Immortal Performances, a Canadian-based, federally chartered, non-profit archive, has gathered a huge number of historic broadcasts gathered over a 50-year period. Their first 48 albums were released by Naxos, followed with 53 albums by Guild Music. Both companies originally formed their Historical label series in order to release Immortal Performances’ restorations. Immortal Performances now emerges on its own label, having spent the past three years searching for the original and finest sources of many historic broadcasts. It has now assembled 40 CD albums of exceptional importance that it proposes to release, the first sets of which are available now.
These albums offer the finest sound in the historic-era genre and include extensive notes about the singers, the performance and composer, with biographies and rare production photos. Immortal Performances will continue releasing complete Toscanini broadcasts (1935-1954), exciting recordings from the Metropolitan Opera and European Opera Houses, the Russian Legacy, as well as operatic broadcasts in association with Busch Brüder Archiv in Germany and the National Library of Canada.
Immortal Performances Recorded Music Society was created in 1980 to provide music lovers with copies of historic broadcasts. The Society is a non-profit, educational, federally chartered organization with members in 13 countries. The Society houses three major archives: the main archive is operatic, the second major one is devoted to Toscanini broadcasts and the third houses extensive recordings from Russia.
In 1982, IPRMS received a generous grant from the Explorations Committee of The Canada Council of the Arts, after receiving endorsements from the National Library of Canada, The Music Council of Canada and The Music Teacher's Association president, Helen Dahlstrom. This enabled Richard Caniell, its founder and archivist, to travel to San Francisco / Seattle in 1982 in pursuit of broadcast transcriptions; and to New York City / Washington. D.C. in 1983. While in New York, Mr. Caniell obtained written authorization from NBC to access their Metropolitan Opera broadcast transcriptions for performances that were not yet in public domain. Thereafter, IPRMS began disseminating to members its broadcasts of complete operas, drawn from extensive restorations of the broadcast discs made by Mr. Caniell.
Between 1949 and 1965, Mr. Caniell had received a portion of the vast collection of Toscanini broadcasts, held by RCA recording engineer Richard Gardner. These recordings were given to Gardner by Maestro Toscanini and by his son, Walter. Gardner was Toscanini's favorite sound engineer and editor at the RCA Victor Recording Studios when they were located on East 24th Street in New York City. Mr. Caniell also worked at these studios beginning in 1949 and became close friends with Richard Gardner. In 1983 Mr. Caniell received the balance of Gardner's collection including all 17 years of NBC broadcasts.
The Society has been the recipient of other many important collections of operatic broadcasts. These include the Aldrich Memorial Sound Library holdings and the Irving Guttman collection from the Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal Opera for which Mr. Guttman was, for many years, Artistic Director. The Society's collection encompasses over 700 Met broadcast recordings and thousands from European, South American and US opera houses.
Over the years Immortal Performances had a coterie of members composed of many famous music critics. It was the major supplier of Met broadcasts to Paul Jackson for his second book on the Met, Sign Off for the Old Met (Amadeus), a fact which Mr. Jackson acknowledges in his Preface. In addition, Immortal Performances did the restoration work on the Jobin collection for The National Library of Canada and has also been supplying hundreds of broadcasts connected with Canadian opera singers to the National Library for their permanent collection.
During the intervening years since 1983, IPRMS has gained a membership of music lovers in 13 countries, and provided important broadcasts to music critics and University sound libraries and archives. In order to gain membership, applicants signed a written contract agreeing to not sell, loan or transfer any of the broadcasts received, nor allow their publication on LP or CD. Regrettably, over 150 of Mr. Caniell's major restorations were obtained by the central figure behind Eklipse and Walhall CDs, one Robert Horneman, who posed as a music student, and who then issued them on CD. These were all premieres on the CD format, but the company used an inferior form of Cedar so that the sonics were repeatedly compromised. Eventually, Horneman sold the Eklipse/Walhall catalogue to Gebhardt, Germany, which has distributed some but not all. Archipel has also begun issuing the Eklipse / Walhall holdings largely composed of IPRMS restorations.
