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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Composers Datebook for June 20, 2012


Produced in association with the American Composers Forum

Wednesday, June 20

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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:

Felix Mendelssohn (1809 –-1847):
Violin Concerto in e
Nathan Milstein, violin;
New York Philharmonic;
Bruno Walter, cond.
Sony 64459
Richard Rodgers (1902 -1 1979):
South Pacific
Ezio Pinza and Mary Martin;
orchestra; Lehman Engel, cond.
Sony 53327

Additional Information:

Edward Wallerstein on the invention of the LP

About the Program
Composers Datebook is a daily program about composers of the past and present, hosted by John Zech.

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