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Names and short texts in bold colored font on these pages are links to
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is said that Gabor would take any tape he could lay his hands on to release
on his label(s). When beginning building a catalogue such an attitude
would be quite understandable. And since the record business was no big
business at all (unlike today where anybody can start recording and releasing
and can achieve success more easily, thanks to the more accessible digital
recording equipment), any item that would enlarge the catalogue was welcome.
It seems that Don Gabor knew quite well that the releases with Albert
Barere, George Enesco, Ernst von Dohnanyi, a.o.
were of value in 1950 and 1952. If he also saw the importance of recordings
with other artists like, for instance violinist
Gérard Poulet, is questionable, because most of the time
he only received the lists with recordings which were proposed by Marcel
Prawy. The importance of the releases with Michèle
Auclair were of course clear as Michèle made her American
debut in 1950 in Boston with Charles Munch and the Boston Symphony.
As the market developed and competition increased, a new look was necessary to regain attention and the label was redesigned. The new (third) label had the letters of the name REMINGTON placed in boxes in a circle. The colors of the label were black and gold (and later sometimes silver). Eventually the new distinctive logo was placed as a vertical bar at the left next to the spine of each cover, a logo that could not be overlooked and certainly helped to promote the label. This new identity was designed by Alex Steinweiss who as a free lancer worked for Columbia Records at the same time.
Not only fresh releases had this new style. Covers of existing recordings were redesigned and got the new circular label. But when technical progress in the field of matrix production and recording technique was made and the playback systems were improved, the releases more and more showed their less eminent quality.
When conductor Laszlo Halasz left the New York City Opera in 1952 to be an independent conductor, Don Gabor immediately asked him to be his recording director, a title that was mentioned in Halasz' program notes wherever he conducted. In the USA Laszlo Halasz supervised many recordings with Thor Johnson, Alec Templeton and Jorge Bolet and harpsichordist Sylvia Marlowe. In Austria he supervised the recordings with Albert Spalding, in Italy recording operatic repertoire and in Germany with a host of conductors. In Berlin a serious collaboration of Gabor's company with Bertelsmann was at hand. From 1953 on recordings with a better quality were made, especially those made with the RIAS Symphony Orchestra. This collaboration gave way to the 3rd label with the improved sound quality.
The new sound
boasted of multiple microphone placement and the improved sound of the
productions was given the name "MUSIRAMA" and the label showed the image
of atoms as they were visualized in those days.
Advertisements accompanied the introduction of the new MUSIRAMA sound. And as positive response increased, the temptation was great to adorn the covers of older recordings with the distinguishing MUSIRAMA emblem at the lower right corner, even if these had not been recorded in the new multiple microphone technique. In certain cases new covers for these old recordings were designed. This may have increased sales of these older recordings in the beginning, but serious buyers quickly must have found out that several older recordings were re-released with a higher catalog number and designated as a MUSIRAMA recording. Examples are Grieg's Suites to "Peer Gynt" and Overtures of Rossini operas conducted by Vittorio Gui on R-199-142 (which had been recorded one year earlier). The overture to "L'ingano felice" had been released on R-199-123 together with music by Strauss, Korngold, Puccini, Cherubini and Verdi. But now only Rossini overtures filled R-199-142. The recording of Zoltán Fekete conducting Bruckner's Symphony No. 3 was actually from 1950 but was presented as a MUSIRAMA recording. Much later more early recordings were adorned with the MUSIRAMA label: Barere's Liszt, "Polovetsian Dances" from Prince Igor, Beethoven's Third Symphony with Fritz Busch, and so on and so forth.
|What the quality
of the early Austrian sound recordings originally must have been can be
heard on reissues of original tapes in simulated stereo on the Austrian
label Vibraton of performances by
Busch, Kurt Wöss and other artists. Comparison of Alexander
Jenner's rendition of Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata" on Remington on
R-199-10 (on older covers the name of Helmuth Rolof is mentioned), with
the reissue on Vibraton VB K2008 shows that the original tapes were of rather
good quality. The cutting process, the matrix production and the cheap vinyl
of the Remington discs were to blame. This Vibraton disc with Jenner's Beethoven
shows more or less the same sound but with practically no noise and distortion,
but gives also a less chiseled piano tone because of the filtering that
must have been applied when these better pressings were released in Austria.
The Vibraton discs of course do profit from the vastly improved matrix production
of the nineteen sixties and seventies, and they are pressed on purer vinyl.
The same goes for the Vibraton releases of recordings by conductors Fritz
Busch and Kurt Wöss.
