Budget recordings of Alfred Scholz

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There are many recordings on budget labels that credit fictitious artists. The conductor/producer and trickster Alfred Scholz was the initial source for many of the recordings seen today on budget labels. Scholz sold his catalog of analog recordings, made mostly in the 1960s, to various budget labels in the 1970s. Most of the recording were attributed to fictitious or pseudonymous artists, or in some cases, credited fraudulently using real artists names that never made the recordings. These recordings have ended up being circulating and re-circulated on dozens of budget labels to this day.

Background

There is a subset of "classical" releases which are credited to performers who have never been seen or heard in a live performance. Many of these performers are pseudonyms. There could be a number of reasons why a release would be published under a pseudonym. It could be because the performer has a restrictive contract with a different record label. It could be because the performance has been "borrowed" from its owner. Or perhaps the pseudonym is considered more marketable: for example the “well-known” pianist M. Bergerich. In the case of an ensemble, it could be a "pickup" or "scratch" ensemble brought together just for the recording, and which does not otherwise have a name.

Another reason may lie in the desire to deceive potential buyers into thinking that they are buying something more pretentious than it really is. By "embellishing" the recordings by little-known or pickup orchestras with names which seem legitimate eg. "London Festival Orchestra" and crediting the artists or conductor with fictional names like "Carl Fleming", consumers are led to believe that their budget purchase may be "good value".

The most prolific producer and seller of budget recordings with fake credits was Alfred Scholz. Scholz sometimes used his own name as the conductor, and even though it is known that some recording were actually conducted by him, most attributed to him were not. Mostly his recording had artists with made-up names, and the difficulty in investigating these cases lies in the fact that some of the name are very close to real names. Worse still, Scholz practiced outright fraud when he used the names of real people for performances which were not theirs. Scholz had no hesitation in fraudulently using the name of his own conducting professor, Hans Swarowsky, as a credit on some recordings.

These budget recordings are not necessarily less "good" performances. Many are old performances which were sold for a one-off payment, and recorded by professional artists from existing orchestras, though often as part of a pickup ensemble. They may be musically excellent, but in general the audio quality is poor.

Alfred Scholz and the South German Philharmonic Orchestra

The name of the orchestra "South German Philharmonic Orchestra" or "Sueddeutsche Philharmonie" was the invention of Alfred Scholz, a conductor/producer working in Germany, who "created" it before 1968. It consisted mainly of members of the German Philharmonic in Prague who were expelled from Czechoslovakia after World War II and who later became the core of the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra. Most of the "South German Philharmonic" performances were analog recordings made between 1968 and 1970 for the labels Polyband and Primaton. In his attempt to market his South German Philharmonic recordings, Alred Scholz resorted to the use of fictitious conductor's names and in many cases, the name of his conducting professor, Hans Swarowsky. Legally there was no way to stop this mis-representation and Scholz sold these tapes many times over to different labels often changing the names of the performers.[1]

Performances by the Austrian Radio (ORF) and the Southwest German Radio Symphony Orchestra (Sudwestfunks or SWF) were recorded prior to 1977 and sold in 1977 to Premis, a company owned or controlled by Alfred Scholz.[1]

Scholz's catalog or recordings subsequently passed into the ownership of Point Productions. Scholz (and later Point Productions) licensed these recordings to any company looking to put out inexpensive classical recordings for the mass market. While the orchestra's name usually stayed the same, the conductors often changed. Fictitious names such as Alberto Lizzio, Cesare Cantieri, Denis Zsoltay were used for conductors, but real conducto's names were also fraudulently used, such as Hans Zanotelli and Hans Swarowsky.[1]

It is not correct to assume any correspondence between the real and fictitious performers - names were mixed and matched liberally. Scholz sold the same recordings to different labels as different artists, and there are many releases in MusicBrainz of the same performance being credited to totally different performers, conductors and orchestras.

Many of these recordings are found on labels such as Point, PILZ (as Vienna Masters), Adagio (which has identical recordings, though renamed on the Triple D label).

Research

Because of the difficulty in researching the real source and credits of these recordings, surveys to date of the Scholz recordings have been piecemeal. Some interesting evaluations of these recordings include:

  • Pseudonyms: Alfred Scholz and the South German Philharmonic[1] surveys the performances of Bruckner symphonies which Scholz attributed to his former teacher, Hans Swarovsky.
  • Fake conductors and the Symphonie Fantastique[2] describes how someone collected 170 differently credited recordings of the work, but on studying them found he only had 162 distinct performances.
  • Hunting down the undead ghost of George Richter[3]: the search for another fictitious conductor.
  • An interview[4] with Hans-Jürgen Walther which is quite revealing as to the way recordings were acquired, and the use of pseudonyms.
  • An Amazon review[5] of a recording of Vivaldi's Four Seasons discusses the many ways in which the original 1965 recording by Suzanne Lautenbacher, Württembergisches Kammerorchester and Jörg Faerber is packaged.

Relevant MusicBrainz entities

Budget recordings of Alfred Scholz/Lists has lists of MusicBrainz artists and pseudonyms known to be used by Scholz.

