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The History Of The Record

A chronicle by Peter K. Burkowitz †

1926
  • At DGG Dr. Waldemar Hagemann replaces graphiting of wax discs by electro-chemical silvering to render their surfaces conductive to galvanization.
  • In Berlin Buhre employs Walter Schindler as precision engineer, then as head of the workshop.
1927
  • The Berlin Philharmonic under Wilhelm Furtwängler playing Beethoven´s 5th Symphony is recorded for the first time.
  • A contract on matrix exchange is concluded between DGG and the Brunswick-Balke-Collander Co. in Chicago, not only giving access to the most attractive jazz repertoire of the period, but also enabling the company to import electric record players from the USA.
1928
  • Beethoven´s Missa Solemnis (Berlin Philharmonic, Bruno Kittel) is recorded in its entirety on eleven 30 cm diameter discs. At Christmas a million copies of a 30 cm disc of the “Archangel Gabriel proclaiming the birth of Christ to the shepherds” are sold – an unheard-of success!
  • In Tokyo Nippon Polydor Chikounki K. K. is founded.
  This picture, recorded on January 9, 1929 shows a recording expedition to Persia. This picture, recorded on January 9, 1929 shows a recording expedition to Persia.
1929
  • Emil Berliner dies in Washington on August 3.
  • Victor Talking Machine Co. sells all rights and labels acquired from Berliner to RCA.
  • Headed by Herbert Borchardt and Erna Elchlepp, the Societée Phonographique Française Polydor S. A. is founded.
  • At this time the daily output of records in Hannover climbs to 83,000 copies from among a total production of 10 million discs.
  • DG AG takes an interest in KLANGFILM GmbH, expecting future benefits for their recording business, but due to a negative prognosis they already give up their shares in 1932.
  • During the twenties, the board of directors at DG AG consists of Dr. Gustav Stresemann, former Imperial Chancellor Fehrenbach, former Imperial Minister of Trade and Commerce Dr. von Raumer, Cyrus Thomas Pott (Union Corp., London), Gerrit Kreyenbroek (Teixeira, Amsterdam), Dr. Curt Sobernheim (Kommerz & Privatbank AG), Hans Arnhold (Gebr. Arnhold, Dresden/Berlin) and Martin Schiff.
1930 Due to the World Economic Crisis, which had already made itself felt in 1929, the company´s extensive foreign activities are concentrated in March in a Swiss holding, the Polyphon-Holding AG. In 1932 this holding is renamed Polydor Holding AG.
1931
  • The Gramophone Co. and Columbia Graphophone Co. merge to EMI (Electrical & Musical Industries). CG Co. and C. Lindström´s close connections in Germany are a first step towards the subsequent merger between Electrola and Lindström.
  • A common sound studio for EMI is established in Abbey Road, London, later gaining world fame by HMV classics recordings and The Beatles, persisting to this day. Top-flight specialists work in the newly built laboratories and workshops to guarantee the quality of EMI products worldwide.
  The studio “Villa” at Abbey Road The studio “Villa” at Abbey Road
  Abbey Road´s inner room layout Abbey Road´s inner room layout
  Allan Dower Blumlein Allan Dower Blumlein
  December 14: A. D. Blumlein, EMI Research Labs, applies for a patent on his fundamental stereo recording system, which is granted on June 14, 1933 under the number BP 394325. The 45°/45° cutting it suggests later becomes LP stereo record standard.
1932 On account of the catastrophic stagnation of the business in their plant, Polyphon Werke AG, Leipzig, merges with Deutschen Grammophon AG, soon to be followed by the total shutdown of the production in Leipzig.
1933
  • Deutsche Grammophon AG parts company with Polydor Holding, Basel, selling off all their shares in it.
  • Under pressure from international copyright companies and technical innovations, such as broadcasting, technical setups for large events, the sound film, later also tape recorders, the record companies form a protective association, the “International Federation of the Phonographic Industry” (IFPI), which soon gains considerable influence. Dr. Walter Betcke, manager at DGG, is its president from 1961 to 1964 (at a much later stage).
1934 Due to the depression the prestigious premises in Berlin, Markgrafenstraße, are abandoned in favor of modest offices in Jerusalemer Straße 65-66.
1936 Duhme and A. Schaaf (DGG) provide the first systematic classification and quantitative analysis of record noises.
1937 DGG´s principal shareholders emigrate to escape growing racial defamation, trying to sell their shares. An interim board of directors manages to bring about a capital merger as a first step towards recovery and enables a consortium of Deutsche Bank and Telefunken Gesellschaft für drahtlose Telegraphie mbH to start a re-development programme by liquidating DG AG and by founding Deutsche Grammophon GmbH. Telefunken is interested in this new company because their own Telefunken Platte GmbH, founded in 1932, has no production plant. This cooperation prepares the subsequent re-emergence of DGG mbH, too, especially by adding to it the total production of Telefunken Platte in Hannover. This means that the ultra-modern Telefunken recording technology is there to be shared insofar as it is not curtailed by temporary deficits.
1938
  • Measures to rebuild Berlin (by Albert Speer, among others) induce DG AG to abandon its studios on Lützowstraße, and to move to the former Zentraltheater in the Alte Jakobstraße. Much better acoustic and technical conditions than in their previous location make up for this change, initially seen as a form of humiliation. This is where a new high-class repertoire is recorded with works played by BPO and the State Opera Orchestra. The number of conductors already under contract (Paul van Kempen, Carl Schuricht, Richard Strauss) is joined by young Herbert von Karajan, who produces his first recordings ever in the new studio. Soloists performing there are Wilhelm Kempff, Elly Ney, Alfred Sittard, Georg Kulenkampff, Erna Berger, Tiana Lemnitz, Viorica Ursuleac, Walther Ludwig, Julius Patzak, Helge Roswaenge, Heinrich Schlusnus, Franz Völker, and others.
