It all started with Emil Berliner
The name "Emil Berliner Studios" does not refer to our location in Berlin, but to Emil Berliner (1851–1929), the inventor of the gramophone and the gramophone record. In 1898, only 10 years after inventing the gramophone record, Berliner founded the "Deutsche Grammophon Gesellschaft" in Hanover. In 1900, the society's first recording studio was opened in Berlin.
As former in-house recording department of the renowned classical record label Deutsche Grammophon, Emil Berliner Studios can look back on a proud tradition of no fewer than 120 years. With countless seminal productions and the development of many groundbreaking technological innovations, our studio has made recording history.
Over time technology changed drastically, as did ownership structures: while the development of recording media went from 7-inch shellac record to 12-inch LP to CD, names such as Telefunken, Siemens and Philips appeared in the studio's history as well as Polydor, PolyGram and, finally, Universal Music.
In May 2008, a management buyout finally led to the founding of "EBS Productions GmbH & Co. KG". The name "Emil Berliner Studios" is continued with this company, which has since developed into an independent production studio for acoustic music: We are still very active in the field of classical music, but have expanded our recording activities with great success to include jazz, crossover and film music productions. Our clients include various large and small labels, solo artists, orchestras, bands as well as composers and producers from all over the world.
The studios were relocated several times – the last major change took place when Emil Berliner Studios was reestablished as an independent production studio and moved from the long-standing site Hanover-Langenhagen location to Berlin. Since spring 2010, our studios are located in Köthener Straße in the heart of the city, just a stone's throw away from Potsdamer Platz.
Pictures from the history of a recording studio
120 years in the history of a recording studio
Technical, artistic and political changes since the end of the 19th century, presented in pictures and documents – a selection from more than 120 years of recording history.
Emil Berliner applies for a patent for his "Gramophone" system in the USA and drives forward the development of records as a mass media.
Berliner's invention is based on etching the groove into a zinc plate. Only in 1901 he replaces the zinc plate with a wax plate into which a much smoother (lower noise) groove can be cut.
Physicist Heinrich von Helmholtz invites Emil Berliner to demonstate his gramophone in Berlin – not only a sweeping success but also a great honour for the self-educated Berliner.
Emil Berliner visits his hometown Hanover and commissions the first gramophones from the dolls factory Kämmerer & Reinhardt, located on the edge of the Thuringian Forest.
The record industry's nucleus: Emil Berliner (front left) with his colleagues, including the later famous recording engineers Fred Gaisberg, William Sinkler Darby and Joe Sanders (behind Berliner, from left to right).
London, Henrietta Street: in a hotel Berliner's recording specialists Gaisberg und Sanders set up a recording studio for the recently founded Gramophone Company.
Hanover, Kniestraße: together with his brother Joseph (2nd from right), Emil Berliner founds the Deutsche Grammophon Gesellschaft, the world's first exclusive record factory.
Berlin, Ritterstraße: Deutsche Grammophon opens a branch with recording studios, the equipment is provided by the Gramophone Company, the British parent company.
Recording expedition, Bombay: Max Hampe from Deutsche Grammophon and his colleague William Sinkler Darby from the British Gramophone Company.
Yasnaja Polyana, Leo Tolstoy's country estate south of Moscow: Max Hampe records the great poet reading, Tolstoy personally signs the wax discs.
Hanover, Podbielskistraße: Joseph Berliner's engineers continually work on refining record technology.
The Hanover factory does not only press records, gramophones are assembled there as well. However, the recording studios are still in Berlin, the music metropolis.
Berlin, Ritterstraße: With recording engineer Charles Scheuplein from the Gramophone Company working the movable horns, Bruno Seidler-Winkler conducts a recording with tenor Karl Jörn at the Deutsche Grammophon's studio.
Berlin, Ritterstraße, Sep 12: Alfred Hertz, conductor of New York's Metropolitan Opera, records excerpts from Wagner's »Parsifal« with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra.
World War I turns colleagues into enemies: Vice Sergeant Max Hampe (middle) on the Western Front. Gramophone Company and Deutsche Grammophon are torn apart.
The assets of Gramophone Company Ltd., which owns the shares of Deutsche Grammophon AG, are confiscated by the German Reich and acquired by Polyphon-Musikwerke AG in a foreclosure sale.
The Berlin recording department has to be reorganized due to the separation from the London Gramophone Company. Recording engineers are hired - here Paul Goile with Wilhelm Kempff in the studio.
Berlin, Markgrafenstraße: Opera diva Frieda Hempel, conductor Bruno Seidler-Winkler, sound engineer Paul Goile (white coat) and orchestra at Deutsche Grammophon's new recording studio, in use from 1918 until 1932.
The director's office at 76 Markgrafenstrasse. Presumably director Hugo Wünsch, conductor and arranger Bruno Seidler-Winkler and musical recording director Hans B. Hasse.
© from Max Chop: The Polyphon-Gramophone group
Walter Buhre develops the electric recording process for Deutsche Grammophon. In 1929 he goes to Japan to work as a recording engineer and head of the Polydor Nippon factory until 1953.
Paul Godwin & orchestra in the studio. Recording engineer Walter Buhre tries out many microphones and constructs his own models as well: here's the Reisz microphone and a rarely used cathodophone from the company C. Lorenz.
© Deutsches Historisches Museum
Berlin, Musikhochschule am Zoo: Recording engineer Carl Friedrich Ehrich on the (wax) cutting lathe inside the control room. More and more larger orchestra recordings are made in concert halls with mobile technology.
Walter Schindler, workshop manager at the Berlin recording department, builds electrical cutterhead systems for Deutsche Grammophon's recording devices based on Buhre's plans.
Circuit drawings for main and loudspeaker amplifiers from Walter Schindler's personal notebook. Most of the studio equipment is developed and built in-house.
Recording expedition in Persia, 8 January: " ... and for the fourth time we pulled the vehicle out of the ditch. On the far right Mr. Blaesche at work".
Chemist Dr. Marie Finkelstein, responsible for the production of the recording waxes, develops the secret recipe for the "Finkelstein waxes". Here, recording engineer Ehrich checks the sound quality of a cut.
