Julius Block was an English merchant who lived in Berlin and St. Petersburg. He purchased his recording equipment directly from Edison. Here's what the Marston email says:
Beginning in 1889, what is now recognized as one of the earliest attempts to record music, Block organized phonographic soirees, which resulted in his greatest accomplishment: documenting some of the most important artists and personalities of his time on cylinder.My original guess in 2006 wasn't that far off, though Block wasn't Queen Victoria or the Czar:
Either it's material recorded off the air, or they're private recordings made by someone rich or famous enough to persuade important musicians to perform or record privately.Read all about the release in today's NY Times, in an article by Daniel J. Wakin.