  • These top-flight productions are traded under the label „Grammophon Meisterklasse“.
  • DGG´s headquarters are soon transferred to larger rooms in the Ringbahnstraße 63 in Berlin-Tempelhof.
  H. v. Karajan at a recording in the studio at Alte Jakobstraße, Berlin, in 1938 H. v. Karajan at a recording in the studio at Alte Jakobstraße, Berlin, in 1938
1941
  • A major contract between Siemens and AEG assigns all Telefunken shares to AEG, and all DG shares to Siemens, thereby turning Siemens into the sole proprietor of DGG, a move which proves to introduce one of the most successful periods in company history. Dr. Ernst von Siemens and board director Dr. Adolf Lohse subsequently take an avid interest in everything that happens at DGG.
  • The unabbreviated “St Matthew´s Passion” appears on eighteen 30 cm discs right in the middle of the war, their matrices carried to Japan by a blockade-runner submarine. Until the end of the war, 17,000 copies are sold in Japan.
1942 At DGG Dr. Emil Duhme (Siemens) introduces vacuum silvering to replace electro silvering. Following the recommendation of Hans Domizlaff, Siemens' advisor on matters of style and labels, all records produced in this way are given new imprints:
1943
  • Classical music gets pale blue labels, called Siemens Spezial (experimental record, using the new silvering process of the electro-acoustic research lab; light music is given a red label, Siemens Polydor (produced by electro-acoustic methods meant to provide a high degree of purity of sound and an extended frequency response.
  • Several top-flight productions, such as Beethoven´s 7th Symphony (State Opera Orchestra Berlin, Karajan) and Don Quixote by and under Richard Strauss, Bavarian State Orchestra, are produced in this manner.
  • On January 1, Siemens sends qualified engineer Helmut Haertel to DGG to become their deputy manager.
  • The Berlin studio and large sections of the Hannover plant fall victim to bombing during the last years of the war. Haertel and Blanke organize the work of rebuilding them, so that a makeshift production can soon be resumed by using a number of presses that had remained intact somehow.
1945 The British Occupying Council authorizes DGG to employ 50 extra staff for cleaning-up operation. First stopgap earnings are made by direct sale to members of the occupation army. Together with engineer Thieme (Siemens, Hannover), P. K. Burkowitz, newly assigned to the electro-acoustic lab on August 16, 1945 for a wage of 50,- Reichsmark per month (a mere pocketmoney), starts building a makeshift mixing desk to enable the company to record music again. The desk, resembling V35 of RGG, is finished early in 1946, relying on available components, like shielded cables, which have to be extricated at night from deserted flak shelters.
1946
  • In May, G. Schöttler and A. Schaaf (DGG) introduce their version of extended play (modulation-controlled groove distance, patented on December 28, 1948).
  • Heinrich Keilholz contributes his fundamental recording experience, gained during his years at RGG (Reichsrundfunkgesellschaft) by working as head of the recording department at DGG. He will carry on doing so until 1966. Using the new makeshift mixing desk (3 channel controls, 1 ouput control, level indicator with 10 ms attack time on a 40 dB scale) and two miraculously preserved Neumann “bottles” (a pressure gradient capsule and an M7), he makes his first recordings at the Beethoven Hall in Hannover, and he is quite happy with the result.
  • When the ban on travelling is lifted, Burkowitz returns to his hometown Berlin on August 31 to work for RIAS as sound engineer. His main contacts there are: Albert Pösniker (Technical Director), Otto Scheffler and Jörg Hinkel (technical development and construction), Prof. Elsa Schiller (head of the classics department), Fried Walter and Hans Carste (heads of the light music department), Werner Müller (conductor of the dance music orchestra), Heinz Opitz, Fritz Ribbentrop, Alfred Schmidt, Helmut Hertlein and Helmut Krüger (sound engineers).
  • At DGG Biers and A. Schaaf start using pressing materials without any filling or grinding additives.
  • From this time onwards, DGG produces all its recordings by using magnetic tape (the first post-war models from AEG).
1948
  • The logo “His Master´s Voice”, no longer serviceable in international business, is sold to the previous owner, The Gramophone Co and its German subsidiary Electrola.
  • Musicologist Dr. Fred Hamel starts building his Archiv Produktion, which will soon gain worldwide attention and fame.
  • In the USA rival Columbia introduces its first 30 cm 33⅓ rpm longplay records in vinyl. This leads to a format competition with RCA, pinning its hopes on a 17 cm, 45 rpm model.
1949 The combination of the company logo Siemens and the record labels, recognized as unsuitable, is abandoned. Following Domizlaff´s suggestion, two new labels are introduced: the yellow label Deutsche Grammophon Gesellschaft for classical music and the red label Polydor for light music.
1950
  • Dr. Hans-Werner Steinhausen from Telefunken-Platte GmbH becomes managing director of the technical department of DGG.
  • The production of light music is transferred from Hannover to Hamburg, where it resides on the premises of Studio Hamburg GmbH, with Alfred Schmidt as head of the light music recording activities.
  • DGG makes its first stereo tape recordings for comparative tests, also testing their usefulness on records.