WAR may be in the offing in the record field if Remington records,
now the largest American "independent" (i.e., not RCA Victor or Columbia),
continues to prosper. At $1.49 for a 10-inch LP record and $1.99 for
a 12-inch LP record, the cost of any musical work in the Remington
list is only a trifle more than a third the cost of its counterpart
in the catalogues of Columbia, RCA Victor and such smaller independents
as Mercury, Capitol, Concert Hall, Decca and Allegro.
Gabor, president of Remington, a former clerk in the RCA Victor office,
attributes his low price scale to three factors. He makes no contracts
with top-price artists; he uses a new and cheaper substitute for vinylite,
which is almost but not quite, as free from surface noise; and he
employs no "vast network of salesmen, district and branch managers
and branch officers" to distribute his records. Aiming at mass distribution,
he persuaded Macy's to place a trial order for 20.000 records. They
were sold in a single day, and Macy's is now Remington's largest customer.
order to make a fair sampling of the Remington output, I selected
21 items from the list and listened to them painstakingly from both
the musical and technical points of view. Since Remington has not
yet put into practice its plan to make records in the Webster, Mass.,
plant that presses the excellent London ffrr recordings, my 21 examples
were all recorded in Europe. Apparently they were made at different
times and under different conditions, for the quality of the engineering
is excessively variable. The best recordings do not quite measure
up to the level of first-rank American reproductions; the poorest
are distinctively inferior in balance, texture and fidelity. Similarly,
the artists - with one or two exceptions, entirely unknown in this
country - are of all sorts and stripes. Several of the interpretations
are eminently satisfactory; some are downright bad. At present it
is wise not to buy a Remington record without hearing it first.
best orchestral performance in the group I listened to is Haydn's
Symphony No. 101 ("The Clock"), conducted with taste by Fritz Busch,
played expertly by the Austrian Symphony Orchestra, and cleanly and
brightly recorded. Mozart's A major Violin Concerto, played by Eva
Hitzker and the Salzburg Festival Orchestra under the direction of
Fritz Weidlich, is also every way enjoyable. Brahms's First Symphony,
played by the Viennese Symphonic Society under H. Arthur Brown, conductor
of the Tulsa, Oklahoma, Philharmonic Orchestra, is a creditable job;
and so is Rimsky-Korsakov's glittering Suite from "Le Coq d'Or", recorded
by George Singer and the Symphony Orchestra of the Viennese Symphonic
Society, whatever that may be.
other hand I advise you to shun the Remington versions of Mozart's
G major Symphony, Dvorak's New World Symphony, Brahms's Second Symphony,
Schubert's Unfinished Symphony and Mozart's D minor Piano Concerto.
All these performances are either low-grade musically or unsatisfactory
acoustically, or both. Jorg Demus and Alexander Jenner, neither of
whom I ever heard of, appear to be the best of Remington's pianists.
Mr. Demus plays Schubert's Moments Musicaux, Op. 94, with a buoyant
lilt, and gives musicianly accounts of two Beethoven sonatas, Op.
109 and Op. 110. He plays the Fifth French Suite of Bach with skill
and clarity, though this music sounds much better on the harpsichord.
Jenner offers sensitive and attractive performances of the Chopin
Etudes Op. 25. In all these records the piano sounds reasonably well,
though not as well as it can in the best full-price products. My list
included only three chambermusic works - Beethoven's Septet and Archduke
Trio and Dvorak's String Sextet. All three turned out to be workmanlike
George Enesco's playing of Bach's E minor Sonata for unaccompanied
violin offers, like Enesco's appearences in public, painful proof
that even a fine musician cannot play an instrument effectively without
only vocal record I heard contained two arias from Puccini's "Turandot",
in which Anne Roselle's no-longer-young soprano voice cried aloud
for the support of an orchestra instead of a distant and tinkly piano,
and five German and Russian songs, which are not Miss Roselle's best
In sum, I was able to give a clean bill of health to eight records
out of twenty-one. Some of the rest are honest cut-rate values that
are in no way comparable to the average standard product. Perhaps
the batting average will improve in the future, although nearly all
the artists whose contracts with Remington have been announced are,
to put it coldly, average: Enesco, Karin Branzell, Albert Spalding,
Richard Bonelli, Giovanni Martinelli, Efrem Zimbalist and Maria Jeritza.
While I sincerely hope that Remington will provide a quality of competition
that will bring record prices down throughout the field, I cannot
see that it is doing so yet.
Republic, April 23, 1951