Columbia Masterworks Labelography (1948-1970)

 

 

 

1. This label was used from the introduction of the Masterworks LP in 1948 through 1955. The background color of this label varies from medium to dark blue. The record number prefix is generally ML, which stands for Masterworks Long Play. COLUMBIA is printed, following the label's curve, at the center label top from 10 o'clock to 1:30. MASTERWORKS is printed, following the label's curve, directly beneath COLUMBIA. This label's stampings are on a heavy, fairly rigid platter without the raised lead-in groove and label. Recordings on this label are monaural only.

a. In 1948­49 the label finish is glossy, and the printing is silverish gold. LONG PLAYING is printed, following the label's curve, at the center label bottom. The Columbia 'music notes and CBS microphone' [1] trademark is printed to the left of LONG PLAYING and the "Lp" [2] trademark is printed to the right. MICROGROOVE is printed directly beneath LONG PLAYING. Beneath MICROGROOVE, following the label's curve from 6:30 to 5:30, is printed *Trade Marks Reg. U.S. Pat. Off. Marcas Registradas. Made in U.S.A. Pats. Pending 'Trade Mark. It is printed in two lines and is broken before Made in U.S.A.

b. In 1949­50 the label finish is glossy on early issues and dull on later issues. The printing is silverish gold to goldish silver. Some of these labels have a medium-green background with silverish gold printing, or a pale grey background with reddish brown printing. The Columbia "Lp" [2] trademark is printed at the center label bottom. LONG PLAYING is printed, following the label's curve, to the left of the trademark, from 8:30 to 6 o'clock, and MICROGROOVE is printed, following the label's curve, to the right of the trademark from 6 o'clock to 3:30. Beneath this is printed *Trade Marks Reg. U.S. Pat. Off. Marcas Registradas Made in U.S.A. Pats. Pending 'Trade Mark. from 8 o'clock to 4 o'clock along the label edge. The last 'Trade Mark is omitted on some labels. The Columbia "music notes and CBS microphone" [1] trademark is printed above the "Lp" [2] trademark.

c. After about 1950 the label finish is dull, and the printing is goldish silver to silver. The Columbia "Lp" [2] trademark is printed at the center of the label bottom. LONG is printed, following the label's curve, to the left of the trademark and PLAYING is printed, following the label's curve, to the right. Printed 1/2" in from the label rim, in a semicircle from 9 o'clock to 3 o'clock is "Columbia" "Masterworks" [2] and [1] Trade Marks Reg. U.S. Pat. Off. Marcas Registradas Made in U.S.A. The Columbia "music notes and CBS microphone" [1] trademark is printed above the "Lp" [2] trademark.

 


The first releases on this label are:

Mendelssohn, Felix. Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in E Minor, Op. 64 (1844). Nathan Milstein, violin. New York Philharmonic. Bruno Walter, conductor. Columbia Masterworks ML 4001 12" (1948).

Beethoven, Ludwig v. Symphony No. 8 in F Major, Op. 93 (1812). New York Philharmonic. Bruno Walter, conductor. Columbia Masterworks ML 2001 10" (1948).

 

 

2. This label was used from 1949 into 1955. The design of the label is the same as Label No. 1, but the background color of the label is 'off-white,' and the printing is black. In addition, NOT FOR SALE is printed to the right of the spindle hole. This is exclusively a Promotional Label. Recordings on this label are monaural only.

 


3. This label was used from 1955 into 1962. The background color of this label is medium grey. The record number prefix is usually ML. COLUMBIA is printed in white, following the label's curve, at the center label top from 10:30 to 1:30.
MASTERWORKS is printed in white, following the label's curve, directly beneath COLUMBIA. Six Columbia 'eye' [3] logos appear next to the label's rim, three from 8 o'clock to 10 o'clock and three from 2 o'clock to 4 o'clock. They are white and are printed on a black background. The Columbia "Lp" [2] trademark is printed in white at the center label bottom. All other printing is black. Early issues have NONBREAKABLE printed to the right of the spindle hole, and later issues have NONBREAKABLE printed to the left of the spindle hole. Very early stampings of this label are on a heavy, fairly rigid platter without the raised lead-in groove and label; the label's later and more characteristic stampings are on a lighter, more flexible platter with raised label and lead-in groove. Recordings on this label are monaural only.

a. From 1955 into 1960 ® "COLUMBIA" "MASTERWORKS" [2] MARCAS REG. [3] T.M. MADE IN U.S.A is printed along the bottom label rim from 8 o'clock to 4 o'clock.