One should never forget that many recordings in the catalog date from 1950 or 1951, a mere three years after the introduction of the LP by Columbia, and that the MUSIRAMA recordings were done as early as 1953.
The stereo-tapes of "The Origin of Fire", "Pohjola's Daughter" and 8 selections from the original stereo-tape of R-199-167 were reissued by Tom Null on Varèse-Sarabande stereo LP, reference VC 81041. Although some equalization had to be applied to match the modern RIAA curve, this recording shows all too well that the original tape recordings made in 1953 by Robert Blake (Gabor's recording engineer) had a far better sound quality than was ever heard on the Remington discs. These recordings made in November 1953 were the first commercial stereo recordings issued on LP. In February 1954 it was RCA who made their first commercial stereophonic recordings.
USA is a big territory and the company's turnover must have increased significantly.
New offices were rented on 500 Fifth Avenue. And now the Remington recordings
were also exported to several European countries:
Belgium and The Netherlands, even after the Remington label
was not longer listed in the Schwann and Long Player, they were available
in Europe after 1957.
In France Remington recordings were released on the Concerteum Label. Matrixes were supplied by Remington Records Inc. and the labels mentioned "Une production DON GABOR". The vinyl was of a finer quality than that used in the US and the records revealed a better sound quality. In Australia it was the Festival label on which Remington recordings were released, for example on CFR10-88 could be found Frieda Valenzi's recording of César Franck's "Symphonic Variations" coupled with Debussy's "Prélude a l'aprës-midi d'un faune" pressed from rather dull Australian plates made from tapes provided by Remington Records.
In France recordings were made with Georges Enesco as a conductor (of his own works with the Orchestra of the Colonne Concerts and the Paris Symphony) and as a violinist with pianist Céliny Chailley-Richez. The Sonatas for Solo Violin by Johann Sebastian Bach were recorded in New York much earlier, around 1949, on acetates.
Concerteum in France released Remington recordings. At left Ossy Renardy with Paganini Caprices and Hans Wolf conducting Mozart.
with Bertelsmann in Germany (starting in 1953) resulted in many MUSIRAMA-recordings
made with the RIAS Symphony Orchestra. In Germany they were of course released
on Bertelsmann's Phonoring. But Don Gabor wanted to release the older recordings
made in Austria in Germany too. I suspect that he created his own German
label named DIAMANT. The records were pressed
from Remington matrixes, maybe in Germany. It is not sure if the covers
were manufactured in Germany. They could have been made in the Webster plant
as they were manufactured the American style. On the label was printed "Licensed
by Remington Records." The Diamant covers had a standard layout. On the
front the composer, the works and the names of the performers were printed
as well as a reference number for ordering the item, in German "Best. Nr."
The back was blank. There were no liner notes. On the Diamant label appeared
Franck's Symphony in D conducted by Hans Wolf (BL 743), Astrid
Varnay singing Wagner arias (BL 737) and
Cassado performing Dvorak's Cello Concerto with Kurt Wöss
(BL 745), Jorge Bolet and Thor Johnson performing Prokofiev's
Piano Concerto Op. 16 (BL 739; the cover mistakingly mentioned that Johnson
conducted the Austrian Symphony Orchestra instead of the Cincinnati Symphony),
violinist Michèle Auclair in Tchaikovsky (BL738), Fritz
Busch with Beethoven's Eroica (BL 741).
Symphony Fantastique (Berlioz) with Georges Sebastian in the new Musirama sound (in the USA the label with the atomic symbol) was released as BL 733 while this same recording was also released by Bertelsmann. The Diamant release was of course against the terms in the contract. Cellist Heinrich Köhler told me that there was a law suit, but he did not remember the actual cause. The releases recorded in Germany and offered in Germany on the Diamant label could have been the cause and the agreement was ended.
In Australia Remington recordings were released on the Festival label.
|Wherever Laszlo Halasz went to fulfill his engagements to conduct, be it in Germany, Spain, Italy or France, recordings for the Remington MUSIRAMA label were made. In Berlin with the RIAS Symphony and pianists Edward Kilenyi and Conrad Hansen, violinist André Gabriel, and conductors Wolfgang Sawallisch, George Sebastian, Jonel Perlea, Otto Matzerath and Manuel Rosenthal. Rosenthal conducted his arrangement of Offenbach melodies called "Gaité Parisienne" with the RIAS Symphony Orchestra. Laszlo Halasz also seized opportunities to make recordings with other orchestras and ensembles. Recordings were later also made with the Düsseldorf Symphony Orchestra. And a complete Cosi Fan Tutte was recorded with singers Erna Hassler (soprano), Hetty Plümacher (contralto), Käthe Nentwig (soprano), Albert Weikenmeier (tenor) , Karl Hoppe (baritone) and Joseph Dunnwald conducting the Stuttgart Tonstudio Orchestra: R-199-117/3. Highlights from this recording were released on R-199-162.|
Several Remingtons were released in Germany on the Diamant label: Symphony Fantastique (Berlioz), Cello Concerto (Dvorak), Symphony (Franck).
