The Early Days:
Distribution and Quality
Under the heading "Low Note", Time (New York) reported on Monday, May 29, 1950 that Remington Records, Inc. announced the production of popular records for 99 ¢, and classical records for $1.49 and $1.99, respectively for 10 and 12" records. Remington President Donald Gabor further announced that R. H. Macy & Co., W. T. Grant Co. and Sears, Roebuck & Co. have already ordered $75,000 worth of the new records.
In the the April 23, 1951, issue of The New Republic, writer Cecil Smith evaluates a batch of Remington LP records. It is quite interesting to read his remarks about the artistic merit and technical quality of the recordings. He made a selection from the Remington catalog, guided by his curiosity, and thus excluding a few concertos and symphonies belonging to the standard repertory.
You may observe that the author of this article (which was submitted to me by Timothy Gaspar) confounds record pressing and recording when writing: "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." Journalists and plain music lovers do not always understand the technical aspect of records and recordings.
MUSIC: Low-priced Records
A PRICE 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.
In 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
On the 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.
Mr. 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 but undistinguished.
The 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 genre.
New Republic, April 23, 1951
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Copyright 1995-2008 by Rudolf A. Bruil