Vintage voices

When the Daily Mail’s Classical Music Critic dropped into The Record Album recently, his eyes alighted keenly and immediately on a sizeable collection of historic vocal recordings in the far corner of the back room. There, nestling in the bins seemingly neglected, are the distinctive lilac covers of vinyl albums from the prestigious Lebendige Vergangenheit series – and what a tale they tell.

We have a veritable A to Z from the series, ‘Legendary Voices’ in English, which was created in 1966 by Otto Preiser and Jürgen Schmidt, who decided to dedicate a collection to the great singers of the past. The first recording was devoted to Viennese bass Richard Mayr (we have that and part two) and the curated series features Achsel and Anday through to Zenatello, with recordings made as far back as the 1920s. The Record Album has almost 100 albums from the collection, all in beautiful condition.

With 60s state-of-the-art technology in his large Vienna studio, Herr Preiser – an Austrian who had emigrated to England and returned home after the war – launched his now famous “lilac label”, setting new standards of high quality in vinyl recording and immediately finding an enthusiastic audience for the Lebendige Vergangenheit series. It was not until 1987 that these historic recordings were edited and transferred to CD, which makes the original vinyl so eminently collectable and valuable.

To read more about Preiser Records go to

To see, feel, admire and – who knows – even purchase these recording gems and other court opera historical vocals on vinyl then you know where to find them just 30 paces from Brighton Station.