Friday, March 25, 2011

Steinweiss' Generic Covers

Part 5 of my Steinweiss covers series is a survey of the various designs he did, or that I suspect he did, for Columbia Masterworks 78-rpm sets.  From about 1940 to 1943, Masterworks sets without unique covers (and this was the vast majority of them) came in plain grey covers with the title and artist information enclosed within a box, as shown in my earlier post this month devoted to Enrique Arbos' Spanish Album.  The highest-numbered sets that I have seen with this type of cover (nicknamed the "tombstone" cover in collectors' circles) are M-537 (Beethoven's String Quartet No. 12, by the Budapest Quartet) and X-234 (Ravel's Rapsodie Espagnole, Rodzinski/Cleveland), both from 1943.  After that, an attractive new generic design was unveiled which, though unsigned by Steinweiss, appears to be his work (in particular, the lower-case rendering of "columbia" is a hallmark of his style).  I like to call this the "polka-dot" cover, and it appeared with three background colors - black, blue and maroon:
This was used for all extant sets in the back catalog without unique cover designs, as well as a few new sets like the Barber and Haydn symphonies pictured above.  The highest-numbered sets I have seen with the "polka-dot" cover are M-578 (French Arias by Martial Singher) and X-256 (Elizabethan Suite by Bartlett and Robertson).

The next generic cover design appeared in 1947, and it is the only one that's actually signed by Steinweiss.  It features a Greek statue in the background, three large spots for work, artist and album details, and smaller spots showing various instruments, a singer and a conductor.  This came in four background colors - red, blue, green and what was probably meant to be gold or bronze, though in practice it usually shows up as a rather icky shade of yellowish-tan.  Collecting Record Covers has several examples of the blue and gold, so I present here a red cover (I don't have a green one):

Again, this was used for all extant sets in the back catalog plus a few new ones.  The highest-numbered that I have seen with this design are MM-730 (Brahms' Violin Sonata No. 3, by Issac Stern) and MX-288 (Ravel's Left Hand Concerto, by Casadesus and Ormandy).

In 1948 came not one, but at least four new generic covers, keyed to various genres of music.  For example, orchestral music was issued with this cover:
String and chamber music with this one:
and all other instrumental music with this type of cover:
Vocal music was issued with this type of cover:
All of these cover designs came in a variety of colors as well.  I've also seen green and red for the conducting hand, and light blue for the strings.  These designs were used primarily for new issues, with back issues continuing to use the Greek statue of 1947.  Original Steinweiss designs became fewer as the set numbers passed c. MM-750 and MX-300.  Actually, all Columbia 78 sets from this period are pretty scarce, since Columbia introduced the LP about this time and sales of 78s plummeted.

1 comment:

  1. What a fascinating selection and story - thank you so much for that.

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