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

Country

Date

Gramophone Review

Locations

London Palladium Orchestra, Crean

HMV C 1916

CC 18735-III

12” 78

UK

[Sept 30]               

BL, PD, (TM CAS)

      Re-issue

- 1DCD 7             

CD

UK

VLM Winter 98

New Symphony Orchestra of London, Robinson

Decca LW 5115

10” LP

UK

[July 54]

July 54 p.73

PD, (TM CAS, TM CD)

     Re-issue

- London LD 9119

 

10” LP

US

[1954]

 

 

New Symphony Orchestra of London, Sharples (arr.)

Decca SKL 4077

LP

UK

[1959]

Feb 60 p.434

BL, PD

     Re-issue

- London LL 3141

 

LP

US

[1959]

 

 

     Re-issue

- London PS 186,

 

LP

US

[1959]

 

 

     Re-issue

- Axis 6326

 

LP

Australia

[1959]

 

 

     Re-issue

- Decca LXT 4329

 

LP

Spain

[1960]

 

WC

     Re-issue

- Decca SKC 4077

 

CAS

Spain

[1969]

 

WC

     Re-issue

- Decca SPA 187

 

LP

UK

1971

July 72 p.253

BL, PD

     Re-issue

- London SPA 4036,

 

LP

Canada

1971

 

 

     Re-issue

- Decca SPL 3046,

 

LP

South Africa

1977

 

 

     Re-issue

- Decca 65 94 156,

 

LP

Spain

1981

 

 

     Re-issue

- London CM. 9041

 

LP

Canada

?

 

 

     Re-issue

- Decca LPD 253 Y

 

LP

Belgium

?

 

 

     Re-issue

- Decca 841203

 

CAS

Spain

1982

 

WC

     Re-issue

- Decca 452987-2

 

CD

UK

1997

BL, PD, TM

     Re-issue

- Evergreen Melodies C 62

 

CD

UK

[1999]

PD, TM

     Re-issue

- Decca/Universal 473720-2

 

CD

UK

2003

June 03 p.50

BL, WC, (TM CD)

     Re-issue

- Vocalion CDLF 8143

 

CD

UK

[2011]

LMS Aut 11 p42

PD

Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Rogers

Decca PFS 4170

 

LP

UK

1969

Nov 69 p.833

BL, TM

     Re-issue

- London SPC 21036

 

LP

US

1969

 

 

     Re-issue

- Decca SLZ.8386,

 

LP

NZ

1969

 

 

     Re-issue

- London LLN-7164,

 

LP

Brazil

1969

 

 

     Re-issue

- Orlador 54452

 

LP

Spain

1975

 

 

     Re-issue

- Decca DGS 16

 

LP

US

1980

 

 

     Re-issue

- Decca 6594064

 

LP

Spain

1981

 

WC

     Re-issue

- Decca 444 786-2LPF

CD

UK

1996

Aug 96 p.60

BL, PD, TM

     Re-issue

- MG Direct Marketing D 115620

 

CD

US

1996

 

 

Czecho-Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra, Leaper

Marco Polo 8.223442

CD

UK

1992

Apr 94 p.48

BL, NX, PD, TM

Palm Court Strings, Van Loen 

Shellwood SWCD 5

CD

UK

1997

VLM Autumn 97

BL

Scarborough Spa Orchestra, Kenworthy

Scarborough Spa O cassette 2

CAS

UK

?1997

VLM Spring 97

Titanic Ensemble

PolyGram 539 7672

 

LP

Belgium

1997

 

 

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

 

Crean’s recording can be heard at http://www.mgthomas.co.uk/Soundfiles/Orchestral/Soundfiles-Orchestral.htm#Ketelbey

Sharples is at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QC334zshyZA

 

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

Country

Date

Gramophone Review

Locations

Cello with piano

Jean Schwiller, Ketèlbey

Columbia 1898

27878

10” 78

UK

[May 12]               

BL, TM

Re-issue

- Naxos 8.110870

CD

UK

2004

BL, NX, PD, TM

Cello with piano

Pietro Nifosi

Zonophone A 63

Ac 6101f, z 047852

12” 78

UK

[May 12] rec.29.2.12

 

BL, TM, (TMmp3)

Cello with piano

Auguste van Biene

Edison Bell Winner 3355

3442

10” 78

UK

[?1912]

ad Dec 1919

BL, (TM CD)