Germany Gabor launched the Diamant label for the release of recordings
made in Austria: Franck Symphonie (Hans Wolf), Famous Opera Arias (Astrid
Varnay), Dvorak Cello Concerto (Gaspar Cassado). An oddity is the Diamant
release of Prokofiev's Piano Concerto Bo. 2 with Jorge Bolet. But the
Diamant issue states that Thor Johnson conducts the Austrian Symphony
Orchestra instead of that of Cincinnati.
The first cellist of the RIAS Symphony Orchestra was Heinrich Köhler. He was engaged by Ferenc Fricsay in the season of 1949/50 and he stayed with the orchestra until 1995. His cello playing can be heard in Carnival of Animals (Saint-Saëns) and Excerpts from Swan Lake (Tchaikovsky) on R-199-160. Heinrich Köhler witnessed the artistic rise of the orchestra under Fricsay, the intermediate period after Fricsay had left in 1953 and until he returned in 1959 to the orchestra (that was now called Radio Symphony Orchestra Berlin) and was again principal conductor until Fricsay's death in 1963. Mr. Köhler told me about the sessions of the orchestra for the Remington Record Company in the years 1953 and 1954. He recalls:
Of course, Laszlo Halasz had to see to it that the limited budget and the recording time were well spent and thus did not give young Günther Wand the time to shape the performance and bring it to a higher level. If it were not for the limited time, we now would have another historic performance of Günther Wand, but this time with the RIAS Symphony Orchestra on the Remington label.
Most conductors however were glad to have a job though. They accepted the limited time schedules. Some of the conductors were hardly known like Karl Rucht. Relatively unknown at the time were Wolfgang Sawallisch, Jonel Perlea , Manuel Rosenthal, George Sebastian , Georg Ludwig Jochum (brother of famous Eugen Jochum).
Fact is that also in this case Don Gabor did not buy ready tapes, and in no case tapes of obscure and illegal origin, (as Eli Oberstein did for his Royale label), and Gabor did not invent names, but hired a genuine and well trained orchestra of professional musicians and through Laszlo Halasz very able conductors and soloists were contracted. Yet a three hour session was too short for a recording of Brahms's 2nd Concerto with Kilenyi and Perlea which did not show some minute imperfections. Generally the performances were of a very good quality which rose far above the standard of any provincial orchestra and certainly above the quality of the 'Austrian Symphony Orchestra' or 'Niedersterosterreichisches Tonkünstler Orchester' which was also founded in 1946 but did not get the time to rehearse enough before recording.
On Bertelsmann Schallplattenring 8135 a variety of Remington artists can be heard:
Wolfgang Sawallisch, Alexander Jenner, Karl Rucht and Laszlo Halasz.
The gold/white striped label of Bertelsmann Schallplattenring 8135..
where Laszlo Halasz had engagements also and was to perform with pianist
Samson François, George Enescu's Dixtuor was recorded with the
composer conducting the French National Orchestra.
On most covers
the annotation "Recorded in Europe" was printed. In those days many American
companies graveled with their tape recorder practically all over Europe,
from Denmark to Austria and from Berlin to Rome. At home in the US there
were many restrictions imposed by the Petrillo act, restrictions concerning
working hours of artists and orchestras and the fees which made the productions
very costly. If one did not have the facilities to tape in Europe, existing
tapes from radio broadcasts and even tapes from the "Reichs Rundfunk Gesellschaft"
which were made during World War 2 could be bought.
Cover and label of Frieda Valenzi's recording of "Variations Symphoniques" of César Franck, state the name of the conductor as Jean Moreau. A conductor with that name is not known. Apparently Jean Moreau was Jean Morel, originally from France, who worked also in the USA and made several recordings with DECCA/LONDON and American Columbia. Jean Morel was also a conductor at the New York City Opera Company. When I asked Mrs. Valenzi about the conductor she could not remember facts about Jean Moreau. The handwriting on the container with the recorded tape must have been wrongly read and copied.