 

b. From 1960 into 1962 ® "COLUMBIA" "MASTERWORKS" [2] [3] MARCAS REG. MADE IN U.S.A is printed along the bottom label rim from 8 o'clock to 4 o'clock.

 

c. In early 1962 CBS is printed toward the top, at the label center.

One of the early releases on this label is:

Bach, J.S. Goldberg Variations BWV 988. Glenn Gould, piano. Columbia Masterworks ML 5060 (1955).

 

 

4. This label was used from 1955 into 1962. The design of the label is the same as Label No. 3, but the background color of the label is white, and the printing is either entirely grey or entirely black. In addition, DEMONSTRATION is printed under MASTERWORKS at the label top, and NOT FOR SALE is printed to the right of the spindle hole. This is exclusively a Promotional Label. Recordings on this label are monaural only.

 

 

5. This label was used from 1958 into 1962. The background color of the label is medium grey with a 5/8" black outer border. The record number prefix is usually MS, which means Masterworks Stereophonic. Six Columbia 'eye' [3] logos are printed in white on the black outer border, three from 8 o'clock to 10 o'clock and three from 2 o'clock to 4 o'clock. Each is flanked by a 3/16" grey stripe. Printed at the label top center is the Columbia 'double- headed arrow' logo. The left side of the arrow is grey, and the right side is white. STEREO is printed in white, following the label's curve, to the left of the arrow, and FIDELITY is printed in white, following the label's curve, to the right. COLUMBIA is printed in white, following the label's curve, at the center label bottom from 7:30 to 4:30. MASTERWORKS is printed in white, following the label's curve, directly beneath COLUMBIA. All other printing is black on the medium-grey background and white on the black background. Recordings on this label are stereophonic only.

a. From 1958 into 1962 ® "COLUMBIA" "MASTERWORKS" [3] MARCAS REG. MADE IN U.S.A is printed along the bottom label rim from 8 o 'clock to 4 o 'clock.

 

b. In about early 1962 CBS is printed in the Columbia 'double-headed arrow' logo, at the top label center.

The first release on this label is:

Respighi, Ottorino. Fountains of Rome (1917). Pines of Rome (1924). Philadelphia Orchestra. Eugene Ormandy, conductor. Columbia Masterworks MS 6001 (1958).

 

 

6. This label was used from 1958 into 1962. The design of the label is the same as Label No. 5, but the background color of the label is white rather than medium grey. In addition, DEMONSTRATION is printed under the Columbia 'double-headed arrow' logo at the label top and NOT FOR SALE is printed to the right of the spindle hole. This is exclusively a Promotional Label. This label is rare. Recordings on this label are stereophonic only.

 

 

7. This label was used from 1962 into 1968. The background color of this label is medium grey. The record number prefix is generally ML. COLUMBIA is printed in white, following the label's curve, at the center label top from 10:30 to 1:30. MASTERWORKS is printed in white, following the label's curve, directly beneath COLUMBIA. Two Columbia 'eye-in-the-box' [4] logos are printed in white, next to the label's rim; one at 9 o'clock and one at 3 o'clock. All other printing is black. Recordings on this label are monaural only.

a. From 1962 into 1965 ® "COLUMBIA", "MASTERWORKS", [4] MARCAS REG. PRINTED IN U.S.A is printed in white, along the bottom label rim from 7 o'clock to 5 o'clock. Above this, GUARANTEED HIGH FIDELITY is printed, following the label's curve, in black.

