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ARSCLIST  December 2008

ARSCLIST December 2008

Subject:

Re: MELODIYA DISCOGRAPHY - was Medtner playing his 3rd Piano Concerto

From:

Michael Biel <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Mon, 22 Dec 2008 22:51:04 -0500

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (441 lines)

Look, I don't want to ruffle some feathers, but we need to set the 
record straight.  Every posting, including Steve's, has a lot of 
mis-information.  Here is the scoop, and this comes from several trips 
to Russia, interviews with record company executives including the 
President of Melodiya, tours of the pressing plants and the State Sound 
Archive, discussions with the several of the most knowledgeable 
archivists and collectors in Russia and Ukraine, several file drawers 
full of documents, periodicals, and catalogs, my collection of several 
thousand Soviet records, and observations of tens of thousands of other 
Soviet records.

Dave Lewis was correct in saying "MK stands for Mezhdunarodnaya Kniga" 
but that is where it ends.  That translates to International Books, and 
as I posted before, MK is the EXPORT AGENCY for books, records, and 
philatelic postage stamps. Uncle Dave then said about MK "which is the 
name of a large chain of bookstores in Russia."  Nope.  Book stores in 
the USSR were called Dom Kniga, which means House of Books.  I shopped 
in several of them.  Record stores in the USSR from 1964 on were called 
Melodiya, and I also shopped in several of them.  I have Melodiya's 25th 
anniversary book which has pictures of about 25 Melodiya shops all over 
the USSR.  MK never had anything to do with selling anything inside the 
USSR, they were only an export agency.  The book publishers published 
books and MK decided which ones to export and which ones not to export.  
The record company run by the Ministry of Culture published records and 
MK decided which ones to export and which ones to not export.  For many 
years MK chose not to export any Soviet "pop" records which is why you 
do not find any Soviet rock 'n' roll in those catalogs Steve Smolian 
has.  You have no idea how many Soviet records that exist but were not 
exported.  You have to go to Russia to find them or have a collector 
send them to you.  MK is also the agency which contracts with foreign 
record companies for doing issues of Soviet recordings on foreign 
labels.  This explains the confusion that Alan Livingston had when he 
wrote the notice on the jackets of the Angel/Melodiya issues.  He 
contracted with MK for the masters in the Melodiya catalog.  MK provided 
Angel with the masters, but did not actually produce the original masters.

Steve is correct in saying "Records and books were sold internally 
through state stores- there were no others."  But he is wrong in 
thinking that MK had anything to do with those stores.   MK did contract 
with bookstores in foreign countries, and usually selected only one 
store or agency in each country.  It is why Soviet records were usually 
only available in a bookstore -- and only one bookstore per country --  
instead of being distributed to all record stores.  (The U.S. and Canada 
were unusual in that each had two such bookstores chosen.)  

Steve is also incorrect in saying "MK was the Soviet Russian book 
publishing house . . . "  It was not a publishing house.  It was the 
export agency which exported what other companies published.  He is 
probably correct that MK  had ". . . a seat on the Politburo. The 
Commissar was a lady whose name I don't recall at the moment. She had 
held that position for a long while, as I recall.  Books, films and 
records fell under her purview."   But this was to control the export of 
things that the government wanted exported, but restrict the things that 
were published for internal consumption that the Politburo did not want 
exported to other countries.  Book publishers were not allowed to export 
books directly  themselves.  Only MK could export books, but they 
exported books published by other companies. 

Steve is quite wrong when he says "Melodia was at first a label for 
external to the USSR distribution though it later served other 
administrative purposes. Remember the sprawling union covering 11 time 
zones. Some other labels were linked to specific pressing plants."  It 
was the other way around.  From the beginning of the Soviet record 
industry shortly after the Revolution there was a central agency, The 
Ministry of Culture, which ran the central decisions of what would be 
recorded.  As I've mentiond in my prior posting, until 1964 each 
pressing plant had their own trademark labels although most of what they 
pressed was decided in Moscow.  Except for very ethnic records of local 
interest only, all releases were pressed at many different plants.  The 
same records with the same numbers would have many different labels 
depending on the pressing plant.  I have scans of one perticular 78 with 
about ten different plant labels. 

