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Richard Bebb

Richard  Bebb

Ref: MR670

Richard Bebb
01 - Frozier-Marrot : Berlioz - Les Troyens : Chers Tyriens - Gramo 1032
02 - Frozier-Marrot : Berlioz - Les Troyens : Adieu fière cité - Gramo 1032
03 - Jo Vincent : Mendelssohn - Paulus : Jerusalem - Columbia 17169
04 - Eduard Boleslawski : Moniuszko - Na skrzyolach piésni - HMV special JH 67
05 - Eduard Boleslawski : Miserere mei - Piesu Pokutna - HMV special JH 67
06 - Clara Butt : Oliver - Yonder - Columbia PX 3
07 - Ronald Murgatroyd : Passing By - private Columbia ROX 103
08 - Mary Mc Cormic : Bond - Just a wearing for you - Columbia 7009
09 - Mary Mc Cormic : Cadman - At dawning - Columbia 7009
10 - Kate Winter : Liza Lehmann - Oh! Tell me nightingale - Parlophone H119
11 - Joshie Fujiwara
12 - Elena Ruszkowska : Rossini - Stabat Mater -Inflamatus - HMV 053250
13 - Charles Friant : Bruneau : L'attaque du moulin - Adieu a la foret - HMV W 516
14 - Giuseppina Cobelli : Mascagni : Cavalleria Rusticana - Voi lo sapete - VDP R 5183
15 - Francois Viannenc - Les enfants HMV 3-32918
16 - Carolina Pietracewska - Elisa Tromben :
Donizetti - Linda di Chamounix : duet - HMV 054212
17 - Arhur Preuss : Flotow : Alessandro Stradella - Romance - HMV 3- 42538
18 - Anni Christiansen : Der Nachtingall - Vox 02120
19 - Mattia Batistini : Ideale - Fonotec C 5002
20 - Mattia Batistini :Caro mio ben - Fonotec C 5008
21 - Hélène Offenberg : Weber - Der Freischutz - Leise, leise- HMV 043107
22 - Robert Couzinou : Si je pouvais mourir - Apex 18000
23 - Luise Perard-Petzl : Verdi - Aida - O vaterland - HMV 043263
24 - Garcia - The Rosary - Pathé 77260

Dans le texte ci-dessous, notre ami Patrick Bade, lui-même expert en matière de phonogrammes anciens, rend hommage, dans sa propre langue, à Richard Bebb, l’un des plus grands collectionneurs de disques au monde, qu’il n’hésite pas à considérer comme le Guy Dumazert anglais.
A lire ce texte plein d’humour et qui fourmille en anecdotes savoureuses, on découvre une personnalité hors du commun. Chercheur inlassable autant qu’exigeant, ne se fiant qu’à son instinct, son expérience et à ses connaissances musicales et vocales, il aimait la bonne chère et les bons vins, dont il régalait ses hôtes avant de les convier à des écoutes qui pouvaient durer des nuits entières. Il adorait surprendre ses visiteurs en leur faisant entendre des airs ravissants gravés par d’illustres inconnus. En revanche, chaque fois qu’il détectait dans un article la paresse, l’ignorance ou la malhonnêteté du rédacteur, ses répliques pouvaient être assassines, il en était de même pour un chanteur, aussi connu soit-il, qui selon lui ne savait pas chanter.
C’est ainsi qu’à propos d’une très fameuse soprano, connue pour ses interprétations précieuses et pour sa technique vocale artificielle, Richard décrivait son chant comme « si la voix sortait de n’importe quel orifice sauf le bon ».

