The cover of
Jorge Bolet's recording of Prokofiev's Opus 16.
recording of Liszt's Concerto No. 1 and Totentanz (archaic Todtentanz),
Variations on Dies Irae, played by Edward Kilenyi.
The first pressings
on the Musirama label are thick and do not have the groove guard.
on the red and blue Musirama labels are generally of less quality compared
to the first black Musirama label because different electronics were
Ossy Renardy is accompanied by Eugene List in the Violin Sonatas of
César Franck and Maurice Ravel on R-199-148.
R-199-161 with Jorge Bolet playing Chopin's Four Scherzi.
Renardy plays Paganini Caprices with Eugene Helmer at the piano.
1995 I wrote an article about Remington Records and called it "Obscure
Adventure", indicating that for a long time hardly any fact was known
to me and to many other collectors about the owner of the label, the
way the recordings were produced and manufactured, and that only few
details about just a few artists were available.
Clinton Wood's book "Ideas that became big business", published in
1959 (Founders Inc., Baltimore), many brands like Coca-Cola, Black
& Decker, Goodyear, Hertz, Singer and Steinway, and pioneers like
Bell, Otis and Schaeffer are well documented. The only Remington brand
names are those of the typewriter manufacturer, and of course of the
rifle industry which in time of war speeded up their production. But
the author does not deal with phonographic patents and successes.
Columbia's invention of the long playing record is never mentioned.
Apparently the general perception was that the record business was
not a big business at all.
taken from a High Fidelity Magazine issue from the early 1950s.
I had to be contented with a few record magazines from the nineteen
fifties that were available in Europe. Most of the time there was
hardly any information on the back of the covers, except for the listed
titles and reference numbers. Only in a few encyclopedia there were
entries about conductor Kurt Wöss and violinist Michèle
Auclair and it was mentioned that these performers had recorded
for the Remington label. Even Harold C. Schonberg, writing
the paragraph on Jorge Bolet in his book "The Great Pianists",
never mentions the recordings Jorge Bolet made for the Remington label
in 1953. And the local public library had practically no reference
books on artists and orchestras and the recordings they had made.
When I started researching further on the internet in 1999, chances
finding details were very rare. Only the Library of Congress
had files showing names and numbers, but most disappeared already
a few years later when the LOC restructured their filing system
and reviewed what would be on the net and what not. Wikipedia did
not exist yet.
gradually more names of artists were being mentioned on general pages,
on homepages of pupils who studied with pianists and violinists, on
pages of scholars who had done some research in a specific field.
And when Wikipedia came into being more info could be found, often
triggered by the existence of The REMINGTON Site.
For quite some time there were records released by Tom Null
on the Varèse Sarabande label. But these were not available
in Europe. Later APR issued old recordings of a few artists like Edward
Kilenyi and Simon Barere, but only much later CDs of more original
recordings have been issued by Bearac Records, APR and
is as if the artists concerned forgot about the Remington recordings
they once made. And if they were still alive, they probably did not
recall that they recorded for the label as this could be considered
by some a false step in their careers, or they were not even aware
of the fact that their performances were being released on a cheap
American label. The information I read about Michèle Auclair
at the time provided by Coupe d'Archet does not mention a single Remington
a few artists would still be alive and could provide more information.
So I started writing letters, searching the telephone directories
and just called and spoke to several of them on the phone already
in 2000 and 2001.
Most musicians I contacted were responding positively, except for
Gérard Poulet, and also for Michèle Auclair, after
writing many letters and many telephone calls to Boston and Paris,
and leaving messages on the answering machine of the late violinist.
At the time the only web site that mentioned Frieda Valenzi
was the one of duo-pianists Krassimira Jordan & Thomas Kreuzberger.
Kreuzberger had studied with Frieda Valenzi. They forwarded my e-mail
to conductor/pianist Roswitha Heinze and from her I received
information about Frieda Valenzi and we started a correspondence.
talked very shortly to Laszlo Halasz and extensively to his
wife Suzette Forgues. She was still active as a teacher at
I called up Alexander Jenner in Vienna one Sunday afternoon
and he sent me important details and images through his son. I spoke
to Conrad Hansen in Hamburg on the phone as well.
Dominique Chailley, grandson of pianist Céliny Chailley-Richez,
send me an extensive article he had just finalized from which I could
use several details.
