keyword "Feigenbaum" in your archive and wasn't referred to the "Syrena-Record" article. I think it would be a good idea to link the content of the articles with the records archive.
It would have been great to publish the English chapter, much thanks for you, unfortunately in vain, efforts.
Is it known if "Intona-Record" actually recorded, or was it solely a pirate label.