Paris, Polydor Studio: Producer Erna Elchlepp and Maurice Ravel during the recording session of the »Boléro«. The recording equipment had been brought in from Berlin.
Deutsche Grammophon's General Director Bruno Borchardt and his colleague Fritz Schönheimer flee to France. Schönheimer takes over from Erna Elchlepp as director of the Société Phonographique Française Polydor.
Paris: Farewell to Erna Elchlepp in May (center, framed by Herbert Borchardt and Fritz Schönheimer). Borchardt and Schönheimer emigrate to New York in 1941.
Log of a recording with James Kok and his orchestra. The recording waxes are developed at the in-house electroplating facility in Berlin, the factory in Hanover receives the finished metalworks.
Berlin, Lützowstraße: Richard Strauss at Deutsche Grammophon's recording studio. Soon after, the studio is demolished in the course of Albert Speer's plans for the monumental redesign of the city of Berlin.
Berlin, Alte Jakobstraße: Deutsche Grammophon sets up two recording studios in the former Central-Theater. Apart from dance music and classical music, more and more propaganda recordings are being made.
Herbert von Karajan in the studio at Alte Jakobstraße. Recordings are made with two machines running simultaneously, just to be safe.
During a presentation for new owner Siemens, director Hugo Wünsch outlines recording technology. One year later, Dr. Emil Duhme (Siemens) develops the process of silvering recording waxes in a vacuum for Deutsche Grammophon.
Berlin, Alte Jakobstraße: Recording engineer Oskar Blaesche in a control room. Two wax cutting machines from Neumann can be seen in the front, as well as the round boxes with recording waxes.
Recording log of Charlie and his Orchestra. This big band is put together for propaganda purposes during the Nazi era, producing jazz and other »ostracized music« for German radio broadcasts abroad.
The studio at Alte Jakobstraße is destroyed in an air raid. Some recording equipment can be salvaged from the rubble, but is confiscated by the Russian occupation forces shortly after.
Berlin, Ringbahnstraße: Record presses are installed in Deutsche Grammophon's bombed-out administration building to supply the Soviet sector with records. A studio is being planned, but the location is abandoned in 1949.
Hanover, Podbielskistraße: a second recording department is built on the site of the heavily destroyed factory.
Starting over: in October, the first recordings are made on magnetic tape instead of wax at the Capitol in Hanover.
The new recording department in Hanover now relies entirely on the new media magnetic tape. A musical editing of the recordings is now possible.
Berlin: During the Berlin Blockade, Candy Bombers fly over the studio every 3 to 4 minutes. The low-frequency engine noise can often be heard on tape and is visible in the spectral analysis.
Dr. Gerd Schöttler and Alexander Schaaf develop the variable groove control system "Variable Micrograde 78". This allows for an increase of playing time from 5 to 9 minutes, which opens up new possibilities for repertoire.
Helmut Naida and Georg Söffker during the transfer of a tape recording. New feed-back cutterheads can cut the groove on lacquer instead of wax. The frequency response is extended to 15,000 Hz, a huge increase in quality.
Hamburg, Studio "Erholung": The permanently installed Studio II is expanded, a Hammond organ is purchased. Recording of "Vis à vis, mon ami" with Michael Jary and Renée Franke.
Hanover, Beethovensaal: recording with Heinz Wildhagen, Hans Westphal and Werner Grimme. The mixing console has four channels. Neumann U-47 microphones are mainly being used.
Berlin, Jesus-Christus-Kirche: Due to the church's excellent acoustics, only a single Neumann microphone with an omnidirectional M48 microphone capsule is used here.
Günter Hermanns assists recording engineer Werner Wolf on the first stereo mixer in the recording department. Five channels are routed directly to the left and right sum, a panpot is not yet available in the channel strips.
Berlin, Jesus-Christus-Kirche: A permanent recording studio with a 12-channel tube mixer is installed, with panpots for no fewer than 6 channels. This console is still being used at our studio.
Dresden, control room at Lukaskirche: During the recording of Strauss's »Elektra«. From left to right: Wolfgang Lohse, Heinrich Keilholz, Jean Madeira, Karl Böhm, Hans-Peter Schweigmann, Inge Borgk and Magdalene Padberg.
Munich: Technician Wolfgang Werner, Karl Richter, recording producer Hans-Peter Schweigmann and recording engineer Hans Weber during a recording session.
Munich, Residenz: The recording department equips the studio with the new 18-channel tube mixing console.
Ernst von Siemens, chairman of the board at Deutsche Grammophon, often visits the control room during recordings – here with Volker Martin, Carl Orff, Siegfried Janzen and Hans Weber.
Milan, La Scala: Recording »Rigoletto«. To improve the acoustics, the auditorium is lined with foil. A scaffolding keeps the singers at the desired distance from the microphone.
Berlin, studio on the Ufa site: Recording »Così fan tutte«. The radar from nearby Tempelhof airport causes high-frequency interferences, which requires special shielding of the cables.
Boston, Symphony Hall: Peter K. Burkowitz (3rd from left) presents the new control room to the international press.
Boston, Symphony Hall: Günter Hermanns in the recording studio. In Boston, more and more productions are made in multitrack technology for quadrophonic reproduction.
Leverkusen, Forum: Carl Orff, Herbert von Karajan, recording engineer Günter Hermanns, recording producer Hans Weber, technicians Jürgen Bulgrin and Volker Martin in the mobile control room.
Know-how transfer: Technical director of the recording department Ernst Kwoll (left) and Thomas Maler (right) interview Walter Buhre, who had developed the electrical recording process at DG 50 years before.
Munich: Hans-Peter Schweigmann, Werner Mayer and Edith Mathis on the new PolyGram module mixer during a recording.
Hanover-Langenhagen: Klaus Behrens in the new recording center editing 4-track tapes.
Hanover-Langenhagen: Hans Weber and Klaus Scheibe mixing a multitrack recording.
Hanover, Podbielskistraße: Michael Tilson Thomas, Christoph Eschenbach and managing director Dr. Hans-Werner Steinhausen during a transfer.
