Classical covers to cry for #2

Classical covers to cry for #2


norman lebrecht

December 04, 2011

Blow the budget on national defence

And don’t forget the clean underwear….

When recording at sea, try not to get your frock wet

Here’s how:

Alternatively, play in your nightie

Breakfast on the house

What does a girl have to do round here to get a drink?

This may be a solution

And here’s how she looks standing up


UPDATE: In the comments below, veteran producer Paul Myers was referring to an Igor Kipnis/Neveille Marriner album cover . I wonder if he means this?

UPDATE 2: I think Dan P means this horror movie:


  • Rosana Martins says:

    I hope some of these covers were made by you or friends in a most unusual moment! Hard to tell which one is creepier than the other!
    They are a joke?

    • H Boyle says:

      The Boult and Brahms are from a long series of such covers on the budget Westminster label. I recall a cover for the Dvorak piano concerto that was a heap of tarnished silverware in a plastic bag (referring to it’s forgotten status at the time?) and a jejune cover for the Barber violin concerto with a fiddle wearing shaving cream on it’s ‘chin’ area.

  • Alberto Martinez says:

    The Paganini cover is really surreal

  • Felipe Izcaray says:

    Remember Wendy Carlos used to be Walter Carlos, and the SWITCHED-ON-BACH LP album was a smashing best-seller in the late sixties and early seventies. There was true competition between Carlos and Tomita for the “electronic classics” market. As a matter of fact, the public found out about Walter/Wendy sex change through a Playboy Magazine much announced “surprise” interview that reportedly multiplied the then very popular magazine sales. This was, I believe, during the mid-seventies.

  • paul myers says:

    I was responsible for the Walter Carlos album Switched On Bach (the title was given by John McClure at Columbia NY). I had been searching for some time to find someone who could produce electronic music that did not sound like a B-rate science fiction soundtrack. A colleague sent me Walter Carlos and, together with the Marketing Director, we planned an album of favourite Bach pieces. Robert Moog was in the process of developing his synthesizer, and incorporated some of the keyboard needs for Carlos. It was pioneering work, involving multiple track production, but it helped to change attitudes to electronic music.
    The album cover was designed by an independent studio called Horn/Griner and, for me, captures the humour and whimsy of the album. I am particularly fond of the cat sitting in the corner! Horn/Griner also designed an award-winning cover for the jazz pianist Thelonius Monk.
    Walter, who changed sex to Wendy, went on to great success with the soundtrack of Stanley Kubrick’s’ A Clockwork Orange’.
    There were a number of dreadful (US) CBS covers in that period. I was particularly unhappy with the cover designed for Bach keyboard concertos, played by Igor Kipnis with an orchestra conducted by Neville Marriner. It depicted (God knows why!) a bald hermaphrodite (?) in an 18th Century costume. I often wonder how many potential sales were lost as a result.

    • Dan P. says:

      In the 70s, Westminster was infamous for its album covers, the most infamous of them being, if I recall correctly, either a Wagner or Mozart opera excerpts album graced by an otherwise nude woman wearing a horned helmet and two strategically placed Volkswagon hubcaps.

      Then, of course, there was the Angel/EMI recording of Ein Heldenleben with a superserious Herbert von Karajan sporting (at least in the American copy) a black leather jacket with a beam of light emanating from somewhere below the belt. but my overall favorite in the over the top category, however, was the London/Decca issue of Salome with Birgit Nilson and Solti in which Nilson is drawn to look like a vampire struggling out of her crypt. Again, this may have only been in the American edition.

      For pure whimsy and intelligence, however, by far the best were done in the 60s by a subsidiary of CBS records called Crossroads. Crossroads was a budget line specifically designed to import Supraphon recordings into the US (including Josef Suk’s spectacularly beautiful first recording of the Berg Violin Concerto) that was coupled with the Bach Cantata with the chorale “Es ist genug” that Berg quotes in the last movement. The cover of the original Supraphon issue was a simple black and white cover with the information listed in it. However, the cover of the Crossroads version showed a downcast sign painter being roundly excoriated by a maestro in front of a sign stating “Concert: Alban Bach and J. S. Berg.”

      Dan P.

      • Eric Benjamin says:

        The Volkswagen hubcaps were on a recording (Weingartner?) of “Die Walkure” and the linguistic play (Valkyrie/ Walkure) was quite clever. The entire Ring was released with similar covers – Gotterdammerung” carried a photo of female hands crumbling a cookie. These were campy and fun ways of presenting Wagner in the market, I think. Have no idea what the recordings were like.

  • JMW says:

    Hey, I thought that Quincy Porter cover was rather fetching!

  • paul myers says:

    You have the right cover. I have obviously blocked that picture from my mind and imagined clothing! What a horror!
    Unfortunately Kipnis never enjoyed full publicity in the UK. He was on Epic Records, which were (as opposed to CBS) distributed by EMI, and they had harpsichordists of their own. Kipnis (the son of the great Alexander) made a series of albums of the keyboard music of various countries, and his detective work revealed the originals of ‘Santa Lucia’ and other famous ‘tunes’. He also made a very good duet album with Thurston Dart. Sadly, he died quite young.

    • He was a lovely artist, Paul.

      • Dan P. says:

        I agree – Igor Kipnis was an extraordinary and inventive artist. Although to my mind, he was slightly disadvantaged by the Rutkowski and Robinette harpsichord with the 4′ stop that he played (that’s another discussion), his approach to ornamentation and phrasing really made him stand apart from the others. One should listen to his EMI recording of the Goldberg Variation to really appreciate what a monument that work is.

        Dan P.

  • paul myers says:

    Oh dear! There’s nothing worse than ‘veteran’ record producers once they start reminiscing! I was also responsible for the budget-priced Crossroads label, including its marketing, and used to go to Prague twice a year (hard life!) to discuss plans for new Supraphon recordings, with the government controlled Artia.
    We took a light-hearted (hopefully respectful) view of album covers, with a series of gentle cartoons, and the catalogue for the series contained advice on how to one-up your friends as a music expert. My favourite was that you should leave the hall once the audience silently awaited the conductor, explaining: “I only wanted to check the tuning”!

    • Dan P. says:

      So that was you? Many thanks! And please reminisce away as far as I’m concerned.

      As a very young teenager in the 60s, I usually quickly flipped through the record bins to see what was new, but when I got to the Crossroads bin, I always went through every familiar album again for the covers. Not only were they respectful, they showed the easy familiarity with classical music and musical life that one aspired to back then.

      As for Crossroads (just to remember it brings a smile to my face), at its bargain price (along with Nonesuch) it was easy for a kid with only a few bucks in his pocket to bet on unfamiliar repertoire. By the way, I would still love to find a CD reissue of the Brno Philharmonic performance of the Hindemith Symphonic Metamorphosis and Kodaly Peacock Variations. What a beautiful orchestral sound. And, as I recall, it had the smoothest French horns I had ever heard east of Vienna. However, when I checked Supraphon’s website a few weeks ago, it seemed that Supraphon had pretty much consigned most of it’s back catalog to the dumpster. Maybe someone here knows whether that is true or not. Mr. Lebrecht?

      And, Mr. Myers – any idea what is to become of the old Columbia back catalog?

      Dan P.

  • Lara Downes says:

    On the Planets cover, that’s the principal violist and the orchestra librarian pictured. Costumes courtesy of the Staatsoper, from a somewhat controversial production of the Ring Cycle earlier that year.