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Deutsche Grammophon, the Mercedes of Classical Labels

Posted by Rubin Meisel, November 30, 2014 03:28pm | Post a Comment

Deutsche Grammophon as a label goes back the turn of the 20th Century, but its real rise to international prominence started around 1960 when there catalog was imported directly to the USA with its inimitably silent surfaces sealed in thick plastic. During this time they released a landmark set of the Beethoven Symphonies conducted by the renowned Herbert von Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic. Karajan was to record most of the standard repertoire multiple times for Deutsche Gramophone. After more than 50 years, the Beethoven set is stiil a best seller. DG also developed a sister label callec Arkiv that specialized in early music from Medieval chants up until the Baroque period with painstaking scholarship in their liner notes, presentation, and performances. Over the years they developed iconic artists like conductors Claudio Abbado, Carlos Kleiber, instrumentalists like Marizio Pollini, Martha Argerich, and Anne-Sophie Mutter. They also cemented the reputation of artists like conductors Rafael Kubelik, Eugen Jochum, Karl Bohm, and pianists Wilhelm Kempff and Emil Gilels.

In 1997, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Deutsche Grammophon, they launched a mid-price series of CDs called THE ORIGINALS. This series offers the original artwork often with significantly more music then the original release. A prime example is Carlos Kleiber’s magnificent performances of Beethoven’s Fifth and Seventh (0289447400), which were originally on two separate LP’S but are on 1 ORIGINALS CD.

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Early Days of the Classical LP

Posted by Rubin Meisel, October 11, 2011 04:05pm | Post a Comment
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On June 21st, 1948, CBS engineer Dr. Peter Goldmark introduced the new Columbia long playingDr. Peter Goldmark CBS LP Columbia long playing record record at a press conference. In the previous 15 years, there had been attempts to make a commercially viable long play album with no success. As with the concurrent development of television, the post-war boom made the project commercially viable. 33 1/3 rpm was considered the optimum speed to play the 12 inch long play microgrove records. And being made of a new plastic called vinylite they were virtually unbreakable. For shorter pieces and recitals, there were 10 inch records, but these only survived till the 1950s.
 
The new LP was considered a huge leap forward for listening to pre-recorded Classical music. A pop song took, on average, two or three minutes to play, which was just perfect for a 10 or 12 inch 78 rpm record. A symphony required up to 5 or 6 records on 78 rpm and had to be changed 10 to 12 times with the music often interrupted in the middle of a musical phrase. There were automatic 78 rpm record changers, but they were clunky and could damage your records. You also had to account for the amount of storage space needed for the brittle, breakable shellac 78s. The most dramatic part of Goldmark’s demonstration was when he was photographed holding a few dozen LPs while the equivalent in 78s were stacked six feet high next to him.
 
The introduction of the LP was not without controversy. Columbia’s great rival RCA Victor was developing its own system of 7” short playing vinyl records that played at 45 rpm. RCA engineers insisted that quality control problems with LPs would doom it. This started what was to be known as “The War of the Speeds” in which both companies spent a ton of money on print ads to woo the public before RCA conceded and converted to LP. When it was settled, it set up the paradigm that lasted for nearly 40 years: LP for albums, 45s for pop singles.

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