Günther Struck is significantly involved in the development and quality control of cutting technology at Deutsche Grammophon.
Physicist Oswald Stephani in Deutsche Grammophone's acoustic laboratory.
Each recording has to undergo a musical and technical quality check before it can be released. In this picture, Otto Ernst Wohlert is checking a test pressing.
Shortly before the introduction of digital technology, the company is working on the introduction of diamond styli for lacquer mastering instead of sapphire to further improve the quality of analog records.
Hanover-Langenhagen: Recording producer Hans Weber listening to and editing the analog multitrack tapes of the »Meistersinger« production. Two 16-track 2 inch Studer A80 are used for editing.
Editing score with 16-track tape snippets. In case an edit has to be changed again later, these snippets are pasted into the score.
Hanover-Langenhagen: Recording manager and recording engineer Wolfgang Mitlehner listens to a chamber music recording and creates the editing plan for the 1/4 inch 2-track tapes – editing with scissors and adhesive tape.
Vienna, Musikverein: Leonard Bernstein, recording producer Hans Weber and recording engineer Klaus Scheibe in the control room listening to a »Fidelio« production on 8-track tapes.
Hanover-Langenhagen: Hella Schröder on the VMS 70 in the studio, after relocation to the new recording center.
In the Special Projects department, Klaus Hiemann and Jost Haase develop devices and applications for aspects such as reverberation measurement and artificial head recordings. Several of them are patented.
Starting in January, the recordings are produced in analog as well as the new digital technology. Since no digital editing suite is operational at that point, the productions are still edited and published in analog format.
Rainer Höpfner using the prototype of a digital Sony editing suite, which is being developed together with the recording department.
Hanover-Langenhagen: Leonard Bernstein with Dr. Hermann Franz, Klaus P. Burkowitz and Godefried Schulze in the cutting studio next to a Neumann VMS 80. The new digital recordings are still only being released on vinyl.
Hanover-Langenhagen: Jobst Eberhardt editing the "Alpensinfonie", the first official CD release of DGG. It was digitally recorded in 1980 on 24 tracks.
Hanover-Langenhagen: In Plant II, Dr. Hermann R. Franz and Claudio Arrau present the Compact Disc to the press.
Hanover-Langenhagen: Hans-Peter Schweigmann at the Recording Center. The Sony DAE 1100 is available as a digital 2-track editing suite.
New York: Leonard Bernstein records »West Side Story«. Two Sennheiser PZM microphones glued on Plexiglas are used as main microphones.
In cooperation with Yamaha, the DMC 1000 digital mixing console is developed and introduced for recording and post-production.
London: Stefan Shibata during a recording with the possibility of comparing analog and digital mixing consoles.
Cologne: Recording producer and recording engineer Karl-August Naegler in the control room during a recording in 24-bit technology (4-track / Nagra-D).
Hanover-Langenhagen: At the suggestion of chief recording engineer Klaus Hiemann, the street in front of the factory is also renamed after the inventor of the gramophone record.
Hanover-Langenhagen: The recording department moves into a new building with 18 post-production studios, named after the company's founder Emil Berliner.
Hanover-Langenhagen: Klaus Hiemann mixing at the Emil Berliner Haus. The recording department modifies their digital Sony 3324 multitrack recorders from 16 to 24 bit.
The first multi-track recordings in 96 kHz are a veritable battle of matériel - here 16 tracks in 24 bit.
Berlin: production using a Reisz microphone from 1925. From left to right: Rainer Maillard, Manfred Hibbing (Sennheiser), Max Raabe, Klaus Hiemann and Wolf-Dieter Karwatky.
Variable polar pattern: in cooperation with Mr. Hibbing (Sennheiser), prototypes are created that render separate signals from two capsules: omni/figure of eight (left) and double diaphragm cardioid (right).
Bernd Moldenhauer checks a historical mould with the microscope to start with a remastering.
Hanover-Langenhagen, Emil Berliner Studios: Recording engineer and expert for historical tapes Andrew Wedman behind an analog 3-track Ampex machine.
Caracas: Gustavo Dudamel and the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela. The recording equipment is becoming smaller and lighter and is transported by plane.
Dresden, Lukaskirche: Rolando Villazón and Anna Netrebko during a recording.
Berlin, Jesus-Christus-Kirche: Hans-Ulrich Bastin, Ulrich Vette, Pierre Boulez, Matthias Spindler and Christian Gansch in the control room during the recording of Mahler's Eighth Symphony.
© Marcus Blome
A management buy-out leads to the founding of "EBS Productions GmbH & Co. KG", which carries on the name "Emil Berliner Studios": Rainer Höpfner, Hans-Ulrich Bastin, Rainer Maillard, Evert Menting and Stephan Flock.
© Damiel Schleef
Vienna, Musikverein: recording operations continue without interruption – mobile recording with Vladimir Repin and Riccardo Muti.
Hanover-Langenhagen: Ulrich Tukur at Emil Berliner Studios, the last recording before the relocation to Berlin.
Berlin, Köthener Straße: After a long period of structural restoration, we move in.
Berlin, Köthener Straße: Recording in the new studio.
The Emil Berliner Studios are reviving the almost forgotten direct-to-disc recording process. Recording engineer Stephan Flock checks the miking in the Meistersaal.
Baden-Baden: Recording engineer Daniel Kemper setting up microphones for the live recording of a Mozart opera.
Berlin, Philharmonie: For the first time in almost 70 years, Emil Berliner Studios is carrying out a mobile direct-to-disc recording. Maarten de Boer assists Sir Simon Rattle in signing the lacquer master.
Recording session with Sting and a Syrian ensemble in the Emil Berliner Studios.
Before we delude ourselves – hearing tests in the form of blind tests...
As a team: Julian Helms, Stephan Flock, Rainer Maillard, Frederic Stader, Justus Beyer, Angela Chastenier, Philip Krause and Lukas Kowalski at Emil Berliner Studios.
Tape box of a "Carmen" recording from 1977. This analog 16-track recording is being remastered and re-released on SACD in Japan. Two years later, a 5.1 surround sound and Dolby Atmos mix follow.
