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National Orchestra Discs

Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision is currently preserving a unique series of around 300 discs of music by New Zealand composers and early broadcasts by the National Orchestra (now The New Zealand Symphony Orchestra). The lacquer disc recordings date from 1946 to 1953.

The National Orchestra was established primarily as a radio orchestra under the control of the New Zealand Broadcasting Service (NZBS).

Audio conservator John Kelcher.

According to Roger Smith, Manager of Radio New Zealand Concert, the recordings are unique, and include many first and premier recordings by composers who have since passed away.

“This is an important collection,” says Smith, “as it comprises many early recordings of New Zealand performers and compositions, as well as a fascinating cross-section of visiting international artists in the immediate post-war years.”

Disc information shows that this series includes recordings of The National Orchestra’s very first concert in 1947, early interpretations of New Zealand composer Douglas Lilburn’s work, and recordings of The International (Italian) Grand Opera Company’s 1949 tour of New Zealand, among other gems.

Despite the age of the collection, the audio is still retrievable from the great majority of discs. The processes will see each recording played back in real time on a legacy playback device, and captured as a digital audio file. This work is being conducted at Ngā Taonga Christchurch, by disc specialist John Kelcher.

Further research and description work on the series will be conducted once the material has been transferred.

A database of basic disc details is available for searching via our online catalogue. This will be added to as the work progresses.