|Produced in association with the American Composers Forum|
Wednesday, June 20
Mendelssohn and Richard Rodgers make the record
On today's date in 1948, about 50 members of the press were invited to New York's Waldorf-Astoria Hotel for a demonstration of a new kind of phonograph record.
A Columbia Records employee named Edward Wallerstein stood between a big stack of heavy, shellac 78-rpm albums, the standard for recorded music in those days, and a noticeably slimmer stack of vinyl discs, a new format which Wallerstein had dubbed "LPs" -- "long-playing" records that spun at 33 & 1/3 revolutions per minute.
Before 1948, if you wanted to buy a recording of a complete symphony or concerto, it meant the purchase of up to a dozen separate 78s, each playing only 4 minutes a side. In developing their new LP-record, Columbia's goal was to fit complete classical works onto a single disc. "I timed I don't know how many works in the classical repertory," recalled Wallerstein, "and came up with a figure of seventeen minutes to a side. This would enable about 90% of all classical music to be put on two sides of one record."
Columbia's first LP release was a recording of the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto, with Nathan Milstein the soloist and the New York Philharmonic conducted by Bruno Walter. The following year, Columbia struck pay dirt when it released the original cast album of a brand-new Broadway musical by Richard Rodgers. The 1949 Columbia LP of Mary Martin and Ezio Pinza singing the hit tunes from "South Pacific" became a best-seller.
By 1951 the LP-record itself proved a big hit: No one was making 78s anymore.
Music Played on Today's Program:
About the Program
Your support makes our online services possible. Contribute Now.