Violoncellist Ursula Erhart-Schwertmann, daughter of pianist
Hermann Schwertmann, sent biographical notes and pictures of
With pianist Felicitas Karrer I corresponded and had several
telephone conversations. She was managing the garage her father had
built. After she had seen the page she sent me a Sachertorte,
the Viennese chocolate cake, to express her appreciation. It arrived
well packed in its original wooden box.
Graphic artist Alex Steinweiss sent me an overview with data
of his career.
Finland send me a few photocopies of old photographs and of a few
newspaper clippings which were all printed in a book from way back
that delt with the history of the Helsinki University Chorus
and more were contacted at one time or other and generally they responded
in a positive way. Right from the start in 1999 the pages invited
anyone, who had a reminiscence or knew specific facts about the label
and its creator Don Gabor, to contribute. The basic layout was designed
then and the design of the pages has changed only in minor details.
That was before Wikipedia started with its global concept encompassing
a multitude of encyclopedic subjects and created a professional basis.
Several pupils and acquaintances of pianists, violinists, conductors
and teachers responded positively, directly themselves or through
colleagues. I also had a few telephone conversations with record producer
Tom Null of the Varèse Sarabande label in California.
He gave me a few details and he suggested that I find and call up
Mr. Laszlo Halasz.
Violin teacher Patricia Jaeger from Seattle sent me details
and a comment on the Young Violinist's Series and stressing the importance
of such an instructional series.
others supplied details as well, about a record cover or a name, they
wrote a personal recollection, or a more extensive contribution, as
Ryan Barna did about polka king Frank Yankovic.
And Timothy Gaspar sent me an interesting article written in
1951 by journalist Cecil Smith published in The New Republic.
Stéfanos Theodoridis from Greece saw the page about
Alice and Theodore Pashkus and send me photographs owned by his teacher
Manessis who had studied himself with Alice Pashkus, and
Stéfanos added a few details.
They are all listed on the previous page.
is not surprising that information is scarce. First of all the label
existed only for eight years in the early days of the LP era. Secondly:
the quality was far from first rate. And thirdly many labels did not
like the competition they got from Remington because the releases
were low priced. Remington was ignored by the other big labels, yet
at the same time the other labels wanted to make life rather difficult
for its owner, Don Gabor.
Robert Angus told me, that if somebody would ask the proprietors
of a local record shop to stock, or at least to order more Remington
titles, without exception they all refused. They already had been
told by the sales representatives of the distributors of Victor
and Columbia that if
they would continue to do business with Don Gabor, they
would lose their franchises for these quality labels .
of Remington's Webster pressing plant in Massuchsetts and their
relatives at the 1957 Christmas party.
position may have strengthened Don Gabor in adopting less common ways
of recruiting artists and acquiring taped performances: "He would
take anything he could lay his hands on", discographer David
Diehl told me. And that was certainly the case when the label
was discontinued and Don Gabor released all sorts of music on his
other budget labels.
are only a few Remington recordings which had been released by other
record labels first, like excerpts from Bach's Christmas Oratorio
conducted by Hans Grischkat which was released on R-199-155,
but had been issued by Renaissance on SX 201. The plates of the complete
performance were bought by Gabor from Renaissance. There is the recording
of Symphony No. 3 of Anton Bruckner which was first issued on Concert
Hall Society and later on Remington.
had his own ways of mass production and of stimulating sales. He used
a cheap low quality for vinylite named "websterlite", he
continuously had the record covers restyled, suggesting that the releases
were new recordings, and on top of that, he simultaneously issued
a number of the same performances on other labels he created, Plymouth,
Merit, Masque, Etude, Masterseal, Buckingham, Paris, Pontiac, Webster,
label of the 1956 release with works by Ward and Stein says: HIFI
by WEBSTER. The words Living Sound were of course deliberately
The record is pressed from the original plates of the Remington
American Composers release R-199-185.
competition he faced could have intensified certain less positive
traits of his character. When I asked Mrs. Wilma Cozart Fine
of Mercury Living Presence Records about Don Gabor and Remington
Records, she said: "Oh, those people". This reaction is quite understandable.
When Don Gabor started off with the Remington label it soon became
the independent label with the largest turnover.
at mass distribution, he persuaded Macy's to place a trial order for
20.000 records. They were sold in a single day(...)", Cecil Smith
reported in the NEW REPUBLIC of April 23, 1951. Smith evaluated a
batch of Remington releases in an article called Low-Priced Records.
His conclusion: out of 21 records only 8 were more or less acceptable.
The article clarifies how clever Gabor was in selling large quantities.