Emil Berliner goes immersive: Listening session and discussion about sound philosophy in 3D audio.
Binaural recordings using an artificial head are not a new invention – however, they always cause astonishment.
Do you have any comments, criticism or additions? Then please write to us. We are looking for more photos, sources and documents about the history of Emil Berliner Studios.
Peter K. Burkowitz, former CTO at Polygram and thus also part of the long Emil Berliner Studios history, wrote an extensive chronicle about the history of sound recording and kindly made this available for us. The chronicle starts with Emil Berliner's birth in 1870, highlights numerous important milestones of sound recording development and ends with the relocation of Emil Berliner Studios from Hannover to Berlin in 2010.
Mr Burkowitz died in June 2012 at the age of 92. We are indepted to him for his extensive research and kind permission to use this chronicle for our purposes, and we will keep him in fond memory.
Emil (or Emile) Berliner, born on May 20, 1851, immigrates to the USA together with a friend of the family, Nathan Gotthelf. On arrival he takes an interest in the newly developed telephone technology, creating an improved microphone for this device. The fact that Alexander Graham Bell acquires the patent for it for the sum of 50,000 $ renders Berliner financially independent for the foreseeable future and enables him to open a laboratory. When he returns to Germany for a short period together with his brother Joseph, they found the Joseph Berliner Telephone Co., the first such plant in Europe at that time.
After his return to the USA on September 26, Berliner applies for a patent on his fully operational “gramophone” recording system, based on a method of etching a lateral cut into a zinc disc. He is granted American Patent No. 15232 on November 8, 1887. Prior to this there had been only one other vertical cut-type of record, submitted for patenting on April 24, 1878 by Thomas A. Edison, and granted, as soon as August 6 of the same year (British Patent 1644), but Edison´s simultaneous application for an American patent was rejected on the grounds of “British Priority”. Although the drafts supporting his application anticipate the “gramophone”, Edison could not provide an operational specimen.
Emil Berliner founds the United States Gramophone Company. Fred Gaisberg, who is his first record producer, quickly wins world fame.
On October 8, Emil Berliner founds the Berliner Gramophone Company in Philadelphia. This time he invites shareholders to provide an increase in share capital. To further enlarge the contract basis, this company merges with the Victor Talking Machine Co. under Frank Seaman in 1904. It is acquired in 1929 by RCA, creating the label RCA Victor.
Emil Berliner transfers all U.S. rights of sale for fifteen years to the National Gramophone Company, founded by Seaman, but based on the first fully operational spring drive by Eldridge R. Johnson. Seaman´s company also takes the job of producing and delivering all exports, but it soon meets considerable displeasure in the countries involved on account of its exclusively American repertoire.
In consequence Berliner commissions two U.K. partners, William Barry Owen and Trevor Williams, to create an international repertoire by founding the UK Gramophone Company, initially meant to be no more than an artist & repertoire centre.
In New York and Philadelphia recording studios are established.
Hard rubber is replaced by shellac for pressing records.
Berliner´s recording specialists Fred Gaisberg and Joe Sanders establish their first recording studio in Europe in rooms of the Cockburn Hotel, London, Henrietta Street.
Berliner´s U.S. production partner Frank Seaman is suspicious about of all this activity and stops delivering to Berliner´s distribution network. Berliner calls up an ad-hoc meeting with his closest associates, resulting in the decision to establish an improvised record production plant in the Hannover-based telephone factory of Berliner´s brothers Joseph and Jacob. J. Sanders is sent to Hannover to give a hand. The manoeuver succeeds and invalidates Seaman´s attempts at an embargo. Contrary to all expectations, the initially makeshift production in Hannover flourishes, which induces Berliner to found Deutsche Grammophon GmbH through his brothers Joseph and Jacob (on December 6). It includes a modest amount of record player construction, based on components from the USA. By the outbreak of World War I Berliner´s recording business has already turned into an international market leader.
In view of a patenting dispute in the USA Berliner transfers his company headquarters to Canada and founds the Gram-O-Phone Co in the suburb Saint-Henri of Montréal. The “dog tag” is given the logo His Master´s Voice.
On June 27, Deutsche Grammophon GmbH is transformed into a corporation, founded by Deutsche Grammophon GmbH, Orpheus Musikwerke GmbH, Leipzig, and UK Gramophone Company, London, which soon acquires all shares.
Because of the change of name in London the production plant in Hannover is temporarily renamed Gramophone & Typewriter GmbH (until 1908).
The headquarters of Deutsche Grammophon AG and the record player production are transferred to Markgrafenstraße 76 in the centre of Berlin, including a recording studio with a workshop. Theodore B. Birnbaum, one of the founders of Berliner Gramophone Co. in Philadelphia, is made managing director.
Further subsidiaries are established in Russia and Austria.
Technically, etching in zinc is replaced by wax cutting. (For the production of the original Berliner had so far used a zinc disc covered by a thin layer of hard fat. During the recording process the pin connected with the membrane of the sound box cuts through this layer down to the metal surface, so that the waveform embossed into the fat layer precisely represents the musical undulations. The zinc disc “inscribed” in this way is submerged in an acidic solution which “bites” a deep, channel-shaped groove into the metal. The copper tools, father, mother and matrix, are made from this original by using well-known galvano-plastic procedures. But the resulting groove surfaces are not smooth enough, which causes considerable noise when the record is played. That is why this method is soon abandoned in favor of the generally accepted one of cutting a v-shaped smooth groove into a massive, circular wax disc by using a polished cutting stylus.)
Extension of the disc format from 17 to 25 cm; introduction of paper labels.
By this time, Berliner´s Canadian GRAM-O-PHONE has already sold two million records, established a Nipper-decorated shop in the Rue Sainte-Catherine (Montréal) and opened up a lavishly equipped recording studio as well. This offers many jazz musicians the opportunity of undisturbed (and highly successful) recording sessions due to the hate campaign launched in the USA by car manufacturer H. Ford against jazz as “Jewish machinations” [see Article by Lothar Baier in the German newspaper DIE ZEIT].