So what was Melodiya?  In 1964 the Ministry of Culture decided to unify 
all these different label trademarks into one, and that was Melodiya.  
 From that point on, EVERY Soviet record had a Melodiya label, and 
usually the pressing plant name was included on the label below the 
trademark above the spindle hole.  Melodiya never "was at first a label 
for external to the USSR".  It was immediately used for domestic and 
export records.  Where Steve is confused is that for a year or two 
before 1964 an experiment was made to have all export copies pressed 
with MK labels.  These did not have the required markings for sale 
inside the Soviet Union such as the GOST  numbers, but instead they said 
"Made In the USSR" which domestic pressings didn't need to have.   
Group/type numbers and price are also usually omitted from export 
copies, as were pressing plant names on MK labels. 

Dave Lewis made two observations: "At one time they were probably part 
of Melodiya, but at some point they became a separate concern. Some 
releases on the Czech Multisonic label originated with recordings from 
MK."   I think I have explained the relationship of MK and Melodiya, but 
must emphasize that Ministry of Culture ran the record industry and MK 
was the export agency.  MK also arranged for the foreign release of 
Soviet recordings, and that included countries within the Soviet bloc 
like Czechoslovakia. 

Steve observed: "One way to tell if record labels were meant for export 
is if they bear a language other than Russian, either only or also. Some 
are in Ukranian only, for example, and were for sale only in that area." 
   This is partially correct. Folk music and spoken word of regions 
inside the USSR often had labels in the language of the region along 
with the title in Russian. This is especially seen with Riga and Tblisi 
pressings.  The real way to tell is this.  Any product (including toys 
and tosters) made and sold inside the USSR needed to have a Government 
Industrial Standard number, usually a GOST number.  (GOST in cyrillic 
looks like "roct".)  THAT is how you determine if a record was pressed 
for export or domestic sale.   But Steve is correct that domestic 
pressings rarely had non-USSR languages like English, French, German, 
Hungarian, Spanish on them.  For much of the 50s thru the late 70s, 
export labels with foreign languages on them had a letter in parentheses 
after the matrix number.  (a) was English, (B) was Hungarian, and (H) 
was German.   These were also sometimes on the sleeves.  They have no 
discographical significance.  But usually there is at least a one-line 
title in Russian before the foreign language. 


Roger and Allison Kulp wrote:
> I have at least one MK pressing,in a US cover with Cyrillic writing on the label.
>
>   
Is the writing all in Cyrillic?  What is the record number, and is there 
a letter in parentheses after it?  Is the cover the red or blue one with 
the musical staffs all over it and an address Connoisseur Record Corp, 
160 Passaic Avenue, Kearny, New Jersey?

Larry Friedman might have been referring to this series: "MK also pressed a number of Melodiya originals for the US market in the 1950s and '60s. For a while it was part of the Artia-Bruno-Colosseum group.
I always thought of it as a branch of the Melodiya tree."  The records with the Artia-Bruno-Colosseum labels were American pressings of masters licensed to this American group.  The Connoisseur/MK series was a short-lived experiment around 1962-63 of importing a selected list of unjacketed pressings and having Connoisseur distribute them to record stores around the U.S.  It was a failure because the covers were a dreadful throwback to the first Columbia Lps, the selected list were all of older mono records (with one or two stereos thrown in) of lesser interest recordings not chosen in previous master-licenses, and were pressed on noisy vinyl with visible grain on the surfaces.  


 > This continued into the 70s.The 70s ones were lovely 180 gram or so 
pressings,
 > in red covers with a Tchaikovsky? score on the cover.    Roger

If you are referring to the Connoisseur series, if you found them in the 
70s they were probably just remainders.  Sam Goody was selling them for 
99 cents for years.  Any sample numbers of these that you think are 
lovely pressings?  They were heavy, but as I indicated, were on grainy 
vinyl.  (There can be one exception to this.  One of the other reasons 
the experiment failed is that Connoisseur ran out of the good records 
and had a hard time convincing the Soviets to repress those.  In the 
USSR if a record sold out it would rarely get repressed for until 
several years passed, if ever.  Western companies work with a different 
philosophy.  I do have two sets where the records are American pressings 
although the labels are the same and still say Made In The USSR.  
They're easy to spot.  The matrix numbers are faintly hand engraved with 
the American set number and the side number -- with the word "Side" in 
ENGLISH -- instead of the properly stamped Soviet matrix number with a 
Cyrillic D.  Some of the American sides even show evidence of the "Audio 
Matrix" stamp, although it looks like they tried to eliminate it.  I 
have two copies of Borodin's Prince Igor, one with Soviet pressings and 
the other with American.  My Rimsky-Korsakov Snow Maiden is Soviet, but 
my Tschaikovsky Snow Maiden is American.   The American pressings are 
thinner, so are not the heavy pressings you mention the Soviet ones are.)  

