Thursday, May 23, 2013

Wartime Rarities on the "Yellow Label"

The famous Deutsche Grammophon yellow "tulip" label, pictured above, made its debut in the late 40s, when the company sold the German rights to the use of the "His Master's Voice" trademark to EMI.  In 1949, the "yellow label" was introduced to American record buyers without much fanfare, when the London Gramophone Corporation (importers of English Decca records relabelled as "London Records") began importing them, charging quite steep prices (almost $3 per disc) and issuing some 30 sets in the plainest imaginable American-made packaging without documentation or liner notes.  The strength of the series was in its unusual repertoire, often first recordings of the works in question.  I have two such sets, and here they are:

Cannabich: Symphony in B-Flat Major
Berlin Municipal Orchestra conducted by Walther Gmeindl
Recorded March 21, 1940
Deutsche Grammophon set DGS-8, three 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 50.88 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 23.27 MB)

Respighi: Concerto Gregoriano, for violin and orchestra
Paul Richartz with the Berlin Municipal Orchestra conducted by Robert Heger
Recorded April 18, 1943
Deutsche Grammophon set DGS-19, four 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 79.21 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 35.69 MB)

I was completely unfamiliar with either of these works before obtaining these sets.  The pleasing symphony by Mannheim-based composer Christian Cannabich (1731-1798) is unusual in that its scoring replaces the flutes and oboes of a Classical-period orchestra with clarinets.  The Respighi concerto has none of the flashiness usually associated with this composer; with its lyrical bent I'm strongly reminded of the Delius violin concerto.

It will be noticed that both of these recordings emanate from the Third Reich, and in fact, that was the case for all but three of the London-issued DGG sets.  As with the Vox issue of French Polydor records as an album set that I posted earlier this month, the set numbers of these two issues are visible only on the spines of the albums; however, these set numbers are given in various reference sources (among them, the World's Encyclopedia of Recorded Music, and David Hall's "Record Book" of 1950).  So it's possible to reconstruct a numerical listing of these sets:

1  Beethoven Prometheus Overture & Ballet (Dresden/van Kempen)
2  Reger Mozart Variations (Concertgebouw/van Beinum)
3  Respighi Feste Romane (BPO/de Sabata)
4  Mozart Divertimento in D, K. 251 (BPO/von Benda)
5  Mozart Milanese Quartets 1-4 (Dessauer Qt.)
6  Weber Der Freischutz (Berlin Municipal/Heger)
7  JC Bach Symphony in B-Flat (Berlin Municipal/Gmeindl)
8  Cannabich Symphony in B-Flat (Berlin Municipal/Gmeindl)
9  Cherubini Symphony in D (Leipzig Gewandhaus/Schmitz)
10 Von Einem Concerto for Orch. (Saxon State/Elmendorff)
11 Haydn Symphony No. 90 (Gewandhaus/Schmitz)
12 Kodaly Dances from Galanta (BPO/de Sabata)
13 Liszt Tasso (Berlin State/van Kempen)
14 Liszt Mazeppa (Berlin State/van Kempen)
15 Leopold Mozart Divertimento Militaire (Berlin Municipal/Gmeindl)
16 Ravel Piano Concerto in G (Monique Haas, Schmidt-Isserstedt)
17 Bruckner Symphony No. 8 (Hamburg PO/Jochum)
18 Reger Ballet Suite (Concertgebouw/van Beinum)
19 Respighi Concerto Gregoriano (Richartz, Berlin/Heger)
20 Stamitz Symphony in E-Flat (Berlin Municipal/Gmeindl)
21 Vivaldi Concerto Op, 3 no. 8 (Gewandhaus/Schmitz)
22 Wagenseil Symphony in D (Berlin Municipal/Gmeindl)
23 Strauss Tod und Verklärung (BPO/de Sabata)
24 Brahms Symphony No. 1 (Concertgebouw/Karajan)
25 Beethoven An die Ferne Geliebte (Heinrich Schlusnus)
26 JC Bach Harpsichord Concerto in A (Li Stadelmann)
27 Schumann Piano Quartet (Elly Ney Qt.)
28 JC Bach Symphony in D, Op.18 no. 4 (BPO/von Benda)
29 Strauss Don Quixote (Bavarian State/Strauss)
30 Strauss Ein Heldenleben (Bavarian State/Strauss)
31 not traced
32 Beethoven Egmont, incidental music (Wurttemburg/Leitner)

Only the Ravel, Bruckner and Beethoven Egmont sets are postwar recordings.  Probably this was inevitable given the conditions in Germany after the war.

The London Gramophone Corporation didn't import Deutsche Grammophon recordings into the USA for very long; by the early 1950's American Decca was releasing DGG material in its own classical LP series, and the yellow label became exchanged for a gold one.


  1. Hi Bryan - I have the Kodaly - de Sabata set, but didn't know of its provenance. Thanks for the information!

  2. Fascinating, thank you so much! I really look forward to hearing the Cannabich and must try to find more of the other early Classical discs... Best wishes, Nick

  3. Is there any explanation? it's the second time I try to download (Schubert's Symphonies the first) and the system advises that it's impossible to link with your blog...??

  4. Hi Bryan - thanks for these unusual DGG items and research on the 'London' albums. Look forward to hearing them this weekend. BTW I have the Wagenseil Symphony and can provide you with FLACs, either edited and restored and/or raw transfers of the sides. Happy to contribute if you are interested.

    1. Hey Bill, would be delighted to hear the Wagenseil symphony - thanks!

  5. Dear Bryan, I had the Cannabich Symphony in my blog from original 1940 pressing. If you'd like to see the origianl label, you can look here:

    There are also Sets No. 7 and 26 in this posting. The Reger Balett suite (Set No. 18) can be found in another posting here:

    These were all very good recordings, which were limited in circulation because of the war. After the war the DGG sometimes took elder recordings and published them again. I didn' know that these were also imported and that there were special sets for foreign countries. I think it is very good that by this way we collectors work together internationally and put together our informations!

    I am also looking forward to listen to other sets from this series, so keep on publishing! Especially the early recordings of the preclassical composers are quite fascinating to me.

  6. Oh my goodness! I want everything on that list!!! Bryan, thanks so much for your offerings. Your transfer work is exemplary.

  7. Hi Bryan.

    Would it be possible to renew the link for Respighi's Concerto Gregoriano please? It would be very much appreciated if you could.

    Thank you.

  8. Hello Bryan.

    Please, it would be great if you could renew the link for Respighi's "Concerto Gregoriano".

    Thanks very much.

    1. Thurston, I re-uploaded it back in November 2015, but only now discovered that I forgot to link to it....sorry! The link above should work now.

  9. Wow, what a finding!
    I always wanted to listen to the concerto gregoriano and now I find a historic recordings with such a fine conductor as Robert Heger here on your blog - many thanks!