The Phantom Melody                                                                           Back to list of works index

 

This piece was written in 1912 as a cello solo for August(e) van Biene, and both he and the composer made separate recordings of it.  There were other early recordings with cello, but when Ketèlbey recorded his monumental sets for Columbia, he chose to use a violin.  He had also added words to the melody to make a song, which attracted three early recordings, one of which was almost certainly under his direction.  It was not until 1930 that the orchestral version was recorded, but this is the version most recorded in recent times.

 

The original cello version is in the key of D major, a favourite with string players, as the open strings and harmonics intensify the brightness of the tone.  To enable the melody to be played on the violin’s G string, the music was transposed up to Eb major, a much duller key.  This higher key is used both for the violin solo version and the orchestral arrangement.

 

The Phantom Melody - orchestral

 

Artists

Label

Matrix

Format

Date

Review

Locations

London Palladium O, Crean

HMV C 1916

CC 18735-III

12” 78

[Sept 30]               

BL, PD, (TM CAS)

      Re-issue

- 1DCD 7              

CD

VLM Winter 98

New SO of London, Robinson

Decca LW 5115

10” LP

[July 54]

July 54 p.73

PD, (TM CAS,TM CD)

New SO of London, Sharples (arr.)

Decca SKL 4077

LP

[1959]

Feb 60 p.434

BL, PD

     Re-issue

- Decca LXT 4329

(Spanish)

LP

[1960]

 

WC

     Re-issue

- Decca SKC 4077

(Spanish)

CAS

[1969]

 

WC

      Re-issue

- Decca SPA 187

 

LP

1971

July 72 p.253

BL, PD

     Re-issue

- Decca 841203

(Spanish)

CAS

1982

 

WC

      Re-issue

- Decca 452987-2

CD

1997

BL, PD, TM

      Re-issue

- Evergreen Melodies C 62

CD

[1999]

PD, TM

      Re-issue

- Decca/Universal 473720-2

 

CD

2003

June 03 p.50

BL, WC, (TM CD)

     Re-issue

- Vocalion CDLF 8143

CD

[2011]

LMS Aut 11 p42

PD

Royal Philharmonic O, Rogers

Decca PFS 4170

LP

1969

Nov 69 p.833

BL, TM

     Re-issue

- Decca DGS 16

(American)

LP

1980

 

 

     Re-issue

- Decca 6594064

(Spanish)

LP

1981

 

WC

      Re-issue

- Decca 444 786-2LPF

CD

1996

Aug 96 p.60

BL, PD, TM

Czecho-Slovak Radio SO, Leaper

Marco Polo 8.223442

CD

1992

Apr 94 p.48

BL, NX, PD, TM

Palm Court Strings, Van Loen 

Shellwood SWCD 5

CD

1997

VLM Autumn 97

BL

Scarborough Spa O, Kenworthy

SPO cassette 2

CAS

?1997

VLM Spring 97

Decca 473720-2 wrongly names the conductor as Stanford Robinson.

 

All the conductors follow Ketèlbey’s speed for the main melody (crotchet somewhere between 52 and 60, see below).  The main differences are in the amount of expressive rubato.  Apart from Crean, no conductors allow the violins to use the portamenti implied by the fingerings marked in the part, but Leaper’s first horn player does use the effect delightfully.  Both Rogers and Leaper add a glockenspiel not in the original scoring.

                                                                                                                                                            

The Sharples recording is completely re-orchestrated by an anonymous arranger, in D major, in a style more appropriate to the 1950s than 1910s.  Perhaps he couldn’t find a copy of the original orchestral parts, as the publisher’s archive set had been lost and none of the well-known libraries had a set.  It was not until the publication of the British Union Catalogue of Orchestral Sets, and a little later the establishment of the Light Music Society Library, that such problems were overcome.  I myself spent some 20 years looking for another set of The Phantom Melody to replace my missing parts.  Anyone with difficulty locating Ketelbey’s music is invited to check my catalogue at http://www.albertketelbey.org.uk/catalogue/ or contact me direct.

