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.


The most prolific producer and seller of such budget recordings was Alfred Scholz. Scholz sometimes used his own name, sometimes made-up names, and sometimes the names of real people were given credit for performances which were not theirs.

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 the labels Point and PILZ (as Vienna Masters), as well as many other budget labels.

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. For example:

  • 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.

These budget recordings are not necessarily less "good" performances. Many are old performances which were sold for a one-off payment, rather than for royalties, and have been reissued in various guises ever since. They may be musically excellent, but in general the audio quality is poor.

Relevant MusicBrainz entities

Budget recordings of Alfred Scholz/Lists has lists of MusicBrainz artists 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
  • 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
  • because many of the artists are fake, there is no information about them 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]

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