An advert by Deutsche Grammophon promises: “We offer you 5,000 records in all languages of the world!” (Thanks to Gaisberg – the author) “Strongest, most natural sound! Hard discs, no soft cylinders!”
The first six records are made with the young tenor Enrico Caruso for a fee of just 100 £ (1 £ = 20 Reichsmark = a wage of ten days of work).
For the first time the diameter of the recordmeasures 30 cm; the playing time is ca. 5 minutes.
1901/02: The company pays a dividend of 25 %.
Owing to the dearth of space in the plant Kniestraße/Hannover, the company leases a site on Podbielskistraße. (Before this, the plant had resided in Celler Straße, Groß-Buchholz, Separatorenfabrik Franz Daseking.)
DGG buys out its recent competitor International Zonophon Company, Berlin, and divides its supply policy into the upper-price bracket (DG Classics, emblem “the writing angel”) and the lower-price bracket (Zonophon, light and folk music, distribution by wholesale).
Theodore B. Birnbaum moves to London as director general of all European gramophone companies. His successor in Berlin is N. M. Rodkinson from the St. Petersburg subsidiary.
The first double-sided records appear.
The retail trade of records is gradually transferred from toy and bicycle shops to those selling music instruments, then the specialist trade.
200 presses are at work in Hanover with a daily output of 36,000 records.
The Gramophone Co. acquires a site with railway access in Hayes near London, where a new, extensive plant is being built, because worldwide demand had turned the idea of producing records in Hanover alone obsolete.
The first cut of the spade for the head office, the plant and the studios is made by tenor Edward Lloyd in February 1907, the laying of the foundation stone is executed by singer Nellie Melba.
Rodkinson leaves Berlin for India. After him DG AG is directed by Leo B. Cohn. When he marries singer Elisabeth von Endert he changes his family name to “Curt”.
The newest fad at this time are concerts via gramophone performed in large halls. To enhance the sound volume, DG technicians develop an “Auxetophon”, based on pneumatic amplification, but the amount of background noise it creates renders it ephemeral soon.
The first machines without horns appear, integrating the sound guiding devices into the cabinet.
The output before World War I is 6.2 million records a year.
The plant site on Podbielskistraße is now made the property of the company, no longer just a lease. The company is given back its original name (see 1900).
At this time, the workshop producing record players in Berlin employs more than 100 people, but drive mechanisms and sound boxers are still imported from the USA.
Arranger and producer Bruno Seidler-Winkler acquires lasting merit by writing instrumentation especially suited for recording.
In Berlin, the two recording engineers and brothers Max and Franz Hampe (Deutsche Grammophon AG) work alongside the recording pioneers Fred Gaisberg, William Sincler Darby, Charles A. Scheuplein and Ivor R. Holmes (The Gramophone Company, Hayes).
The emblem “the writing angel” is replaced by “His Master´s Voice”.
To provide business models for the retail trade, the Grammophon Spezialhaus GmbH is founded, opening subsidiaries in Berlin, Breslau, Düsseldorf, Köln, Königsberg, Kiel and Nürnberg.
Beethoven´s 5th Symphony, played by a full orchestra, the Berlin Philharmonic under Arthur Nikisch, is recorded for DGG on four double-sided records – a total novelty!
When World War I begins, German assets are confiscated in Great Britain. In retaliation, British property is sequestered in Germany and offered for sale, among others the DG AG as subsidiary of a British company.
On April 24, Polyphon Musikwerke, founded in Leipzig-Wahren on May 24, 1895, acquires DG AG. PML had produced only musical boxes and orchestrions before this.
Both companies trade under the name Polyphon AG and establish their head offices in Markgrafenstraße 76, Berlin, enlarging the recording capacity to three rooms. Bruno Borchardt is made director general, Hugo Wünsch former authorized signatory at PML since 1908, becomes head of the new subsidiary DG AG. Joseph Berliner remains a member of the boards until his retirement in 1921. Leo B. Curth, executive director of DG AG until 1918, takes the wheel at Grammophon Spezialhaus GmbH.
The Austrian subsidiary Polyphon-Sprechmaschinen und Schallplatten GmbH is founded in Vienna.
Nordisk Polyphon A. S. is founded in Kopenhagen; in Stockholm the Swedish subsidiary is called Nordisk Polyphon A. B.
As large portions of the world-famous pre-war repertoire cannot be used on account of the divided rights of ownership between the previous British mother company and her German subsidiaries, a new repertoire has to be established as quickly as possible. Karl Holy, director at the Berlin State Opera House, and Hans B. Hasse, conductor and head of the recording department of the newly installed companies, work together with technician Walter Buhre and employees Oskar Blesche, Paul Goile, Fritz Lehmann, Mr. König and Carl Friedrich Ehrich at creating a new, attractive catalog in a very short time. Nevertheless, it persists until the end of World War II. They are ably supported by Maria Ivogün, Emmi Leisner, Heinrich Schlusnus, Tino Pattiera, Wilhelm Kempff, Wilhelm Backhaus, Raoul v. Koczalski, Carl Flesch, Richard Strauss, Hans Pfitzner, Leo Blech, Herman Abendroth, and others. Recording sessions mostly take place in the music academy in Berlin-Zoo, in the Bach Hall, or the “Liedertafel”, Urbanstraße, in the Alte Jakobstraße, in the Beethoven Hall and in the Cinema Hall on Lützowstraße. These rooms are damped as effectively as possible by carpets and curtains. Until 1946, all insiders in this line of business are convinced that acoustically authentic records must contain no other sounds but those made by the instruments or the voices of the singers (direct sound). But then Keilholz manages to change this habit by introducing the lively acoustic atmosphere he had learnt to create during his years at the Reichsrundfunkgesellschaft by using modern broadband technology.
Robert Blanke is made head of the Hanover plant in his capacity of authorized signatory.
Three years prior to the introduction of the electro-acoustic recording and reproduction technologies, engineers of DGG create wax records by using an experimentally developed electro-magnetic cutter head.
