Saturday, June 30, 2007

June 29, 1888: Handel Oratorio Becomes First Musical Recording

Lost in all the iPhone hype yesterday was this little bit of historical trivia. The first musical recording was made on the same date 119 years ago. Coincidence? I wonder?

Here's the post from
1888: The earliest known musical recording is made. The piece, Georg Friedrich Handel's Israel in Egypt, is recorded on a paraffin cylinder.

Israel in Egypt, assigned the catalog number HWV 54, is an oratorio, a form in which Handel excelled. Like his more famous Messiah, Israel in Egypt is composed using biblical passages, mainly from Exodus and the Psalms.

Unlike the Messiah, however, it didn't enjoy much of a reception when it premiered in 1739. As a result, Handel shortened the work and inserted a few Italian arias to lighten the mood a bit.

Nevertheless, it was selected by Col. George Gourand, Thomas Edison's foreign sales agent, for the first musical recording. Gourand made his recording in London's Crystal Palace, using Edison's yellow paraffin cylinder -- candle wax, essentially.

(Source: Stanford University, National Park Service)

No comments: