Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Symphonies at 16⅔ R.P.M.

This one is, frankly, little more than a curiosity, and until about a week ago, I had forgotten that I even owned it.  But my memory was piqued upon seeing this YouTube video featuring a rare record changer, in which the presenter states that it's difficult to find a 16-rpm record that isn't of "Christmas music, crappy music, or talking books."  Well, Dvořák's "New World" Symphony, though it might be overplayed, certainly isn't "crappy music," and his comment triggered a memory of buying, some twenty years ago in a used book shop, this and three other symphonic works on 7-inch 16-rpm records for a dollar each.  A bit of searching around the house produced the little records in question, all by anonymous performers, in a short-lived series designed as supplementary to the producing company's main business, which was, in fact, "talking books."  It isn't hard to see why the series was so short-lived.  The slower speed really doesn't lend itself well to music, especially when pressed on such inferior material as Audio Book was using at the time (1956) - the same type of cheap plastic that Columbia was pressing its 45s in.  I confess that my main reason for offering this transfer here is to find out if anyone out there knows anything about these records, and especially what source Audio Book may have been drawing from for the recordings.  Any guesses as to the identity of the orchestra and conductor are welcome!

Dvořák: Symphony No. 9 in E minor, Op. 95 ("From the New World")

Anonymous orchestra and conductor
Issued in 1956
Audio Book Music Series WG-805, one 7-inch 16-rpm record
Link (FLAC files, 113.12 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 52.92 MB)

The Audio Book Company, incidentally, is still very much with us, and is still purveying many of the same "talking book" recordings they first offered as small 16-rpm records in the 1950s, only now as cassettes and CDs here at their website.  One that I have particularly fond memories of is Marvin Miller's virtuosic reading of Carlo Collodi's "Pinocchio" in unabridged form on 4 CDs.  I had it in the early 70s as a set of five 16-rpm discs, purchased from the same shop where I bought 78-rpm Young Peoples Records - the Educational Record Center in Decatur, Ga.


  1. Thanks for this. Is it possibly the Georg Singer recording on Remington? I don't have it to hand to check. Max

    1. I don't have that one either. The only one I was able to check the Audio Book against was Gerhard Pfluger's, on Music Treasures of the World, and it isn't that one. But a Remington would be a good candidate for a ripoff, or one of the Oberstein labels, like Royale.

  2. Eastern European orchestras.
    The same candidates for the All-Disc Music Company that offered 25 or 50 selections on a side at either 33 or 16 RPM 12 inch LP and sold in those super-flimsy jackets all with the same framed artwork on the covers - and the early Readers Digest LP box sets and on and on and on.

  3. I might have the answer for you. I suspected the recording came from Eli Oberstein's catalog of classical music. He got his recordings from German broadcast tapes. I found a copy of Dvořák's "New World" Symphony on one of Oberstein's record labels issued around the same time as this release. I compared the second movement to the recording you have here, and found the were identical. I was able to identify the orchestra as the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Oswald Kabasta. Anonymous was right in his statement that it was recorded by a Eastern European orchestra.

    1. Thanks! I have another friend who also suspected it might be the Kabasta performance. Now I have another puzzle for you: do you happen to have a Royale recording of Prokofiev's "Peter and the Wolf," and if so, could you compare it to my upload posted Feb. 10, 2011? That was from a kiddie record, abridged to fit a six-minute time span, and rather clumsily done - and I've always suspected it was edited from an existing complete performance. It's a Cricket record, and I understand that the earliest of these issues derived from Oberstein material.