Although we wrote to the major music critics and magazines about Horneman's conversion of our restorations, the Society lacked the funds to sue Horneman / Eklipse / Walhall, and so our work became disseminated by other labels (Myto, et al) as well. This brought about our decision to end availability of our holdings, as these CD issues greatly reduced our membership.
These circumstances led John Ardoin, music critic and famed biographer of the art of Maria Callas, to intercede. He introduced our work to Jonathan Wearn, a record producer based in London, England. As it turned out, Mr. Wearn, a very well known and highly regarded record producer, shared with us a dedication to preserving the original sonics of our broadcast holdings and became instrumental in bringing about our relationship with Guild Music. Shortly after our association with Mr. Wearn, he introduced our holdings to Naxos, entering into an agreement whereby Naxos would create a Historical Series built around our work. During the years 1997 to 1999 some 47 albums of our material (Operatic and Toscanini broadcasts) were issued. Many of these releases proved highly unsatisfactory; as a result, on behalf of IPRMS, Mr. Caniell resigned from that project.
In 1999, the CBC made a Radio Documentary (45 minutes) about Immortal Performances. It was thereafter broadcast nationwide five times between January 1999 and December 2000. The rebroadcasts stemmed from the fact that the documentary won the World Gold Medal for Best Radio Documentary (Classical) at The International Television and Radio Radio Festivals, New York, 2000.
(see PDF for photo of medal –
plaque) The original documentary was aired on the CBC's major classical program In Performance. Immortal Performances has also been the subject of numerous newspaper and magazine articles.
After a two-year withdrawal from the field, and after careful consideration, Immortal Performances allied itself to Guild Music Ltd., choosing this Swiss company based upon its devotion to design excellence in presentation. This fledgling endeavor was greatly aided by Dr. Irwin Elkins (Omega Opera), one of the true pioneers in broadcast preservations, Keith Hardwick, EMI Chief Sound Engineer emeritus, Bill Youngren, music critic, Nathan Brown and others. The National Library of Canada gave its permission to issue broadcast recordings from their Jobin collection. The late Robert Hupka has given written permission to use his famous photos of Toscanini in Guild booklets. Mr. Wearn, now a long-standing friend as well, continued as producer of the Guild Historical series. We departed from our association with Guild in 2005.
Following our withdrawal from Guild, Immortal Performances spent some years in pursuit of rare broadcast recordings and devoted much time to their restoration. In 2009 we began to issue, on our own label, the albums presented on this site, with many more to come. We believe we can deliver a dedication to quality that will eventually make itself known to music-lovers who have collected our releases under the Naxos and Guild labels. Our new series of albums delivers to an interested public a treasurable wealth of great singing and conducting presented in the best sonics possible.
The operatic and symphonic recordings we have gathered represent a legacy that demands production values in album form, booklet notes and photographs that comport with the importance of the performances. Wherever possible we include the broadcast commentary and curtain-call ovations that go far in recreating the atmosphere of the original broadcast as it was heard in an era now long gone.
As the quoted music reviews reveal, we have been well received in our endeavor, though we still remain largely unknown outside English speaking countries. What has aided us to continue has been purchasers introducing us to their music-loving friends, the very few advertisements we can afford, email notices of new releases to persons who have previously ordered from us, and the occasional, much valued donation of funds.
We have been sharing our musical wealth as a legacy of immense cultural importance for over 30 years, notwithstanding the competition provided by Internet downloading, and ill-advised “sharing” which will eventuate in the demise of the very resources which these share-sites use in their exchanges. Despite these adverse condition, we stubbornly believe that there is a market, however small, for our work, that there are some music-lovers who want to hold a tangible album in their hands, enriched by texts and photos that provide the background to some glorious hours of music-making which shine with an inextinguishable luminosity in our rapidly darkening memory of the past century.