> Also the MK pressings that were exported to the US,in the 60s,and
> 70s were w-a-a-a-y better than the ones made for domestic consumption.  Roger


Now  I  r-e-a-l-l-y want to know what records you have like this!!  Blue 
label MK????   Soviet pressings?   Soviet vinyl didn't improve greatly 
until the very late 70s, and was very, very good from that era on to the 
end in the mid-90s.  Having bought Soviet records in Russia as well as 
Hungary, Austria, Germany, Australia, Canada, and the U.S., I see no 
real difference between domestic and export pressings within each 
different era.  The JACKETS, yes!  They are quite better if intended for 
export, and better still if you bought them in Hungary since the 
Hungarians printed sleeves whenever they had the chance.   All the 
pressings are usually pretty good once the Melodiya name goes across in 
a straight line. 
 
> Anyone ever seen that tri-color "Melodija" label,that was only used in 1961-2 in Latvia,I think,maybe it was Estonia.I have this 10" on this label,of an unauthorized issue of an RCA Heifitz/Piatagorsky/Rubenstein trio recording.   Roger
>
>
>   
This label is from the Riga (Latvia) plant.  You will see a phrase which 
starts with Rigas.  That phrase is the pressing plant identifier.  There 
is no reason to expect that this record was pressed only in Riga.  That 
label postdates 1961-62.  Prior to 1964 the records from that plant were 
usually labeled "Ligo".  


Mike Biel   [log in to unmask]

