Surely the worst classical cover ever ever ever

Surely the worst classical cover ever ever ever


norman lebrecht

January 26, 2021

Did anyone actually buy this?

The release date was 2007.

In those days, conductors got cover approval. Did Edo sign this off?

More awful album covers here.


  • Christopher Clift says:

    What was the performance like – it’s always possible to transfer the music to either a computer hard disk or to another storage medium.

  • Hodgkinson says:

    What exactly is so awful about this? Rather interesting, I’d say.

  • Alexander says:

    first I thought she was multitits (ouch 😉 ) Don’t you think this cover matches Wagner perfectly ? just curious

  • Duncan says:

    Yep, pretty tasteless. My first ‘bad’ album cover was back in the 1960’s when I bought an LP of Bolero and Sorcerer’s Apprentice which had a semi-naked dancing girl on the cover. As a teenage boy I quite liked it!! I seem to remember that when Rattle released his Philharmonia LP of Sibelius 5, the critics loved the performance but laughed about the cover which made Rattle look like ‘a Greek waiter’. On the whole though, classical album covers were no match for rock music when it came to bad taste.

  • Dutchie says:

    I agree the cover is quite a bit off, the recording however is great!

  • Hilary says:

    CFP , the superb budget price often had very fine sleeve designs but many are tarnished by the cigarette sponsorship (Benson and Hedges) which was incorporated into the design.

    • christopher breunig says:

      Kurt Sanderling’s Philharmonia Beethoven Symphony cycle had ‘A du Maurier Record Collection’ and logo on the box front. All the inner sleeves were with a red border and du Maurier logo.
      (I seem to remember Simon Rattle saying how good these versions were but reviewers didn’t think so.)

      • Mathias Broucek says:

        I picked up a very cheap copy of that set in Japan a couple of years ago. It’s terrific – as is most Sanderling.

  • Peter says:

    I did buy this disc, and the performance as well as de Waart’s arrangement is superb. For what it’s worth, Dutch photographer Erwin Olaf is credited with the cover of the RCA Victor Red Seal release. He has a website if you are interested.

    • John Borstlap says:

      Olaf is much appreciated in the Netherlands for his perverse arranged freak model photographies, reflecting the Dutch self-understanding as a free country, happily liberated from prejudice and taste.

      The Tristan cover is hilarious….. and grotesk in its absurdity, no connection with the opera whatsoever, not in the remotest sense.

  • Rob says:

    Is it stop motion aka Ray Harryhausen

  • Orlando says:

    The CD was part of a series of Wagner-arrangements for orchestra by Henk de Vlieger. Renowned Dutch photographer Erwin Olaf created the artwork on the covers and in the booklet.

    • The composer who signed the arrangement featured on this album, Henk de Vlieger, is also a Dutch percussionist who must receive credit for a true treasure devised for percussionists, music librarians, conductors and orchestra staffs : His “Handbook for the orchestral percussion section” published in 2003 (unfortunately out of print) is equivalent to Paul Daniel’s “Orchestral Music” and even more detailed, listing all the instruments needed and above all the number of players required, for over 2000 compositions of the repertoire. A truly essential ressource ! (and its cover is fine)

  • J Barcelo says:

    Awful? I bought it, and the two companion disks, because of that cover! It was bold, striking and oh so interesting. Not the usual cover of some boring painting by Prince Charles or some performer’s air brushed face. I keep all three of those RCAs hoping they’ll be worth something someday.

  • RW2013 says:

    Georg Friedrich Haas would love it.

  • V.Lind says:

    The only interesting covers I ever followed were for the Putumayo label of world music discs. The English artist Nicola Heindl designed most if not all of them.

    The cover above is hideous. Reflects neither the music nor the story. Of all the traits I abhor most in art, it is self-absorption.

    • Greg Bottini says:

      Dear Ms. Lind,
      I like those Putumayo covers too, and the music on those CDs is great.
      But I shall respectfully disagree with you re: the cover under discussion. I think it’s quite interesting, it’s humorous, and it’s certainly out of the ordinary.
      I think the little lapdog is kind of over the top, though.
      – regards, Greg

      • V.Lind says:

        Music from the Coffee Lands — one of the best! I have quite a few of them, and am about to order a couple of new ones to help allay the wintriness of Canada!

        Re the cover above — chacun à son goût and all that. I have a very romanticised view of the Tristan legend, and that picture spoils it for me.

  • Vincent Mouret says:

    I bought it!

  • Mirel Iancovici says:

    Yes, I did and the music is great!

    • V.Lind says:

      Those are great|||||! They, and the European Tour golfers’ “Anger Management” video have made a grey wintry morning bright.

  • FrankA says:

    I did buy this CD. The performance was fine, but indeed the cover was offensive. My solution: I simply tore off and threw away the cover, then inserted the booklet so that the track numbers and times were visible. The downside was, of course, that there are things once seen that cannot be unseen.

  • Peter X says:

    Information: Erwin Olaf Springveld was born on 2 July 1959 in Hilversum, Netherlands.

    Springveld is most famous for his commercial and personal work. He has been commissioned to photograph advertising campaigns for large international companies such as Levi’s, Microsoft and Nokia. Some of his most famous photographic series include “Grief”, “Rain”, and “Royal Blood”. Never one to shy away from controversy, Springveld’s work is often daring and provocative. Humorously however, one of his early photographs was once expelled from a show on the basis of not containing nudity.
    His work has received many awards and he has held exhibitions around the world.
    Springveld studied journalism in the School of Journalism in Utrecht.His work is shown in galleries and museums all around the world, for example at Wagner + Partner, Berlin; Flatland Gallery, Amsterdam; Hamiltons Gallery, London; Galerie Magda Danysz, Paris; Gallery Espacio Minimo, Madrid ; and many others.
    Springveld designed the 2014 Dutch euro coins with the portrait of King Willem-Alexander.