How to identify a Scholz release

Clues that you are dealing with a Scholz release:

  • the label is one of the known Scholz budget labels, usually with no information about the production company and contact details
  • there is no booklet, just a single page for the cover
  • the artists appear in Budget recordings of Alfred Scholz/Lists, or no artists are given
  • no biographical information or photos of the artists are provided
  • no recording dates or places are provided
  • there is no information about the artists in books or the internet, but:
    • this may also be true for older artists who are genuine, esp. from behind the Iron Curtain
    • they may have fictional biographies, such as the one written by Scholz about "Alberto Lizzio" [6]
  • the Acoutic ID is the same for another recording with different credits

Using Acoustic IDs

Looking at the Acoustic IDs, or electronic fingerprint of a recording is a useful way to investigate its legitimacy. By looking at the track's Acoustic ID it may sometimes be seen that the same recording is credited differently on different releases and/or labels. For example, the track "The Blue Danube Waltz" is credited to the Vienna Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Carl Fleming on the Adagio AD 002 release. By looking at its Acoustic ID we can see that the same recording is credited to the Ukrainian Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Peter Machevski on the Triple DDD7CD release and on another Adagio label release!

Similarly, the track "The Emperor Waltz" is credited to the Vienna Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Carl Fleming on the Adagio AD 002 release. By looking at its Acoustic ID we can see that the same recording is credited to the Estonian Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Thomas Filbert on the Adagio AD 022 release by the same label! We can also see that the "no-name" label with the catalog number SR 32 is another associated label with both Adagio and Triple D.

Similarly, the track "Waltz from Swan Lake" is credited to the Vienna Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Carl Fleming on the Adagio AD 002 release, but if we look at its Acoustic ID we can see that the same recording is credited to the Dresden Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Siegfried Kurz on the Adagio AD 023 release by the same label!

How to enter Scholz releases

Artists

Scholz pseudonyms have Musicbrainz Artist entities to represent them just as "real" artists do. Don't merge away these artists. Only if two Scholz artists have very similar names, that can be considered spelling variations, and perform the same role is it worth merging them.

If a Scholz artist has the same (or very similar) name as a real artist, they should be distinct Musicbrainz entities with disambiguation comments. Many artists have comment (an Alfred Scholz pseudonym) or similar.

Releases

Enter the artist credits as they appear on the cover, including any named Scholz artists, following Style/Classical/Release/Artist. Commonly, Scholz releases have no cover artist other than the composer; if so, use only the composer for the artist credit. Be particularly careful when Scholz has used a name which is the same as or very similar to a real artist. For example the London Festival Orchestra and the London Festival Orchestra.

Recordings

  • Artist Credit (see Style/Classical/Recording/Artist)
    • If the recording has only one known set of Scholz artists, then use those
    • If the recording has more than one set of Scholz artists, but it is reasonable to suppose that one set is the original artists, for example the Susanne Lautenbach recording of the Four Seasons, then use those
    • If the recording has more than one set of Scholz artists, and none have a good claim to originality, then use special purpose artists
    • If no artists are known, use special purpose artists (or just the composer)
  • Advanced Relationships
    • Include all the artists, with their roles, who are given on any of the releases on which the recording is found. This will mean that a Scholz recording may have multiple ARs for the same role.
    • If no artists are known, don't add any artists ARs
    • It's almost never the case that Scholz releases give recording dates or places
    • Link to works as for any other classical release

When to merge Scholz recordings

The question of how to represent recordings which are acoustically identical but have multiple orthogonal sets of credits is outside the scope of the style guidelines. However there seems to be a consensus among "classical" editors that it is better to merge, provided you are sure that the recordings are identical. Remember that acoustids are often assigned incorrectly, so do not merge based on acoustid alone if something else is inconsistent. If a recording has more than one acoustid, use the visual comparison tool to check if they are effectively the same. If not, then one of them is probably wrongly assigned. Compare the track lengths with the durations stored with the acoustid for any discrepancies. If the release has a discID, compare the lengths in that, too.

If the fingerprint is shared with a recording by non-Scholz artists, then it is probably wrongly assigned. Do not merge recordings by Scholz artists and non-Scholz artists unless you are certain there is an exception.

When considering a merge, always look at a work in its entirety. If only a subset of the movements appear to be possibly the same, do not merge any of them, because there is probably some other error. Whilst it is not unknown for Scholz to muddle up movements from different original recording sessions, this would be a particularly crass and unusual error. Also note that Scholz may have acquired more than one performance of the same work, and that the artist credits alone are not proof that the recordings are actually alike. For example, consider these two performances of Handel's Fireworks Music:

Version 1 Version 2
Music for the Royal Fireworks: I. Overture 9:32 Music for the Royal Fireworks: I. Overture 9:53
Music for the Royal Fireworks: II. Bourrée 1:15 Music for the Royal Fireworks: II. Bourrée 2:03
Music for the Royal Fireworks: III. La paix 3:39 Music for the Royal Fireworks: III. La paix 3:54
Music for the Royal Fireworks: IV. Menuett I 0:59 Music for the Royal Fireworks: IV. La réjouissance 2:27
Music for the Royal Fireworks: V. Menuett II 1:18 Music for the Royal Fireworks: Va. Menuett I 0:59
Music for the Royal Fireworks: VI. La réjouissance 2:24 Music for the Royal Fireworks: Vb. Menuett II 1:24

Even allowing for the re-ordering of the movements, the track lengths of the earlier movements are too dissimilar to merge, and they have distinct fingerprints.

References

See also