Berliner sells his GRAM-O-PHONE Co., including the NIPPER trademark, to the Victor Talking Machine Co.
DG engineer Buhre writes a lab report on the successful design of an electromagnetic cutter capable of recording 100 to 4500 Hz.
The acousto-mechanical recording and reproduction sysem is gradually replaced by the electro-acoustico-magnetic system in all broadcasting and recording studios worldwide.
At DGG Dr. Waldemar Hagemann replaces graphiting of wax discs by electro-chemical silvering to render their surfaces conductive to galvanization.
In Berlin Buhre employs Walter Schindler as precision engineer, then as head of the workshop.
The Berlin Philharmonic under Wilhelm Furtwängler playing Beethoven´s 5th Symphony is recorded for the first time.
A contract on matrix exchange is concluded between DGG and the Brunswick-Balke-Collander Co. in Chicago, not only giving access to the most attractive jazz repertoire of the period, but also enabling the company to import electric record players from the USA.
Beethoven´s Missa Solemnis (Berlin Philharmonic, Bruno Kittel) is recorded in its entirety on eleven 30 cm diameter discs. At Christmas a million copies of a 30 cm disc of the “Archangel Gabriel proclaiming the birth of Christ to the shepherds” are sold – an unheard-of success!
In Tokyo Nippon Polydor Chikounki K. K. is founded.
Emil Berliner dies in Washington on August 3.
Victor Talking Machine Co. sells all rights and labels acquired from Berliner to RCA.
Under the direction of Herbert Borchardt and Erna Elchlepp, the Societée Phonographique Française Polydor S. A. is founded. Mr. König is instated as the recording engineer in Paris.
At this time the daily output of records in Hannover climbs to 83,000 copies from among a total production of 10 million discs.
DG AG takes an interest in KLANGFILM GmbH, expecting future benefits for their recording business, but due to a negative prognosis they already give up their shares in 1932.
During the twenties, the board of directors at DG AG consists of Dr. Gustav Stresemann, former Imperial Chancellor Fehrenbach, former Imperial Minister of Trade and Commerce Dr. von Raumer, Cyrus Thomas Pott (Union Corp., London), Gerrit Kreyenbroek (Teixeira, Amsterdam), Dr. Curt Sobernheim (Kommerz & Privatbank AG), Hans Arnhold (Gebr. Arnhold, Dresden/Berlin) and Martin Schiff.
Due to the World Economic Crisis, which had already made itself felt in 1929, the company´s extensive foreign activities are concentrated in March in a Swiss holding, the Polyphon-Holding AG. In 1932 this holding is renamed Polydor Holding AG.
On account of the catastrophic stagnation of the business in their plant, Polyphon Werke AG, Leipzig, merges with Deutschen Grammophon AG, soon to be followed by the total shutdown of the production in Leipzig.
Due to heavy traffic noise, the recording studios are moved from Markgrafenstraße to Lützowstraße 111/112.
Deutsche Grammophon AG parts company with Polydor Holding, Basel, selling off all their shares in it.
Under pressure from international copyright companies and technical innovations, such as broadcasting, technical setups for large events, the sound film, later also tape recorders, the record companies form a protective association, the “International Federation of the Phonographic Industry” (IFPI), which soon gains considerable influence. Dr. Walter Betcke, manager at DGG, is its president from 1961 to 1964 (at a much later stage).
Due to the depression the prestigious premises in Berlin, Markgrafenstraße, are abandoned in favor of modest offices in Jerusalemer Straße 65-66.
Duhme and A. Schaaf (DGG) provide the first systematic classification and quantitative analysis of record noises.
DGG´s principal shareholders emigrate to escape growing racial defamation, trying to sell their shares. An interim board of directors manages to bring about a capital merger as a first step towards recovery and enables a consortium of Deutsche Bank and Telefunken Gesellschaft für drahtlose Telegraphie mbH to start a re-development programme by liquidating DG AG and by founding Deutsche Grammophon GmbH. Telefunken is interested in this new company because their own Telefunken Platte GmbH, founded in 1932, has no production plant. This cooperation prepares the subsequent re-emergence of DGG mbH, too, especially by adding to it the total production of Telefunken Platte in Hannover. This means that the ultra-modern Telefunken recording technology is there to be shared insofar as it is not curtailed by temporary deficits.
Measures to rebuild Berlin (by Albert Speer, among others) induce DG AG to abandon its studios on Lützowstraße 111/112, and to move to the former Zentraltheater in the Alte Jakobstraße. Much better acoustic and technical conditions than in their previous location make up for this change, initially seen as a form of humiliation. This is where a new high-class repertoire is recorded with works played by BPO and the State Opera Orchestra. The number of conductors already under contract (Paul van Kempen, Carl Schuricht, Richard Strauss) is joined by young Herbert von Karajan, who produces his first recordings ever in the new studio. Soloists performing there are Wilhelm Kempff, Elly Ney, Alfred Sittard, Georg Kulenkampff, Erna Berger, Tiana Lemnitz, Viorica Ursuleac, Walther Ludwig, Julius Patzak, Helge Roswaenge, Heinrich Schlusnus, Franz Völker, and others.
These top-flight productions are traded under the label „Grammophon Meisterklasse“.
DGG´s headquarters are soon transferred to larger rooms in the Ringbahnstraße 63 in Berlin-Tempelhof.
A major contract between Siemens and AEG assigns all Telefunken shares to AEG, and all DG shares to Siemens, thereby turning Siemens into the sole proprietor of DGG, a move which proves to introduce one of the most successful periods in company history. Dr. Ernst von Siemens and board director Dr. Adolf Lohse subsequently take an avid interest in everything that happens at DGG.
The unabbreviated “St Matthew´s Passion” appears on eighteen 30 cm discs right in the middle of the war, their matrices carried to Japan by a blockade-runner submarine. Until the end of the war, 17,000 copies are sold in Japan.