 

b. From 1965 into 1968 ® "COLUMBIA", "MASTERWORKS", [4] MARCAS REG. PRINTED IN U.S.A. is printed in white, along the bottom label rim from 7 o'clock to 5 o'clock. Above this [5] "360 SOUND" MONO "360 SOUND" [6] is printed in white, following the label's curve, from 8 o'clock to 4 o'clock.

c. In 1967 and 1968 the two "360 SOUND" did not appear on some labels. Otherwise, the design is the same as 7b.

One of the early releases on this label is:

Bartok, Bela. Two Rhapsodies for Violin and Orchestra (1928, rev. 1944). Berg, Alban. Concerto for Violin and Orchestra (1935). Isaac Stern, violin. New York Philharmonic. Leonard Bernstein, conductor. Columbia Masterworks ML 5773 (1962).

 

 

8. This label was used from 1962 into 1968. The design of the label is the same as Label No. 7, but the background color of the label is white, and the printing is black. In addition, RADIO STATION COPY NOT FOR RESALE is printed under MASTERWORKS at the label top. This is exclusively a Promotional Label. This label is extremely rare as most promotional issues were simply Label No. 7 with a small, gummed, rectangular white sticker reading, in black, DEMONSTRATION USE ONLY NOT FOR SALE. Recordings on this label are monaural only.



9. This label was used from 1962 into 1968. The background color of this label is medium grey. The record number prefix is generally MS, which means Masterworks Stereophonic.
COLUMBIA is printed in white, following the label's curve, at the center label top from 10:30 to 1:30. MASTERWORKS is printed in white, following the label's curve, directly beneath COLUMBIA. Two Columbia 'eye-in-the-box' [4] logos are printed in white, next to the label's rim; one at 9 o'clock and one at 3 o'clock. ® "COLUMBIA" "MASTERWORKS" MARCAS [4] REG. PRINTED IN U.S.A is printed in white, along the bottom label rim from 7 o'clock to 5 o'clock. All other printing is black. Recordings on this label are stereophonic only.

a. In 1962 and 1963, "360 SOUND" STEREO "360 SOUND" is printed in black, following the label's curve, from 8 o'clock to 4 o'clock.

 

b. From 1963 into 1965, [5]"360 SOUND" STEREO "360 SOUND" [6] is printed in black, following the label's curve, from 8 o'clock to 4 o'clock.

c. From 1965 into 1970, [5]"360 SOUND" STEREO "360 SOUND" [6] is printed in white, following the label's curve, from 8 o'clock to 4 o'clock.
One of the early releases on this label is:

Brahms, Johannes. Symphony No. 1 in C Minor, Op. 68 (1877). Columbia Symphony. Bruno Walter, conductor. Columbia Masterworks MS 6389 (1962).

 

 

10. This label was used from 1962 into 1970. The design of the label is the same as Label No. 9, but the background color of the label is white, and all the printing is black. In addition, RADIO STATION COPY NOT FOR RESALE is printed under MASTERWORKS at the label top. This is exclusively a Promotional Label. This label is extremely rare as most promotional issues were simply Label No. 9 with a small, gummed, rectangular white sticker reading, in black, DEMONSTRATION USE ONLY NOT FOR SALE. Recordings on this label are stereophonic only.

a. In 1962 and 1963,
"360 SOUND" STEREO "360 SOUND" is printed in black, following the label's curve, from 8 o'clock to 4 o'clock.

b. From 1963 into 1970, [5] "360 SOUND" STEREO "360 SOUND" [6] is printed in black, following the label's curve, from 8 o'clock to 4 o'clock.