MUSIC: Low-Priced Records.
Gabor did not have a large network like the big labels had (though
he had representatives in important cities), nor did he have too much
personnel (at least in the beginning of his enterprise, but the Webster
pressing plant soon had a large number of workers), and the artists
who recorded for him were not too expensive. Furthermore the works
were mostly in the public domain. And as mentioned before: he used
that cheap kind of vinyl.
By listening to the Remington releases one easily can hear that Don
Gabor did not care much about the sonic quality of the product and
that he had his own ideas of what a long playing record should represent.
Nevertheless he can be considered as a kind of pioneer, not in microphone
placement as C. Robert Fine of
Records was, and not in tackling the problem of inner groove
distortion as technicians of RCA did. No, Don Gabor was the man who
turned Columbia's freshly invented LP more or less right from the
start into a medium with Music for Millions. He quasi reinvented
marketing strategy was probably reinvented every time the circumstances
dictated a new move. And he acted along the lines 'not the quality
of the cheese has to be improved upon, no, people have to eat more
cheese', the common marketing strategy which many years later
was described and attacked by Vance Packard in his book "Hidden
should not forget that in the early nineteen fifties records were
generally played on gramophones with a crystal or ceramic pick up
cartridge with a frequency curve which showed an early roll off. And
the amplification was mostly provided by a simple radio or a tiny
valve amplifier and a high efficiency loudspeaker or on a portable
The fact that Don Gabor overlooked the importance of sound quality
was an omission that kept him, regrettably, from establishing a label
that withstood the changes of time. In hindsight however there are
a few items in the original catalogue that should be seen as unique
- in some instances because of the work that was recorded, but most
of the time specific items have their importance because of the artists
who were talked into performing for the label. Some artists played
their last song like Simon Barere, or were of age, like pianists
Etelka Freund and Ernst von Dohnányi, violinists
George Enesco and Albert Spalding, singers Karin
Branzell and Anne Roselle. There were also artists who
tried to pick up their careers which were so brusquely interrupted
by World War II, as was the case with pianists Jorge Bolet
and Edward Kilenyi (both enlisted in the US Army during World
War II). Or they were of the younger generation, artists who just
stood at the beginning of their careers: violinists Michèle
Auclair and Gérard Poulet, pianists Alexander
Jenner and Jörg Demus, and conductor Wolfgang Sawallisch,
just to mention a few.
The extraordinary thing about Remington Records is that there are
quite a few artists on it, who show their early or late in life insights
by just playing without the artificial splicing and the use of special
techniques to embellish the recording, but with the relatively limited
quality of the recording technique used in those days. Yet several
Remington discs bear the impact of their art.
When people discover The REMINGTON Site, they all too often
think that any Remington record is a collector's item and as
such has high value on the second hand market. Most recordings
are not more than the reflection of the recording and marketing
practice of the early nineteen fifties. Not all music is well
performed and most of the time not too well recorded. Yet the
collector of early LP covers can eat his heart out.
performances there are some very interesting exceptions of captivating
recordings made by various artists. Many times they are of historical
interest as in case of violinists Georges Enesco who
recorded Sonatas and Partitas of J.S. Bach, and Albert Spalding,
and pianist Ernst von Dohnanyi playing Brahms Sonatas
and Hungarian Dances.
Talking about Albert Spalding, his recordings of the
Concertos of Beethoven and Brahms are very good performances
of a violinist at the end of his career.
Michele Auclair playing Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto,
Op. 35, has all the strong intentions and passion of a young
violinist, educated in the Russian School. Her recital recordings
are just wonderful, have the same intensity plus the strength
and refinement she displays very well, accompanied by veteran
pianist Otto Schulhof.
César Franck's Variations Symphoniques played by pianist Frieda
Valenzi and conductor Jean Moreau (I assume that
the conductor is Jean Morel) are wonderful, despite the many
Franck's Symphony in D conducted by Hans Wolf is captivating.
The performance of Prokofiev's Piano Concerto No. 2 with Jorge
Bolet and Thor Johnson, goes to the core of the score,
as does the reading of Gershwin's Concerto in F by Alec Templeton,
the serious mood Templeton and Johnson achieve is not easily
emulated. And there is Thor Johnson's impressive rendering of
Dvorak's Symphony Op. 88 especially advised in the transfer
by Tom Null, issued on the Varèse-Sarabande label.
Edward Kilenyi's performances of Liszt's Concerto No.