    Erwin Olaf’s work is controversial but he is definitely a household name in the world of contemporary photography.
    The featured photograph stems from a 1988 book “Chess Men: An Attempt to Play the Game”. The concept behind Chessmen is that of a refined and intriguing sport, acted out by members of a cruel and violent society. The attributes and poses adopted by Olaf’s models evoke strong associations with the culture surrounding sadomasochism: rope, belts, helmets, whips, masks, and a profusion of leather. He employs the game of chess as a metaphor for the power struggle between people, both in a general and a sexual sense.;sid=a924bfa0ce7f4312ed5a8d1055b6abaf;view=text;idno=m0714f03en;rgn=main;lang=en

    Ugly? Shocking? Bad taste? Wagner and sadomasochism? I will not start the discussion-fight!

    • Eric says:

      Whatever artistic spin you try to give to the images in Chessmen, they look awkward and ugly and should be called that. As contributor Lohengrimm points out they are copied from (oh, excuse me, influenced by) Joel-Peter Witkin’s work. You can always tell which painter or photographer Olaf has just been looking at by the almost literal photographic version of the original: Hockney, Velasquez, Robert Frank etc. The problem is, nothing of any meaning or significance is added to the original, unlike Francis Bacon’s popes which are creative and imaginative variations on Velasquez and not almost literal copies.

  • David K. Nelson says:

    Whether the purpose of the album cover (archaic term) is to say something vaguely artistic about the music (does Isolde really humiliate herself for love?), or to create an urge in the casual browser to take the risk and buy the release unheard, I’d say this example struggles on both counts.

    Maybe at one time artists had veto rights over their album cover art (Spinal Tap, anyone?) but in addition to wondering if that was still the case in 2007, I suspect those rights are/were either reserved for loyal/captive artists with exclusive deals and strongly worded contracts, or those with huge bargaining power and recorded for the highest bidder. I suspect Edo was out of both loops.

    I am reasonably certain the respected Hans Swarowsky had no say in the album cover art for this Westminster releases of the Ring Cycle. Some were a bit offensive, if clever, some were just sort of strange, but I doubt if they hurt sales any and they sure did catch the eye. It was a darn cheap way to get a stereo Ring Cycle. Similarly I doubt if the respected violinist Robert Gerle had a say in his Westminster record covers, at least the reissues. The Barber/Delius Concerto coupling had a violin with shaving cream on the lower bout. Hilarity ensued. But the bunch of grapes for his Brahms Hungarian Dances actually made a sort of sense.

    My father, a stubborn son of a Norwegian, didn’t believe in high fidelity or 33 rpm for a long time so I grew up with 78 rpm recordings until I was a teen. There were some remarkable covers back in the 78 rpm era from Victor (less so, Columbia), strongly influenced by Georgio de Chirico. The one for Toscanini’s Sorcerer’s Apprentice was particularly disturbing. I wonder who if anybody has the original artwork for those RCA Victor covers in the late 78 rpm era.

  • Nijinsky says:

    Um: Why when I click on the history and it was under library, and then history and “ do I get a whole page about which surely she needs there, would she try to get back under the rock she herself didn’t climb from under, or was it their closet that she opened!?

  • Gustavo says:

    Katharina Wagner?

  • Jack says:

    I bought it and I survived the experience. (Grow a sense of humor, Norman.)

  • Patricia says:

    It’s hideous.

  • Barry Guerrero says:

    “The Planets” that Sir Adrian Boult recorded in Vienna for the Westminster label had that infamous, ‘inappropriate’ cover that was reminiscent of Jane Fonda in “Barbarella”. Anyone can look it up via Google Images.

  • Paul says:

    I can tell you that Edo de Waart as his collegues in the orchestra were proud with this photograps by the great Dutch photographer Erwin Olaf, used not only for Tristan but also for Parsifal and the Ring. Your comment tells, as always, a lot about yourself!

  • BruceB says:

    (a) That is a really strange and, as far as I can tell, irrelevant picture. But as somebody noted earlier, you can just fold the cover back (or tear it off) and put the booklet in the CD cover with the track titles facing out.

    (b) The repertoire and performer really are the important thing; and once you’ve heard it, the cover doesn’t matter much anymore.

  • That’s Isolde?

    That explains the need for a love potion.

  • Luca says:

    How much time does one actually spend looking at the cover of a CD case?

  • Wise Guy says:

    Perhaps if readers had first seen the woman’s face, they might understand why this option was most prudent.

  • Lohengrimm says:

    cover is an Aldi rip-off of the legend that is Joel-Peter Witkin (more known for being used on death metal sleeves, possibly without his knowledge ). a cover commisoned by Witkin would have / would be worth seeing ( if you like that kind of thing ).

  • Doc Martin O'Hara says:

    The boobs are going due South. I’ve seen better looking udders on my Irish Dexters.

  • fflambeau says:

    I would guess Edo de Waart had litle to do with the specific cover. He was probably told the label had hired the “illustrious” photographer, who also happens to be Dutch….and that was that.

    That said, it is an arresting, not easily forgotten photo, for good or bad.

  • Fan says:

    Apparently The New York Times has investigated the cover in 1998 (Thank Orlando for the name of the Dutch artist)