 

 

11. This label was used from 1970 into the 1970s. The background color of the label is a brownish medium grey. The record number prefix is generally MS or M. A new record numbering system was introduced in 1970 that used 5 numbers plus letter prefixes. In this system M means Masterworks. This system gradually replaced the MS system during the 70s. COLUMBIA and the Columbia 'eye-in- the-box' [4] logo, printed in orange, alternate around the label edge. Beneath this, at the center label top, MASTERWORKS is printed in orange, following the label's curve from 11 o'clock to 1 o'clock. ® "COLUMBIA" "MASTERWORKS" [4] MARCAS REG. PRINTED IN U.S.A is printed in orange, along the bottom label rim from 7 o'clock to 5 o'clock. All other printing is black. Recordings on this label are generally stereophonic.

 

One of the early releases on this label is:

Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus. Concerto for Violin and Orchestra No. 4 in D Major, K.218. Concerto for Violin and Orchestra No. 5 in A Major, K. 219 "Turkish." Pinchas Zukerman, violin. English Chamber Orchestra. Daniel Barenboim, conductor. Columbia Masterworks M 30055 (1970).

 

 

12. This label was used from 1970 into the 1970s. The design of the label is the same as Label No.11, but the background color of the label is white, and all the printing is black. In addition, DEMONSTRATION NOT FOR SALE is printed in two lines, under MASTERWORKS at the label top. This is exclusively a Promotional Label. Recordings on this label are generally stereophonic.

 

 


Notes


Columbia, after years of development, introduced the modern LP on June 21, 1948. Where RCA Victor had failed in its marketing of a long playing, fine groove record in the early 1930s, Columbia succeeded in the 1950s. Columbia succeeded not only because its LP stored more information than the 78 RPM record or showed some improvement in sound over the 78, but importantly, because its LP was marketed with inexpensive and reliable hardware.
Columbia went to Philco, which produced 'the clam,' a turntable, pick-up and tone arm combination in a bakelite case with a lid that, in fact, closed like a 'clamshell.' The new player was to be offered at $29.95, ready to be plugged into existing radios, television sets or phonographs. Later in 1950­51, the price was reduced to $9.95 and included some free records.
Columbia has an undeserved reputation for mediocre recordings, and it has been my experience that the Masterworks Division always produced a comparatively good record-platter.
Of all the Columbia Masterworks stereo labels, Nos. 5a, b and c contain the most natural sound. However, even many of these display the tight perspective that characterizes Columbia Masterworks studio recording. The sound of Labels No. 9 and No. 11 is less good, though they do offer some great records.
It may be that the great Masterworks sound is found in mono, on label Nos. 3a, b and c.
The equalization curve used by Columbia on Label No. 1 was not the RIAA Curve that we now use. It was the Columbia LP Curve which cannot be exactly duplicated, even by pre-amps with treble and bass controls. By Label No. 3, Columbia had adopted the RIAA Equalization.
Columbia pioneered the placement of Library of Congress numbers on record jackets. Beginning with the early ML 5000s in the mid '50s, Library of Congress numbers appear on the back of Columbia Masterworks jackets. These numbers can be used to approximate the release date of a recording. The two numbers after the first letter R are the last two digits of the year that the Library of Congress received the record. Thus, R56 indicates 1956, R57 indicates 1957, and so on. In the '50s and '60s, this year is within a year or two of the record's release. Often it is the year of, or year after, the actual release of the record. In the 1970s there is less correspondence between the actual record release date and the Library of Congress number.
The Masterworks Division of Columbia Records has had a reputation for producing bad recordings, and Masterworks sound has long been criticized. Especially not liked is the Columbia engineers' stereo perspective. Specifically, they have been criticized for giving a distorted perspective and producing a steely string sound. These are generalities and, of course, there are many exceptions. Notable are the recordings of sound engineer Edward T., or Bud, Graham. Many of his 1970s' recordings show the symphony orchestra in a pleasing setting, with a good performance perspective. There is some openness for the sound to breathe, and usually instruments are in realistic proportion to each other.
Recommended are:

 

Haydn, Franz Joseph. Symphony No. 95 in C Minor (1791). Symphony No. 96 in D Major "Miracle" (1791). New York Philharmonic. Leonard Bernstein, conductor. Milton Cherin and Edward T. Graham, recording engineers. John McClure, record producer. Columbia Masterworks M 32598 (1973).