1 and Todtentanz (Dance macabre/Totentanz) are also very good
recordings, as is his Hungarian Fantasy.
Jonel Perlea conducting the RIAS Symphony Orchestra in
Tchaikovsky and Saint-Saëns is well controlled, but beautiful.
Mozart Concertos are well performed by young violinist Gérard
Poulet and his father, Gaston Poulet, conducting.
Violinist André Gabriel - who in fact is Roman
Totenberg - gives an impressive, at times almost intimate, performance
of the Violin Concerto of Alexander Glazunov, extremely well
accompanied by Georg Ludwig Jochum leading the RIAS Orchestra.
Alexander Jenner plays a deep felt Beethoven and a youthful
Chopin. Bach played by Jörg Demus has leanness and
And there is of course Simon Barere, dramatically playing
Liszt's Sonata in B.
Friedrich Wührer gives a fine, though not intimate,
performance of Beethoven's 4th Concerto. Sylvia Marlowe
recorded Rameau, Felicitas Karrer was the soloist in
the Great Concertos and especially her Grieg is well worth listening
to. Pianist Hermann Schwertmann played Tchaikovsky's
Op. 23 with refinement. George Sebastian conducted a
strong Berlioz (Symphony Fantastique).
And you may discover more: legendary Fritz Busch, singers
Mona Paulee, Kurt Baum and Ettore Bastianini.
The most famous recording produced by Don Gabor is of course
the 3 LP Box with the Sonatas & Partitas by Bach performed
by legendary Georges Enesco. This set was originally
issued on the Continental label and appeared much later
on the Remington label as well. A few recordings have
been issued by Tom Null on the
label. It is not bad idea to search for these "modern
issues" of old Remingtons with works by Dvorak, Enesco,
Dohnanyi, Liszt, Korngold, etc.
offered by sellers on various auction sites are of course second
hand and have often been played in the past on simple equipment
with a ceramic or crystal cartridge with low compliance, as
was the custom in the early nineteen fifties. Therefor the groove
is often damaged although this is not always discernible just
by looking at the surface. Pressings that still have reasonable
quality usually come straight out of the collection of a serious
music lover who took care of the records and only played them
on quality equipment. But these records are hard to find.
sellers ask exorbitant prices for common material. Most of the
time these prices are definitely not in relation to the offered
quality of both engineering, performance and historic value.
These sellers have been inspired by the existence of The REMINGTON
Site, not by love for music, sound judgment and knowledge (otherwise
they would not spell the names of the artists wrong). If the
price is high, always ask what the return policy is beforehand.
And: read what the description is. VG ++ is not the same for
all sellers. And beware of Remingtons described as Near Mint!
a young teenager I grew up with records of Philips, English Decca
and Deutsche Grammophon Gesellschaft. Philips was agreeable.
Early Deccas had a rather dull sound. The perception of these qualities
was caused by the playback equipment of which the frequency characteristic
was not very extended. And I did not like the dark sound of the DGG
LP's too much. One evening I attended a special demonstration of a
Philips hi-fi set consisting of a big cabinet containing two full
range 9710 AM 800 Ohm units connected to the Philips amplifier,
in fact directly to the tube circuit without the interface of a transformer
(OTL). The system also had two small boxes reproducing the upper mid
frequencies and highs. They were hanging on the wall on each side
of the big loudspeaker cabinet.
listening to this system, I did not fail to tell the people from the
store that the sound of the Deutsche Grammophon LP of Tchaikovsky's
2nd concerto played by Shura Cherkassky sounded much too "dark
How did I, as a 14 year old know? Well, I visited the school concerts
which were given in the concert hall of my hometown. My parents took
me to recitals of famous pianists like Béla Siki, Clara
Haskil, Cor de Groot and Stefan Askenase. And a few years
earlier I had sung in the boys' choir in Bach's St.Matthew Passion
performed at Easter conducted by Hans Brandts Buys. On top of that
my brother played the violin.
pretended to know what the sound produced by instruments, voices and
an orchestra was like. My perception differed completely from what
electronics and big loudspeakers reproduced. The second Decca series
with prefix LXTs and subsequent series had already better dynamics.