 

Re-issue

- Velvet Face 1275

3442-1

10” 78

UK

not before 1913

 

 

Cello and piano

Nikolaus Demeter

Beka 756

35153

10” 78

UK

[1913]

 

 

 

Re-issue (S.C. Bernstein)

- Coliseum 484

35153

10” 78

UK

[1913]

 

 

Cello with piano

Peter Muscant, Patricia Rossborough

Aco G 15293

C 6024

10” 78

UK

[Dec 23]

 

 

Re-issue (Clive Weston)

- Beltona 342

C 6024

10” 78

UK

cat.1926

 

Cello with piano

L. Amorisen

Ludgate 2902

?

10” 78

UK

[1926?]

 

 

Violin with piano

Albert Sandler, Ketèlbey

Columbia 9863

WAX 4642

12” 78

UK

[Oct 29] rec.Feb 29

Oct 29 p.208

BL, (TM CAS)

 

Re-issue

- World Record Club R 04952

 

LP

Australia

1981

 

 

 

Re-issue

- World Records SH 255

LP

UK

 

 

TM

Re-issue

- EMI GX 412546

UK

VLM Autumn 86

BL

Re-issue

- Naxos 8.110174

CD

UK

2001

BL, NX, PD, TM

Cello with harp

Lowri Blake, Hugh Webb

Lowri

 

2001, rec.1999

Violin with piano?

Tamarisque

Tamarisque

 

CAS

Australia

?

 

 

 

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.

 

Our crackling transfer of Nifosi can be heard at www.albertketelbey.org.uk/mp3/phantom melody - nifosi.mp3

 

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.

 

Listen to Demeter at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hoaNEiIf8Sg

 

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

Country

Date

Gramophone Review

Locations

Trio (Piano, violin, cello?)

Invicta Symphony Trio

Invicta 141

20063

10” 78

UK

[?Nov 12]

 

 

Organ

Herbert Griffiths (Stoll Picture Theatre)

Broadcast 383

Z 864

8” 78

UK

[1929]

June 29 p.28

BL

Organ

Sydney Gustard (Trocadero Cinema, Liverpool)

HMV B 3277

BR 2291-5

10” 78

UK

[Feb 30] rec.Mar 29

Mar 30 p.461

BL, WC, (TM CD)

 

Re-issue

- Gramophone K 5879

 

10” 78

France

 

 

WC

Organ

Leslie James (Compton organ, Lewisham Town Hall)

Octacros 1136

5498

10” 78

UK

[1935?]

 

 

Organ

David Hamilton (Conn organ)

Amberlee AEL 205

 

LP

UK

1978

 

 

Carillon

Trevor Workman

Bournville Carillon BC000005 

CD

UK

2003

TM

Piano

Guy Rowland

Dempsey AWK 1

CD

UK

2009

BL, PD, TM

Piano

Guy Rowland

private recording

DVD

UK

rec. 26.11.2009

PD, TM

Mandolin orchestra

Mikansei

private recording

 

mp3

Japan

rec. 2014 (Jan rehearsal, Feb concert)

 

TM

Piano

Markus Staab

private recording

 

web

Germany

2014

 

 

 

Rowland’s CD can be heard at http://www.albertketelbey.org.uk/anniversary.html

Staab can be seen at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h-WjUEZvJek

 

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

Country

Date

Review

Locations

Ernest Pike (t), orchestra

Zonophone A 63

Ai 6053f, z 042033

12” 78

UK

[May 12] rec.19.2.12

 

BL, (TM CD, TMmp3)

Arthur Reeves (bt), orchestra, ?Ketèlbey

Columbia 1934

?

10” 78

UK

[Dec 12]

Charles Compton (t), orchestra

Edison Blue Amberol 23080

 

cylinder

UK

[Apr 13]

BL, WC

James Morgan (bt), orchestra

Phoenix O 110

X 588

10” 78

UK

[1913?]

 

 

 

Pike sings the song in Bb.  Hear him at http://www.albertketelbey.org.uk/mp3/i%20loved%20you%20-%20pike.mp3

                                                                                                           

Compton sing it in C.  Hear his striking performance at www.albertketelbey.org.uk/mp3/I loved you - Compton.mp3 with thanks to Chris Webber for correcting a repeating groove.

 

webpage updated 6 Sept  2021