At DGG Dr. Emil Duhme (Siemens) introduces vacuum silvering to replace electro silvering. Following the recommendation of Hans Domizlaff, Siemens' advisor on matters of style and labels, all records produced in this way are given new imprints:
Classical music gets pale blue labels, called Siemens Spezial (experimental record, using the new silvering process of the electro-acoustic research lab; light music is given a red label, Siemens Polydor (produced by electro-acoustic methods meant to provide a high degree of purity of sound and an extended frequency response.
Several top-flight productions, such as Beethoven´s 7th Symphony (State Opera Orchestra Berlin, Karajan) and Don Quixote by and under Richard Strauss, Bavarian State Orchestra, are produced in this manner.
On January 1, Siemens sends qualified engineer Helmut Haertel to DGG to become their deputy manager.
The Berlin studio and large sections of the Hannover plant fall victim to bombing during the last years of the war. Haertel and Blanke organize the work of rebuilding them, so that a makeshift production can soon be resumed by using a number of presses that had remained intact somehow.
The British Occupying Council authorizes DGG to employ 50 extra staff for cleaning-up operation. First stopgap earnings are made by direct sale to members of the occupation army. Together with engineer Thieme (Siemens, Hannover), P. K. Burkowitz, newly assigned to the electro-acoustic lab on August 16, 1945 for a wage of 50,- Reichsmark per month (a mere pocketmoney), starts building a makeshift mixing desk to enable the company to record music again. The desk, resembling V35 of RGG, is finished early in 1946, relying on available components, like shielded cables, which have to be extricated at night from deserted flak shelters.
The first recordings are made on magnetic audio tape (German: "Magnetophonband") at the Capitol in Hannover in October.
Heinrich Keilholz contributes his extensive recording experience, which he gathered during his years at RGG (Reichsrundfunkgesellschaft), by taking up the position of head of the recording department at DGG. He will hold the position until 1960.
In May, G. Schöttler and A. Schaaf (DGG) introduce their version of extended play (modulation-controlled groove distance, patented on December 28, 1948).
Using the new makeshift mixing desk (3 channel controls, 1 ouput control, level indicator with 10 ms attack time on a 40 dB scale) and two miraculously preserved Neumann “bottles” (a pressure gradient capsule and an M7), he makes his first recordings at the Beethoven Hall in Hannover, and he is quite happy with the result.
When the ban on travelling is lifted, Burkowitz returns to his hometown Berlin on August 31 to work for RIAS as sound engineer. His main contacts there are: Albert Pösniker (Technical Director), Otto Scheffler and Jörg Hinkel (technical development and construction), Prof. Elsa Schiller (head of the classics department), Fried Walter and Hans Carste (heads of the light music department), Werner Müller (conductor of the dance music orchestra), Heinz Opitz, Fritz Ribbentrop, Alfred Schmidt, Helmut Hertlein and Helmut Krüger (sound engineers).
At DGG Biers and A. Schaaf start using pressing materials without any filling or grinding additives.
From this time onwards, DGG produces all its recordings by using magnetic tape (the first post-war models from AEG).
The logo “His Master´s Voice”, no longer serviceable in international business, is sold to the previous owner, The Gramophone Co and its German subsidiary Electrola.
Musicologist Dr. Fred Hamel starts building his Archiv Produktion, which will soon gain worldwide attention and fame.
In the USA rival Columbia introduces its first 30 cm 33⅓ rpm longplay records in vinyl. This leads to a format competition with RCA, pinning its hopes on a 17 cm, 45 rpm model.
The combination of the company logo Siemens and the record labels, recognized as unsuitable, is abandoned. Following Domizlaff´s suggestion, two new labels are introduced: the yellow label Deutsche Grammophon Gesellschaft for classical music and the red label Polydor for light music.
Dr. Hans-Werner Steinhausen from Telefunken-Platte GmbH becomes managing director of the technical department of DGG.
The production of light music is transferred from Hannover to Hamburg, where it resides on the premises of Studio Hamburg GmbH, with Alfred Schmidt as head of the light music recording activities.
DGG makes its first stereo tape recordings for comparative tests, also testing their usefulness on records.
In the meantime the company has managed to gain the cooperation of the following artists: Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Christel Goltz, Josef Greindl, Elisabeth Höngen, Annelies Kupper, Fritz Lehmann, Wilma Lipp, Max Lorenz, Enrico Meinardi, Wolfgang Schneiderhan, Irmgard Seefried, Carl Seemann, Elfriede Trötschel, Hermann Uhde, Wolfgang Windgassen, Wilhelm Kempff, Leopold Ludwig, and Walther Ludwig.
The new synthetic LP with 33⅓ rpm is now marketable in Germany, too.
Twelve new yellow-label releases create quite a stir at the Funkausstellung on account of their superlative quality and the placement of items like Mendelssohn´s A Midsummer Night´s Dream (Berlin PO, Fricsay), Brahms´ 2nd Symphony (Berlin PO, Jochum), Mozart´s Eine kleine Nachtmusik (Chamber Orchestra of the Bavarian Broadcast, Jochum), Brahms´ Variations on a Theme by Haydn, op. 56 (Württembergisches Staatsorchester Stuttgart, Leitner) – on just one side of an LP!
Prof. Elsa Schiller, former head of the music department at RIAS, Berlin, is made product manager for classical music at DGG.
The first complete opera recorded on LP is Lortzing´s “Zar und Zimmermann”, prelude to a long line of such recordings with the yellow label.
Kurt Richter is made head of the light music department.
Heinrich Keilholz, head of the DGG recording department, provides new decorative acoustic elements for the Vienna State Opera, which are highly effective.
Dr. Ernst von Siemens is made head of the supervisory board at DGG.
The 17 cm 45 rpm is now introduced throughout the music industry.
DGG establishes a subsidiary in London, Polydor UK, Ltd.. Werner Riemer is made its managing director, formerly export division Hannover.
For the first time DGG records a complete work of literature: Goethe´s Faust on LP.
84 % of all deliveries are still 78 shellac discs.
The plant in Hannover is enlarged by 1,000 sqm.
The headquarters and the managing board of DGG are transferred from Hannover to Hamburg.
The construction works for a new record manufacturing plant are started in Langenhagen near Hannover.
