MASTERWORKS HERITAGE "MILESTONES IN COLUMBIA'S HISTORY" 1902 - 1982

1902

The first single-sided disc to appear in the Columbia Phonograph Corporation catalog is a recording of Sousa's "The Stars and Stripes Forever" march by the U.S. Marine Band; the first double-sided record also features marches - "Mascot of the Troop" march, performed by the Prince's Band, and "Invincible Eagle" march, performed by the Columbia Band.

1903

grand opera series
Sony Music Photo Archives
Columbia issues its Grand Opera Records, the first such recordings made in the United States. They arrive on the market only weeks before Victor's first Red Seal discs.

 

 
 
1906

Columbia debuts three technical innovations: the first double-sided disc record; the first 3-ply laminated record; and, in conjunction with Guglielmo Marconi (inventor of the radio), the first flexible plastic disc record. That same year, it launches its "Symphony Series" (Banner Label) on 10- and 12-inch discs, devoted to classical vocal and instrumental artists. Lillian Nordica makes her first records for Columbia.

1911

Pianist Joseph Hofmann and soprano Mary Garden make their first Columbia recordings.

1912

Renowned Austrian conductor Felix Weingartner conducts his first recordings with the Columbia Symphony Orchestra. Eugene Ysayee makes his first Columbia Recordings.

1916

Columbia makes the first recording of an American orchestra, the Chicago Symphony under Frederick Stock. The New York Philharmonic and Cincinnati orchestras begin recording shortly thereafter.

1917

Percy Grainger makes his first Columbia Records.

1919

First "Nation's Forum" recordings are issued. In the days before radio broadcasting, these discs gave citizens an opportunity to hear their leaders and other important political figures discuss issues of the day.

Soprano Rosa Ponselle makes her first Columbia records.

1923

Columbia "New Process" records, made of a higher grade surface shellac, offer significantly smoother, quieter playing surfaces. That same year, the Masterworks Series is announced, presenting extended orchestral and instrumental works issued in multi-pocket albums.

The first Masterworks Album is Brahms' First Symphony conducted by Weingartner. The series eventually extends to nearly a thousand numbers before 78 rpm discs are discontinued in the early fifties.

1925

Western Electric's electrical recording process is licensed by both Columbia and Victor. Columbia's first electrical issue is 50013-D, a 12-inch disc by the Associated Glee Clubs of America singing "John Peel" and "Adeste Fidelis" (the latter now on MHK 63309).

1926

George Gershwin records solo piano arrangements of four songs from his hit Broadway show, Oh, Kay!

Columbia purchases the General Phonograph Company for its studios at New York's Union Square, and also acquires its catalog of European recordings made by Odeon-Parlophone.

1927

The New York Symphony Orchestra, soon to be merged with the Philharmonic, records Brahms' Second Symphony and Ravel's Ma mere l'oye under its conductor, Walter Damrosch.

The Beethoven Centennial is celebrated with recordings of his symphonies, sonatas and quartets.

1928

The Schubert Centennial is celebrated in the same large-scale fashion as Beethoven's. From American Columbia come important recordings of selected songs (Kipnis, Braslau, Alsen), the Piano Sonata in A, (Myra Hess) , the Trio, Op. 99 (Hess, D'Aranyi, Salmond) and the Quintet (London Quartet & Horace Britt), in addition, two Quartets (Opp. 29 and 125, No. 1) are recorded by the Musical Art Quartet, the forerunner of the Juilliard String Quartet.

An abridged recording of Tristan und Isolde, made at the 1928 Bayreuth Festival, is issued on nineteen discs. The price ($28.50) was equal to or the better part of an average weekly salary.

Paul Whiteman's Orchestra, then under exclusive contract and with its own label (the famous "Potato Head"), records Gershwin's recently premiered Concerto in F, the first piece of American music to be issued on three discs in an album.