           

                                                           

The Phantom Melody  - cello or violin solo

 

Medium

Artists

Label

Matrix

Format

Date

Review

Locations

Cello with piano

Jean Schwiller, Ketèlbey

Columbia 1898

27878

10” 78

[May 12]               

BL, TM

Re-issue

- Naxos 8.110870

CD

2004

BL, NX, PD, TM

Cello with piano

Pietro Nifosi

Zonophone A 63

Ac 6101f, z 047852

12” 78

[May 12] rec.29.2.12

 

BL

Cello with piano

Auguste van Biene

Edison Bell Winner 3355

3442

[?1912]

ad Dec 1919

BL, (TM CD)

Cello with piano

Peter Muscant

Aco G 15293

C 6024

10” 78

[Dec 23]

 

 

Re-issue (Clive Weston)

- Beltona 342

C 6024

10” 78

cat.1926

 

Violin with piano

Albert Sandler, Ketèlbey

Columbia 9863

WAX 4642

12” 78

[Oct 29] rec.Feb 29

Oct 29 p.208

BL, (TM CAS)

Re-issue

- EMI GX 412546

VLM Autumn 86

BL

Re-issue

- Naxos 8.110174

CD

2001

BL, NX, PD, TM

Cello with harp

Lowri Blake, Hugh Webb

Lowri

2001, rec.1999

 

The sound of the Schwiller recording is remarkably clear for its age.  The Naxos transfer may be on the fast side, as it sounds a semitone higher than modern pitch.  However, the average metronome speed of the main melody is crotchet=56, slower than the prescribed crotchet=60 on the sheet music.  There are three cuts totalling 12 bars.  Schwiller occasionally amends the bowing to allow portamenti.

 

Van Biene roughly follows the metronome marking; my transfer sounds slightly flat, so he may in fact have played it a shade faster.   He certainly employs much rubato.  Nearly all leaps are linked with portamenti, and twice in the middle section he amends the melody.  His coda also departs from Ketèlbey’s notes.

 

The Sandler recording is complete, and the main melody has a metronome speed averages crotchet=52.  Sandler plays the reprise of the melody an octave higher than written, and the composer also adds a few extra notes not in the sheet music.

 

 

The Phantom Melody  - other instrumental versions

 

Medium

Artists

Label

Matrix

Format

Date

Review

Locations

Trio (Piano, violin, cello?)

Invicta Symphony Trio

Invicta 141

20063

10” 78

[?Nov 12]

 

 

Organ

Herbert Griffiths (Stoll Picture Theatre)  

Broadcast 383

383A

8” 78

June 29 p.28

BL

Organ

Sydney Gustard (Trocadero Cinema, Liverpool)

HMV B 3277

BR 2291-5

10” 78

[Feb 30] rec.Mar 29

Mar 30 p.461

BL, WC, (TM CD)

 

Re-issue

- Gramophone K 5879

(French)

10” 78

 

 

WC

Carillon

Trevor Workman

Bournville Carillon BC000005 

CD

2003

TM

Piano

Guy Rowland

Dempsey AWK 1

CD

2009

BL, PD, TM

Piano

Guy Rowland

private recording

DVD

rec. 26.11.2009

PD, TM

Mandolin Orchestra

Mikansei

private recording

 

mp3

rec.Jan 2014 (rehearsal)

 

TM

Mandolin Orchestra

Mikansei

private recording

 

mp3

rec.Feb 2014 (concert)

 

TM

 

The recording by Workman uses his own arrangement, and was made at a live performance on Bournville Carillon, Birmingham, on 9th August 2003.

 

The metronome marking on the piano music is faster than on the cello version, crotchet=76.  Gustard follows this.  He substitutes a new bar in the introduction and at the final cadence.

 

Rowland plays the main melody at crotchet=78, but takes the middle section (marked “Più mosso”) much faster than this.  The final cadential bars are decorated with added octaves, arpeggios and sixths, and are drawn out for a full 39 seconds for just 24 crotchets (crotchet=37!).

 

The Mikansei Mandolin Orchestra of Japan consists of mandolins, mandola, mandocello, guitar, woodbass, flute and clarinets.         

               

                                                                                               

The Phantom Melody  - song with orchestra (= I loved you more than I knew)

 

Artists

Label

Matrix

Format

Date

Review

Locations

Ernest Pike (t), orchestra

Zonophone A 63

Ai 6053f, z 042033

12” 78

[May 12] rec.19.2.12

 

BL, (TM CD)

Arthur Reeves (bt), orchestra, ?Ketèlbey

Columbia 1934

?

10” 78

[Dec 12]

Charles Compton, orchestra

Edison Blue Amberol 23080

?

cylinder

[Apr 13]

BL, WC

 

Pike sings the song in Bb.