The soloist in Glazunov's Violin concerto on R-199-191 is André Gabriel. No data can be found about this artist. Was he an upcoming star who never made it? Was he the principal violinist of the RIAS Symphony Orchestra? A record collector who visited my pages suggested that Andre Gabriel was a pseudonym for Roman Totenberg who could not have his name printed because of contractual ties with another label. It is likely that the artists is Tossy Spivakovsky. In the 1953 edition of the Remington record catalog Don Gabor announced the new Musirama recording releases. New recordings with various artists were in the making. One of these artists is violinist Tossy Spivakovsky. But his name never appeared on the Remington label. In this case also because of contractual obligations with another record company? Allan Evans of Arbiter Records, who interviewed Roman Totenberg extensively and prepared the 2 CD set "The Art of Roman Totenberg from Bach to Webern", confirmed that the soloist in the Remington recording is indeed Roman Totenberg. See the description on the page about the RIAS Symphony Orchestra.
Record R-199-76 mentions Hermann Schwertmann as pianist in Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1 in B flat minor Op. 23. For many years it was not clear if Hermann Schwertmann really was the pianist as the Plymouth issue of the same tape mentions Hans Kessler as pianist. No information was known until several entries on the Internet could be found about a concert where Hermann Schwertmann played the piano and he is mentioned as a teacher. Moreover his daughter, cellist Ursula Erhart-Schwertmann was mentioned on a chamber music site. The only recording of Hermann Schwertmann is this Remington R-199-76 which eventually was replaced by the technically better approach of the concerto by pianist Conrad Hansen and conductor Wolfgang Sawallisch with the RIAS Symphony on Remington Musirama R-199-197.
a recording by The Boshovsky Sextet. This is certainly Willy Boskovsky's
Sextet. The 'k' in the handwriting on the container of the tape must have
been interpreted as 'h'.
Frieda Valenzi's Merit release, Sondra Bianca performing Liszt on Plymouth and on Volaris, and at right Conductor X with Symphony No. 1 by Beethoven
Generally the Plymouth releases did not always bear the names of the artists and of the same orchestra. There are several exceptions however. One is the recording of Piano Concerto No. 1 of Franz Liszt played by pianist Sondra Bianca with the Lamoureux Orchestra conducted by Jean Martinon(!) coupled with the Piano Concerto of Carl Maria von Weber played by Fritz Egger with the Linz Symphony Orchestra (no conductor is mentioned). A record with a lot prominent hiss. The same Liszt Concerto with Jean Martinon was released in France on the Volaris label, together with Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1 (conducted by Hans-Jürgen Walther). Volaris GM 104. It was one of the many circulating tapes which could be bought by any producer or record label owner who wanted to release a record with popular classics.
This recording of
Beethoven's First Symphony was released in France on the Concerteum
label and as conductor the name of Holstein was mentioned.
The people from Concerteum were well aware of the fact that a record with
a conductor named 'X' would not be regarded as a serious release.
Carlos Montoya on R-199-171 and R-199-179, the Palace reissue of 171 and Lydia Ibarrondo on R-199-139.
The covers of R-199-171 and R-199-179 (reissued on Vox Records STPL 513 430) of guitarist Carlos Montoya state "Recorded in Spain". Could be that the recordings were made when Laszlo Halasz was conducting in Barcelona, and could be that Montoya who lived in the US was vacationing in Spain at the time. One is not always sure if "Recorded in Europe" or in this case "Recorded in Spain" is in all cases correct. The recordings could have been ready tapes were often bought by Gabor. In any case the annotation "Recorded in Europe" was often an easy way to avoid questions by the officials of the union. I do not have a copy of the other record of Carlos Montoya (R-199-134) accompanying mezzo-soprano Lydia Ibarrondo. This album most likely was recorded in the USA. In any case Ibarrondo's "Songs of Spain" (R-199-139) was recorded in the USA. On the latter the mezzo-soprano was accompanied by Miguel Sandoval (piano), and Juan Oñatibia (txistu and tun-tun, on side 2). The selections are El vito,Del cabelo ma´s sutil, Molondron, Cancion Castellana, Cantares, La maja dolorosa. Granadina, Caminito de Avilés, Charrada, En casa del Tio Vicente, Pastores de la Sierra, Burlesca, Nostalgia, El pano, Vescos.
Cover and label of Sari Biro's recording of Mussorgsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition" also mentions "recorded in Europe". Miss Biro lived in the United States. She traveled to Europe to concertize and made a recording of Mozart's Piano Concerto K491 in Vienna, so she could have made the Mussorgski recording then and there.
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