1930

The Columbia Phonograph Company is sold to Grigsby-Grunow, a radio manufacturer. As the depression deepens, it is eventually acquired by the American Record Corporation.

1931-33

The Depression and the free programming available on radio almost bring the phonograph record to an end. Domestic popular recording activity is nearly halted and classical recording entirely so; all further classical discs are made from matrices imported from European sources. Columbia introduces Royal Blue records.

1934

Classical recordings resume on an occasional basis as both Columbia and Victor begin a slow recovery from their commercial near-death experience.

1936

Columbia begins mastering at 78 rpm on cellulose acetate lacquer recording discs (first called "Instant-o-tiles") in place of beeswax, the traditional material.

1937

Maurice Evans records scenes from Shakespeare's Richard II. The first in an important series of dramatic and literary works to be recorded by Columbia over the next three decades.

1939

Columbia Phonograph Co. purchased for $750,000.00 by its own creation of a decade earlier, the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS). CBS President, William F. Paley, installs Edward Wallerstein as president of the new Columbia Recording Corp. (CRC). Wallerstein initiates mastering at 33 1/3 rpm on 16 1/2-inch lacquer discs with the intention of developing a long-playing record.

Columbia, directly challenging Victor in the U. S. market, cuts the price of its records in half, signs a large number of artists (including The Busch and Budapest Quartets, The New York Philharmonic, Cleveland, Chicago and Minneapolis Symphony Orchestras, Walter Gieseking, Rudolf Serkin, Egon Petri and Oscar Levant, Zino Francescatti, Gregor Piatigorsky, Paul Robeson, Lili Pons, Bidu Sayao, Rise Stevens and Lotte Lehmann) and embarks on an ambitious program of recording, interrupted only by the "Petrillo Ban" of 1942-44.

Goddard Lieberson hired as a staff producer for Columbia Masterworks.

1940

First recording of Mahler First Symphony (MSO/Mitropoulos); first recordings by Igor Stravinsky (Petrouchka Suite and Sacre with NYPO); Bela Bartok records his Contrasts (with Benny Goodman and Joseph Szigeti).

1941

First Columbia recordings by Paul Robeson

1942

sir thomas beecham
Sony Music Photo Archives
Sir Thomas Beecham records for Columbia with the New York Philharmonic.

An industry-wide dispute with The American Federation of Musicians (AFM) brings recording activity for a halt for 2 1/2 years (the "Petrillo Ban").

1943

Prevented from recording union musicians, Columbia records Shakespeare's Othello with a company headed by Paul Robeson in the title role.

1944

Columbia signs the Philadelphia Orchestra, beginning an association that continues until 1968. The "Petrillo Ban" ends and Columbia resumes recording in November.

1945

VE Day commemorated with the release of Norman Corwin's On a Note of Triumph, originally broadcast on CBS Radio.

Eugene Ormandy's recording of the Franck Symphony in D minor with the Philadelphia Orchestra becomes a best-seller.

Issac Stern
Sony Music Photo Archives
A young American violinist, Isaac Stern, makes his first Columbia records.

1947

Sensing a pent-up demand for higher fidelity and longer playing time, Columbia officially begins to develop a long-playing record.

 
 
tucker
Sony Music Photo Archives
Tenor Richard Tucker and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir make their first Columbia records.

1948

Columbia introduces the 33 1/3-rpm long-playing microgroove record (LP): Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto, with Nathan Milstein, the New York Philharmonic Orchestra and Bruno Walter (available on CD: SMK 64459)

Columbia issues Finian's Rainbow (OL 4062) in June with the first group of LP releases. It was the first of the label's famous series of "original cast" recordings of Broadway musicals.

1949

Columbia's new 30th Street Studios in New York City become the venue for most vocal, instrumental and orchestral recording. First tape masters are made late in that year.

Original cast recording of South Pacific (OL 4180) released simultaneously on LP and 78s.