====+++++
>
> --- On Mon, 12/22/08, Steven Smolian <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> From: Steven Smolian <[log in to unmask]>
> Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] MELODIYA DISCOGRAPHY - was Medtner playing his 3rd Piano Concerto
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Date: Monday, December 22, 2008, 3:38 PM
>
> Not quite.
>
> MK was the Soviet Russian book publishing house with a seat on the
> Politburo.  The Commissar was a lady whose name I don't recall at the
> moment. She had held that position for a long while, as I recall.  
>
> Books, films and records fell under her purview. Records and books were sold
> internally through state stores- there were no others.    
>
> Melodia was at first a label for external to the USSR distribution though it
> later served other administrative purposes. Remember the sprawling union
> covering 11 time zones. Some other labels were linked to specific pressing
> plants. 
>  
>
> One way to tell if record labels were meant for export is if they bear a
> language other than Russian, either only or also. Some are in Ukranian only,
> for example, and were for sale only in that area.  
>
> It's a pretty confusing area of study.  Politics and propaganda played a
> huge part in how it operated.  
>
> The earliest numbers in the continual 78 series go back to c. 1933.  Each
> side was given a separate number and over the life of a successful side, it
> may have had a number of obverse companions.  
>
> I used to work for the Russian music publisher and have a drawer full of
> related catalogs, supplements and other paper.  Someday....
>
> Steve Smolian 
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List
> [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Dave Lewis
> Sent: Monday, December 22, 2008 5:09 PM
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] MELODIYA DISCOGRAPHY - was Medtner playing his 3rd
> Piano Concerto
>
> MK stands for Mezhdunarodnaya Kniga, which is the name of a large chain of
> bookstores in Russia. At one time they were probably part of Melodiya, but
> at some point they became a separate concern. Some releases on the Czech
> Multisonic label originated with recordings from MK.
>
> Uncle Dave Lewis
> AMG/Macrovision
> Ann Arbor, MI
>
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List
> [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Thomas Stern
> Sent: Monday, December 22, 2008 4:59 PM
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] MELODIYA DISCOGRAPHY - was Medtner playing his 3rd
> Piano Concerto
>
> Does this include MK releases?
> What is the relationship of MK to Melodiya? (I've seen both labels, and
> some
> others - possibly relating to where pressed, but assume they are all state
> owned and part of the same Soviet agency???)
> Thanks,  Thomas.
>
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List
> [mailto:[log in to unmask]]On Behalf Of Larry Friedman
> Sent: Monday, December 22, 2008 4:21 PM
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Medtner playing his 3rd Piano Concerto
>
>
> There is "Melodiya: A Soviet Russian L.P. Discography" by John R.
> Bennett
> (1981, Greenwood Press), ISBN 0-313-22596-6. It is a wonderful source of
> information for all classical releases of this label. There are plenty of
> omissions and mistakes, but there is no other book like it, all 832 pages of
> it. Unfortunately it is out of print, and prices for new copies go from
> US$145.51 to $220.38. Used copies are even more expensive, from $176.52 to
> $316.22.
>
> -Larry
>
>
>
>
>   
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List
>>     
> [mailto:[log in to unmask]]
>   
>> On Behalf Of Roger and Allison Kulp
>> Sent: Monday, December 22, 2008 3:21 PM
>> To: [log in to unmask]
>> Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Medtner playing his 3rd Piano Concerto
>>
>>  Has anybody done a definitive discography and history,of classical Lps
>>     
> in
> the Soviet
>   
>> era ?
>>
>> In any language besides Russian/Cyrillic,that is.
>>
>> If so,I would like to know author,title,etc. so I could try and track down
>>     
> a copy.I did
>   
>> recently come across such a book for sale on the web,for Russian 78s,but
>>     
> it was in
>   
>> Russian/Cyrillic.
>>
>>
>>     
>                                                         
> Roger
>   
>>
>>
>> --- On Sat, 12/20/08, Michael Biel <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>> From: Michael Biel <[log in to unmask]>
>> Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Medtner playing his 3rd Piano Concerto
>> To: [log in to unmask]
>> Date: Saturday, December 20, 2008, 10:58 PM
>>
>> [log in to unmask] wrote:
>>     
>>> If you could send or post a scan someone could probably read it for
>>>       
> you...
>   
>>> joe salerno
>>>
>>>
>>> Punto wrote:
>>>       
>>>> Apologies for the discographic question, but I have exhausted my
>>>>         
> other
>   
>> resources at hand.
>>     
>>>> I have in hand an LP that is of Soviet origin, but not
>>>>         
> Melodiya/MK or
>   
>> anything that I have seen previously. The acronym of the label name
>>     
> appears to
>   
>> be something along the lines of BCT (with the "t" looking more
>>     
> like a
>   
>> gibbet).
>>
>> Before 1964 when the Melodiya trademark was developed for nationwide use,
>>     
> each
>   
>> pressing plant had their own label and trademarks even though they were
>>     
> all
>   
>> mainly pressing the same records.  This one is a two-tone blue label,
>>     
> right?
>   
>> BCG stands for Vsyesayuznaya Studya Gramzapese or  All-Union Studio Record
>> Factory, and I think it was the newly established Moscow plant around 1962
>>     
> which
>   
>> later became known as Gramzapis.  This factory seems to also be the source
>>     
> of
>   
>> the export pressings with the MK label around 1963 which were never
>>     
> available
>   
>> inside the USSR since MK (International Books)  was the export agency of
>>     
> books,
>   
>> records, and postage stamps.  Most pre-Melodiya LPs came from the Aprelvsk
>> factory (sometimes the AZ torch logo or CCCP/USSR), Leningrad (sometimes
>>     
> Akkord
>   
>> or LZ) in cyrillic), and Riga (sometimes Ligo).
>>     
>>>> The catalog number is 06501/06502. I have been able to decipher
>>>>         
> that
>   
>> it is Medtner playing his Piano Concerto no. 3, but I can't convince
>>     
> myself
>   
>> that the rest stands for "Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Issay
>> Dobrowen", which is the only version that I have turned up
>>     
> elsewhere.Anyone
>   
>> out there (Mike Biel, maybe?) that can tell me what I've got. If this
>>     
> it
>   
>> indeed a Russian pressing of the Abbey Road Philharmonia recording, it has
>>     
> done
>   
>> a pretty good job of overlaying it with a layer of acoustic sludge/fudge.
>>     
>>>> Thanks,   Peter Hirsch
>>>>
>>>>
>>>>         
>> All my Soviet books and guides are buried in disarray right now which is
>>     
> why I
>   
>> haven't yet answered the Paul Robeson question over on 78-L from a few
>>     
> days
>   
>> ago.  It is possible it is that British recording because they did do
>>     
> things
>   
>> like that.  When I unearth the books and magazines, I'll look to see
>>     
> if
>   
>> there are any indications of what this is.
>>
>> Mike Biel  [log in to unmask]
>>
>>     

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