Imperial Russian Orchestra, 1915.

In late 1915, a small orchestra made 4 sides for the Columbia Graphophone Company in London. They were issued on 10″ (25cm) discs in the D- series. These were more expensive than the regular series, so this orchestra must have been regarded as of some importance.

35864        In A Dreamy Garden                    Columbia D-1326
35865        Cossack Chorus & Danse             Columbia D-1326
35866        Pity Me                                          Columbia D-1328
36867        Troika                                             Columbia D-1328

At first, it was natural to think they were made by an ensemble that had come from Russia en bloc, as it were.

There was a Y Krein, Yakov Krein, who arranged other pieces of Russian music, notably “Glory Of Russia – Fantasia on Russian Melodies”, this piece being available on CD even today. We first assumed this was ‘our man.’

But thanks to information kindly supplied by the noted discographer William Dean-Myatt, M. Phil., we learned that the name of this musician is Yascha Krein, 1880 – 1946. Also, Brian Reynolds’ excellent website tells us that Yascha Krein came from Russia to England in 1904, and was in charge of music at the Savoy Hotel ‘for many years’. Brian has kindly consented to allowing his information to appear here, and also the above link to his site, which is devoted to British Radio Studio Orchestras, Bands and Ensembles from the ’30s to the ’60s. You will surely enjoy visiting it.

It is most likely therefore, that this Yascha Krein took a small ensemble to the Columbia studio in late 1915, after living in England for ~11 years, and he – or Columbia – chose the name ‘Imperial Russian Orchestra’.

Whether or not any or all of the other musicians were Russian too, we shall not speculate.

The missing catalogue number, D-1327 are duets by W H Squire and Hamilton Harty.

As you will see if you visit Brian Reynolds’ site above, Yascha Krein had six children; two of them also had long careers in music. Henry Krein was a famous broadcaster for many years on accordion. Mischa (Michael) Krein played violin and saxophone with Geraldo and his Orchestra, and led his well-known saxophone quartet, besides being conductor of the London Light Concert Orchestra.

Further details of the career of Yascha Krein himself have not yet been discovered, but he wrote a very popular piece called ‘Gypsy Carnival’, which is widely available in modern performances on CD today. One earlier version was by Tom Jenkins and his Palm Court Orchestra, made for HMV on 15th March 1949. (HMV B-9797). He also wrote ‘Roumanian Dances’.

Recently, Trish Laban, a family member, found this page and kindly pointed out that I has mis-spelled a couple of names and provided the correct ones, for which many thanks.   

Back to 1915: hear these sides for yourself! British Columbia pressings at this time were rather poor, but we have done our best. Transferred at 80 rpm (Columbia’s standard speed), they come out pretty well on pitch in D major, E major and so on, so we have left them as they are, only removing the worst clicks, and a little de-crackling.

In A Dreamy Garden


Cossack Chorus And Danse


Pity Me