Elgar's HMV Gramophone
The gramophone in the Elgar study exhibition has been loaned to us by Andrew Keener who is an honorary life member of the Elgar Society and a world renowned, award winning record producer. It is a contemporary model to Elgar’s own gramophone which is on display in the cottage and was given to Elgar by HMV in the mid-1920s.
Elgar embraced this new technology from his first recording session in HMV's studios in 1914 and for the next 20 years he was involved with the development of the gramophone and recording technology.
Elgar opened HMV's Abbey Road Recording Studios in 1931, 30 years before the Beatles first went there. In the words of HMV's Artistic Director, "Elgar's presence in the gramophone world also formed an important chapter in the history of recorded music."
Elgar’s own gramophone is far too precious an object to allow our visitors to regularly play with. Technological, scientific and musical objects can be very complex to care for, often being made up of many different materials that are all affected differently by certain environmental conditions.
Any changes made to the objects over time also normally have an adverse effect on their performance, whatever that may be. We’re fortunate then, to have this gorgeous contemporary gramophone on loan, with permission to use it for display and engagement purposes. As collection, it still receives all the care and attention you’d normally find in a National trust property, but it’s what we can call ‘hands on history’.
Andrew has recorded with all of the best known Elgar and Vaughan Williams conductors and soloists of the past 35 years including Sir Mark Elder, Tod Handley, Sir Andrew Davis, Daniel Barenboim, Steven Isserlis, Nigel Kennedy and David Lloyd-Jones.
He has often be seen quietly studying scores in preparation for upcoming recording sessions in the garden of The Firs. Let us hope he will continue to visit us, share his knowledge of Elgar’s music and carry on helping the recorded legacy to grow.
“I first visited Elgar’s Birthplace (formerly and once again known as The Firs) as a compulsive record-buying schoolboy in 1970, and seeing Elgar’s own gramophone in the cottage, one of several machines given to Elgar by HMV, realised that a friend of my parents had a contemporaneous model in his home. My delight at being left this gramophone can only be imagined, and a few years ago, I decided to loan it indefinitely to The Firs: Sir Edward Elgar’s Birthplace, so now Elgar’s own machine has a Doppelganger in this evocative exhibition space.” Andrew Keener