Richard Bebb may not have owned the most valuable collection of historic vocal records in the world. Harold Wayne and latterly John-Paul Getty probably possessed more rare and valuable items. Of course Richard had plenty of fabulous rarities too but they numbered amongst best-selling HMV red labels that could have been picked up at “Dead Man’s Corner” at the Gramophone Exchange in the 1960s or ‘70s for a few pence and discs so obscure that no one but Richard had ever bothered to listen to them. Richard’s collection was undoubtedly more comprehensive than those of his chief rivals and also contained many more records of outstanding beauty. The only criterion for Richard was that the record had to be good. Every disc that entered his collection was judged on its merits regardless of value and reputation. Nothing delighted Richard more than astonishing visiting collectors with records of stunning beauty by singers who were either unknown or else generally dismissed by collectors.
The blasphemous nickname of “God” bestowed upon Richard by the record-collecting fraternity reflected not only a certain irritation with his tendency to express his opinions with papal certitude but also a simple acknowledgement that he really did know more about singers and records than anyone else on this island. His only serious rival would have been Guy Dumazert who occupied a similar position of authority in France. These two “monstres sacrés” regarded each other with mutual affectionate if slightly wary respect. The story was often told by both of how Richard fell through the dining room ceiling of the Dumazert’s country house while searching for records in the attic.
Richard Bebb and Guy Dumazert had more in common than their passion for records. Each nurtured the career of an exceptionally gifted wife. Richard was married to Gwen Watford, one of the finest British actresses of her generation and the possessor of a speaking voice of unforgettable warmth and expressiveness. (How many times I marvelled at the beauty of her voice when I rang the Bebb household and Gwen happened to pick up the phone!) Only her relatively early death robbed her of the chance of reaching the very highest echelons of her profession. Guy Dumazert was of course married to that magnificent soprano Renée Doria, loved and admired by record collectors around the world (including Richard) as one of the last great ornaments of the now extinct French vocal tradition.
Gwen and Richard’s mutual affection was expressed in the most extravagantly theatrical terms and many visitors to their house must have asked themselves if they had wandered onto the set of a Noël Coward marital comedy. Nevertheless there was never any doubt about the depth and sincerity of the love and respect they had for one another.
Richard was a collector of ruthless determination. Legend had it that there was no length to which he would not go when he really wanted a record. When business matters were settled though, Richard was transformed into the most generous of hosts. Superb food and fine wines served in lavish quantities would be followed by listening to records, often until the early hours of the morning. And this was when Richard showed his greatest generosity, in the sharing of his knowledge and his pleasure in singing.
Richard was generous too towards those colleagues (either collectors or critics) whose knowledge and abilities he respected. (He expressed a high opinion of Andrew Porter and Desmond Shawe-Taylor, Ward Marston and many others whose names do not immediately come to mind) It was not always necessary to agree with him. He rated highly the critical powers of Michael Scott, despite the fact that Scott’s book “The Record of Singing” attacked many of Richard’s favourite singers. Where he detected laziness, dishonesty and ignorance, Richards barbs could be lethal. The editor of a magazine was damned for his “louche” prose, the critic of a national paper for borrowing all his opinions from his fellow critics and another “authority” on historical recordings for his narrow and schoolmasterly provincialism. (most readers of these notes will have no trouble identifying the gentlemen in question). With singers too, Richard was no respecter of received opinion. One very famous soprano, known for her precious interpretations and her artificial vocal technique was described by Richard as sounding “as if the voice came out of every orifice except the right one”. (Again no prizes for guessing who)
Richard was splendidly free of the hand-me-down opinions and provincial prejudices of so many British music critics. If he felt a natural affinity for the French repertoire and French singers this did not prevent him revelling in the emotional headiness of Verismo and its vocal exponents. Richard told me many times that his favourite opera was Cilea’s “Adriana Lecouvreur” (hardly a choice that would have found favour with “right-thinking” Anglo-Saxon critics). As for favourite singers and records – the choice would no doubt have varied according to his mood and what he had last listened to. Richard once announced to me with all the authority of a papal edict that the greatest vocal record ever made was Frida Leider’s version of Eboli’s aria. Another record he often cited as his favourite (and Gwen’s) was Dino Borgioli’s “Do not go, my love”. In recent years I often heard him say that the greatest singer to have made records was Magda Olivero. The last time I heard him speak at the Recorded Vocal Art Society he ended with Magda Olivero’s “Sola, perduta, abbandonata” saying that it was quite impossible to play any other record after this. Other perennial favourites would have included Maggie Teyte, Reynaldo Hahn, Elisabeth Schumann, Lotte Lehmann, Conchita Supervia, Giovanni Martinelli, Yvonne Printemps, Vanni-Marcoux, Richard Tauber, and Arthur Endrèze – a very incomplete list that already shows the catholicism of his tastes.
Richard was a larger than life character who greatly enriched a drab world. Like all such people he could sometimes behave very badly. No doubt most of his friends and colleagues would have some colourful stories to tell, but he was nevertheless a loyal and affectionate friend and the friendships that were strong enough to withstand the odd contretemps lasted a lifetime. The year before last twenty or so collector friends gathered to pay homage to Richard at a dinner organised by Joe Winstanley and perhaps Richard’s oldest and best collector friend, Alan Bilgora. In a lengthy after dinner speech Richard addressed each guest in turn to remind them of when and where they first met. It made no matter that many of the details were elaborated or entirely fabricated. It was a bravura performance and we all loved it.
Apart from his knowledge and his generosity I would like to record a slightly unexpected streak of tenderness which together with his habitual, old-fashioned courtesy made Richard one of the most charming people I have ever met.On the very last occasion that I went to see Richard in hospital, just days before his death, I arrived on the ward to hear his mellifluous voice from behind a curtain as he conversed with all his usual courtesy and solicitude with his West Indian male nurse. When I finally got to see him, he was in a cheerful mood and looking forward to watching his favourite football team of Arsenal on television. ( he never succeeded in persuading me to share his enthusiasm of football despite his assurances that it was “just butch ballet, dear boy”) There was not the very slightest trace of any self-pity in anything he said but with hindsight I realized that our conversation was entirely valedictory and that he did not expect to see me again or to leave the hospital but instead was looking forward to being reunited with his beloved Gwen.
February 2007 - Patrick BADE
Malibran-Rubini wishes to acknowledge the help of
Alan Bilgora and Peter Lack in this production.

Prix : 13.00 (Including TVA at 20%)

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