and

Hummel, Johann Nepomuk. Septet in D Minor, Op. 74. Boccherini, Luigi. String Quintet in C Major, Op. 25, No. 4. Marlboro Music Festival Players. Larry Morton and Mischa Schneider, producers. Edward T. Graham and Judith Schneider, recording engineers. Columbia Masterworks M 35163 (1979).

and

Ravel, Maurice. Daphnis et Chloé (1912). Camarata Singers. Abraham Kaplan, director. New York Philharmonic. Pierre Boulez, conductor. Bud Graham, recording engineer. Andrew Kazdin, record producer. Columbia Masterworks M 33523 (1975).

and

Varèse, Edgar. Amériques (1918-22). Arcana (1925-27). Ionisation (1931). New York Philharmonic. Pierre Boulez, conductor. Edward T. Graham, Arthur Kendy and Raymond Moore, recording engineers. Andrew Kazdin, record producer. Columbia Masterworks M34552 (1977).

 

Although the sound engineers are not credited, two fine recordings and performances from the '60s are:

 

Mahler, Gustav. Symphony No. 1 in D Major (1888). Columbia Symphony. Bruno Walter, conductor. John McClure, record producer. Columbia Masterworks MS 6394 (1962).

and

Stravinsky, Igor. Petrouchka (1911, rev. 1947) . Columbia Symphony. Igor Stravinsky, conductor. Columbia Masterworks MS 6332 (1961).

 

Possibly the high point of Masterworks' recorded sound was its monaural recordings of the 1950s. These recordings are characterized by warm, tube cut sound with easily heard detail, natural dynamics, good frequency response and natural timbre. Fortunately, this period also corresponds to a period of great creativity by Columbia artists.
Recommended are:

Copland, Aaron. Concerto for Clarinet and String Orchestra (1947-48). Benny Goodman, clarinet. Columbia Orchestra. Aaron Copland, conductor. Piano Quartet (1950). New York Quartet. Columbia Masterworks ML 4421 (1951).

and

Stravinsky, Igor. L'Histoire du Soldat Suite (1919). Octet for Wind Instruments (1923). Chamber Orchestra. Symphonies of Wind Instruments (1920). North West German Radio Orchestra. Igor Stravinsky, conductor. Columbia Masterworks ML 4964 (1955).

 

 

More than offsetting Columbia Masterworks' reputation for mediocre recordings is the division's reputation for great performances by great artists.
Among others, the Masterworks' stable included: Pablo Casals, Igor Stravinsky, Joseph Szigeti, Alexander Schneider, Mieczyslaw Horszowski, Aaron Copland, Gunther Schuller, Rudolf Serkin, Leonard Bernstein, Bruno Walter, Robert Casadesus, Isaac Stern, Dimitri Mitropoulos, the Budapest Quartet, the New Music Quartet, and the New York Philharmonic.
Many of the performances at the Prades, Marlboro, and the Perpignan Festivals are still standards; more importantly, they are filled with passion and song and reflect the closeness and friendship that existed among many of these artists.
The Columbia Masterworks Division projected an image of family. You felt that many of the artists actually cared for each other, whether it was shown by their exceptional rapport during performance or their nurturing of a young artist. It even extended a little to the customer, who seemed to be shown concern when he got a bonus rehearsal or interview record. You not only got a free record, but you heard and felt a little of Casals or Bruno Walter or Bernstein. And they educated.

I'd like to thank Tony Almeida and Richard Heck for their contributions to the Columbia Masterworks Labelography.

 

 

Much of this material originally appeared in "RECOLLECTIONS Journal of Recorded Music." Back issues of the journal are available for US$15.00 at RECOLLECTIONS-by email at ronpenndorf@earthlink.net

My publications can also be found and browsed in the Rodgers and Hammerstein Archive of the New York Public Library, the Stanford Archive of Recorded Sound and the Music Department of theChicago Public Library.

 

 

 

 

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