By David Patmore

During the early years of the gramophone, recording was restricted by the demands of the acoustic process to the recording studio. This was often a small room, with a piano lifted off the ground, and quite hot to keep the recording wax malleable. Many musicians found the act of recording unnerving, as it required for instance singing directly into a large horn, a quite different experience from performing in a music or concert hall. In these circumstances recording companies needed the help of musicians who were familiar with the recording process and who at the same time had the confidence of their musical colleagues.

Thus the recording companies turned to established young musicians both to direct operations in the studio and increasingly to decide upon and arrange what was actually recorded. Conductors such as Landon Ronald in London and Piero Coppola in Paris came to wield considerable influence in the field of what today is known as 'artists and repertoire'.

With the merger of the competing Columbia and HMV labels to form EMI, and a gradual move to a more consciously international recording programme, the need for the local recording chief who also wielded the baton in the studio diminished, and so the role of the house conductor vanished.

On the following links may be found the biographies of eight of the most famous of the house conductors of the early years of the gramophone, two for each of the principal recording cities, together with links to representative recordings for which they were responsible.

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