Columbia releases "I Can Hear It Now," the first in a series of retrospective, semi-documentary glances at the 20th Century through recorded examples, narrated by Edward R. Murrow.

1950

Columbia begins regular recording on magnetic tape.

The first LP recording of a play, Shaw's Don Juan in Hell , directed by Charles Laughton, is released on 2 discs.

1951

Porgy & Bess
Sony Music Photo Archives
Columbia records a complete version of Gershwin's Porgy and Bess. Some portions of the score are heard for the first time.

Production of 78 rpm classical discs ceases.

 
 
 
1952

Columbia releases Beethoven Symphonies Nos. 2 and 4 with Bruno Walter and the NYPO, containing over sixty minutes of music.

Columbia Literary Series introduced, featuring famous authors reading from their own works.

1953

360
Sony Music Photo Archives
Columbia introduces the "360" model phonograph at $139.50. The first attempt at "higher-fidelity" reproduction in a single "compact" package.

Columbia introduces the Epic label, with first selection number LC 3001.

A panel of distingushed composers and musicians brought together by Goddard Lieberson assist in the creation the Columbia's Modern American Music Series.

1955

Glenn Gould records Bach's Goldberg Variations.

1956

Original cast recording of My Fair Lady.

Stereo tape recording begun late in the year.

Leonard Bernstein records Handel's Messiah.

1958

Columbia releases its first stereo Masterworks LP, Respighi's Pines of Rome and Fountains of Rome, with Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra.

Schuyler Chapin becomes director of the CBS Masterworks, a post he would hold until 1964.

1960

Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic begin their ground-breaking cycle of Mahler symphony recordings with the Fourth Symphony.

1962

Vladimir Horowitz signs an exclusive contract with Columbia Masterworks.

1964

Guitarist John Williams makes his first recordings for Columbia Masterworks.

1965

First Odyssey LPs are released. This series featured innovative and unusual repertoire at a very low price.

1968

Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra stop recording exclusively for Columbia Masterworks, the end of a relationship lasting nearly a quarter century.

1972

Murray Perahia makes his debut recording, Schumann Piano Works (MK 32299) for CBS Masterworks. His legendary cycle of Mozart Piano Concertos with the English Chamber Orchestra is begun in 1975.

The complete composer conducted recorded works of Igor Stravinsky are issued in a multiple LP Box set (LXX 36940). The set is reissued on compact disc in 1990 (SX22K 46290).

The first quadrophonic LP is released by CBS Masterworks, Pierre Boulez conducting the New York Philharmonic in Stravinsky's Petrushka . The technology proved unwieldly and the format died a quick death.

1974

CBS Masterworks celebrates the "100th Birthday" of Charles Ives with a comprehensive box set including previously unavailable recordings by Ives himself. (M4 32504).

1975

Jean-Pierre Rampal teams up with Claude Bolling. His Suite for Flute and Jazz Piano an extraordinary best-seller, remains atop the Billboard Charts for many years.

1976

Carnegie Hall celebrates its 85th Anniversary with a gala concert featuring Vladimir Horowitz, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Leonard Bernstein, Yehudi Menuhin, Mstislav Rostropovich and Isaac Stern. The live event is recorded and issued on Columbia Masterworks (currently available on S2K 46743).

1977

Organist E. Power Biggs dies, leaving a recorded legacy for Columbia and Columbia Masterworks that spans nearly three decades.

1979

Yo-Yo Ma marks his debut for CBS Masterworks with recordings of Haydn Cello Concertos.

1980

Zubin Mehta leads the New York Philharmonic in Verdi's Requiem, the first digital recording by CBS Masterworks.

Columbia Masterworks becomes CBS Masterworks in October.

1981

The Juilliard String Quartet records the last of three cycles of Bartok String Quartets.

Glenn Gould revisits Bach's Goldberg Variations. It was one of the last recordings he would make for the label.

1982

The Compact Disc, developed jointly by Sony and Philips, is introduced.