Thursday, August 28, 2008

Regina Plays The Nutcracker

Last December, I was receiving Christmas gifts from family members, cats, and friends. Yesterday's entry was devoted to The Living Christmas Tree and my friendship with my buddy Joel.

Not to be outdone last year, his wife Samantha (with whom I once shared a bed with for a play while Joel directed - only in America) snagged a FULL stack of Christmas CDs for me from a friend who didn't want them any more.

Most of the CDs in the stack I already owned but this CD and its simplistic cover caught my eye. The case was old, discolored and had medium sized cracks throughout. The weight of the case felt heavier than normal which made me wonder when this CD was made.

A quick look of the back cover confirmed my curiosities - the CD was produced and issued in 1989! As more and more CDs are going the way of the 8-track, the scarcity of any CD manufactured before 1998 is indeed a prize - even more so for Christmas CDs.

I originally thought "this is just another music box CD a la Rita Ford". But I was wrong. Not even close. Just ask Gustave Brachhausen.

Brachhausen worked for the Kuhro-Lochmann company in Germany in the late 1800s. His company was the first manufacturer of disc music boxes. Their Symphonion music boxes were produced in many sizes, types, styles, and were immensely popular.

Gustave left Kuhro-Lochmann around 1886 to create the Polyphon Company. He wanted to produce a line of strong interchangeable music boxes with mass produced discs for the masses. Polyphon music boxes along with a line of other musical objects were a hit with the general public but Gustave had other ideas in mind.

Setting his sights on America, Brachhausen sailed from Deutschland to Rahway, New Jersey to establish the Regina Music Box Company. What set Reginas apart from the rest was each of the interchangeable music disks would fit all of their boxes of the same size. Many people took their discs from parlor to parlor and were amazed by the rich sound from any of the music boxes.

The popularity of these boxes spanned from about 1890 to 1915. As the gramophone replaced these state of the art music boxes, the Regina firm produced a combination music box and phonograph from 1915 to 1920, but never experienced the success of its famed music boxes.

By the time the company closed in 1921, over 100,000 Regina music boxes were sold - many of which are still much sought after by antiques dealers and collectors.

I pulled my copy of Rita Ford's "A Music Box Christmas" which contained Polyphons, Symphonions, and a few Reginas as well for comparison. By far, the Reginas were the ones with the warmer tones and a full deep sound that was lacking on the others.

This CD contains all that interwoven into Tchaikovsky's lush "Nutcracker Suite". From its Overture to the Grand Waltz (Finale), the 1900 Regina music box (according to the liner notes) nary misses a bum note. This is how people heard it in the late 1800s without the benefit of an orchestra.

However, this CD isn't as rare as you think. Some deep digging on reveals that this entire album is available for download. If you get tired of the same ol', same ol' when it comes to Christmas music, try this one on for size.

Thank you Sam for the amazing disc! How about a Fort Wayne Philharmonic Christmas CD now?


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