It all depended much on the applied playback characteristic and the
equipment. In the early years no standardization was adopted and practically
every label had its own playback characteristic with the (de-) emphasis
in the curve to which the record was cut. Each and every record company
had their own philosophy. So some records sounded dull, others warm,
and again others lacked a firm midband and attack. In comparison the
sound of the Remingtons had a more chiseled character.
then there were the Remington Musirama records which were imported
in our country already in 1955 but I got acquainted with many years
later. That was when I came across Prokofiev's 2nd Concerto played
by Jorge Bolet and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra
under Thor Johnson and was struck by the composition as well
as the performance. The concerto was music to my ears and Jorge Bolet's
way of playing the incredibly complex score with the varying moods
and the changes in pace and presence, became one of my most cherished
discs and served as an incentive to explore Remington's
catalog further: Jorge Bolet playing the Four Scherzi of Chopin, Edward
Kilenyi with Liszt's 1st Concerto and Totentanz (Todtentanz),
with Paganini's Caprices, Alec Templeton in Gershwin's Concerto
in F with the Cincinnati Symphony and Thor Johnson, Jonel Perlea
conducting the RIAS Symphony Orchestra with Saint-Saëns'
Carnival of Animals and excerpts from Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake, and
a most captivating recording of the Helsinki University Chorus
singing songs by Jean Sibelius.
Bolet performed Chopin not impeccably, though with drive. His interpretation
was devoid of sentimentality. The recording had presence and undeniably
showed the sound of a warm Baldwin piano. Alec Templeton's grand piano
was clearly defined as well and the timpani in the Gershwin Concerto
sounded impressive and it had zest. The sound of Edward Kilenyi's
Liszt had weight and firmness in the lower register and strength and
clarity in the top of the keyboard while the orchestral sound had
space and the orchestra responded with quickness. Although these recordings
sounded quite good when played on my simple record player (fitted
was a Ronette crystal pick up) connected to a big valve amplifier
with separate power supply which fed a full range speaker unit housed
Boffle constructed according to the details given in "The
Gramophone", I soon discovered that the bulk of the catalog was
not on par with the standard of these LPs.
management of the record department of the renowned piano shop where
I bought my Musirama treasures were anxious not to offer the lesser
Remingtons from stock. They could be ordered. But I was more or less
advised against the purchase of other releases. When I saw some items
like Grieg's Concerto with Felicitas Karrer in the window of
a general store and went in to have a listen, I discovered a prominent
hiss which was then and there an obstacle, despite the wonderfully
poetic performance given by Ms. Karrer and Kurt Wöss.
The quality slogan printed on the cover read Factory Guaranteed, but
had really no meaning. The lady of the store told me that the hiss
would wear off after a few playings! She certainly could not convince
me. She obviously had been instructed by her boss to tell such nonsense.
Yet the temptation to buy a few more of the label was always there.
First of all because of the price. Wilhelm Kempff with Beethoven's
4th Concerto conducted by Paul van Kempen on a 10" gatefold Deutsche
Grammophon was quite an investment for which I could buy nearly two
12" Remington discs. That was quite an incentive for a school kid
who collected also jazz and big band music.
was another attractive aspect of Remington records: the distinguished
design of the label and the covers. On first glance the art
work may have looked a bit childish at times but in most cases had
a high artistic quality which was appealing and did rise the curiosity
of any prospective buyer who had some artistic taste. But the number
of my acquisitions did not rise above the items mentioned earlier
together with the LP of Chopin's Etudes Op. 10 played by Kilenyi.
In those days there were only a few Remington recordings which were
praised in the specialized magazines and by a reviewer like Warren
DeMotte in his
Long Playing Record Guide. And in our national record magazine
a couple of Musirama discs got a good review: Symphonie Fantastique
(George Sebastian), Gershwin (Alec Templeton), Dvorak
4th (Thor Johnson), Tchaikovsky's 2nd symphony (Thor Johnson),
Aida with Ettore Bastianini and George Sebastian.
since I was a kid my curiosity about the label and its owner was aroused
but not satisfied. When I published a book about audio and music in
the mid nineteen nineties, I wrote the article about Remington Records.
But when the world wide web became accessible, it presented the opportunity
to publish an entire site about the label:
The REMINGTON Site. It gives honor
to many artists who would be forgotten and others who receive recognition
anew, and it is a late tribute to its owner, Don Gabor, who
in contrast to
Oberstein and his Allegro Royale bootlegged recordings, really
wanted to produce Music for Millions. Also the label enjoys
a sort of renaissance because of the increasing and new attention
it gets since the publication of these pages which makes people discover
that not every Remington disc is a find.
I wish you happy reading and browsing.
Come back any time. You can check the names of artists on the previous
page, or you just can go to the next page and go on reading.
Rudolf A. Bruil - Page published in