After great success of Goethe´s “Faust I” (Düsseldorf, Gründgens), the „Literary Archive“ (green label) if founded. Dr. Adolf Lohse, member of the board of directors, will take care for this label in the future.
DGG releases its first stereo LP record, although already at the industry´s disposal since 1954. Due to the progressive pick-up technology, stereo LPs can be submitted to public use earlier than imagined because they are “mono compatible” (they can also be played on mono sets).
The production of shellac discs is abandoned. The vinyl formats – 33⅓ rpm LPs and 45 rpm singles – are firmly established by this time.
Herbert von Karajan is once more taken under a long-term contract by DGG.
The moulding record production starts in Langenhagen, next to the site of the future Emil Berliner Studios. At first the daily output is 40,000 discs, soon to surpass 120,000 ones.
The size of the DGG catalogues, containing more than 5,000 titles by renowned artists, achieves a new top position in the music industry worldwide.
The recording department with its studios is physically separated and moved back to Podbielskistraße in Hanover, the production is continued in Hamburg.
Dr. W. Betcke, managing director at DGG, is elected president of IFPI for one term of tenure.
Horst Söding, head of the development department at DGG, introduces the first experimental video disc (for internal use only).
Siemens AG, München, and Philips Gloeilampen Fabrieken N. V., Eindhoven/Netherlands, decide to merge their subsidiaries DGG und PPI (Philips Phonographische Industrie) ecenomically while both maintaining legally independent. They believe in considerable advantages from this move, DGG having a superlative repertoire, PPI owning branches worldwide. The new company trades under the provisional name “GPG” (in Germany Grammophon-Philips-Gruppe, in Netherlands Gruppe Philips Grammophon). Coen Solleveld is elected president, F & A Johannes van der Velden, Distribution & Sales Kurt Kinkele, Engineering Dr. H. W. Steinhausen, Polydor Int. Dr. Werner Vogelsang, PPI Piet Schellevis, DGG Richard Busch, Philips Reinhard Klaassen.
The group acquires the company and label Mercury (US).
At GPG Hannover Immelmann introduces a fully automatic electronic record control system.
At the end of his tenure, Dr. W. Betcke surrenders his IFPI chairmanship to Richard Dawes, EMI.
The production of music cassettes (MC) begins in Hannover.
Peter K. Burkowitz is made head of Groups Recording Management (GRM) in Hannover, alternatively in Baarn, Netherlands. Technical planning, construction and service capacities are distributed to both facilities, depending on demand and suitability. Coordinating measures are to be initiated on all decision levels. The studios of regional branches are supervised centrally, introducing adequate measures of standardization, modernization and coordination.
There are exploratory talks with Dr. Steinhausen on the transfer of the sound engineering department from Hannover to Langenhagen into a new, yet to be built administrative center. The favored solution of a separate building, especially appropriate for acoustic reasons (close proximity to the highway), cannot be verified, owing to limited resources, but it is not rejected altogether, either.
The recording department sound engineering and GRM move to Langenhagen into the new administrative building.
C. Olms, head of Polydor studios, London, describes the principles and solutions of automatic repetition of work routines at the mixing desk.
During a US tour P. K. Burkowitz scouts out halls, studios and recording installation of the most renowned labels in New York, Chicago, Montreal, Detroit, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Nashville, Memphis, Boston, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. The news of an expiring contract between the Boston Symphony Orchestra and RCA, immediately transferred to Kurt Kinkele in Hamburg, initiates a new long-term contract between DGG and the BSO, leading to the establishment of a separate control room for DGG (a novelty in the Symphony Hall), with a modern analog transistor desk from the GPG workshop, audio engineering department Baarn. Local supervision in Boston is assigned to Paul Meister, GPG audio engineering department, Hannover (see picture below).
First 4 channel quadrophony discs.
In the Netherlands the first worldwide meeting of Group Recording Managers (heads of regional companies) is arranged. Many participants see their colleagues from other countries for the first time ever. A great need for and real interest in timely technical information becomes apparent, leading to a regular service, including suggestions for practical and economically viable harmonization measures.
Siemens and Philips assign GPG to PolyGram.
After many years of international groundwork by Johann L. Ooms (former chief engineer for electro acoustics at PPI) and regional initiatives by P. K. Burkowitz and several technical heads of European companies inside the music industry, there is a first meeting of the Audio Engineering Society (AES) in Europe, convening in Cologne. This event marks the beginnings of a new (and badly needed) international cooperation, providing information on and accounts of experiences with technological inventions. Burkowitz heads the first three meetings: 1971 in Cologne, 1972 in Munich, and 1973 in Rotterdam (see AES History: Background Information – AES Amsterdam 2008 (April 2, 2008)).
On February 8, 1971 the control room at the Boston Symphony Hall is officially opened in the presence of journalists:
The classics teams of DGG and Philips (PolyGram) are now serially equipped with 8-channel, soon even 16-channel machines (Studer).
The first digital test recordings are made with Sony PCM1 machines. At the same time, everything is still recorded on analogue tape as well.
Lothar Schmidt und Gorski, POLYGRAM-AED Hannover, create the first automatic mixing system with inter-track data recording and real-time data recovery.
DECCA London builds proprietary digital tape recorders in their own workshop.
PolyGram quickly equips classical music teams and national companies with commercially available digital tape machines and systematically begins the transition to digital recording: Sony PCM 1600 for stereo recordings, 3M and SONY 3324 multitrack machines for multitrack recordings .
Under the overall technical supervision of Dr. Hermann R. Franz, PolyGram engineers (production technology - Dieter Soiné, development department - Horst Söding) develop the entire technology of CD record production, based on their own experiences from Hanover laboratories dating back to 1961. The market is supplied from 1982.
DGG Tonmeister Karl-August Naegler receives a Grammy Award for his recording of Alban Berg´s Lulu (Orchestre de l'Opéra de Paris, Pierre Boulez) in the category „Best Engineered Album, Classical“.
Nach Erreichen des Ruhestandalters und einem weiteren Jahr Beratertätigkeit übergibt Peter K. Burkowitz seinen betrieblichen Aufgabenbereich an Prof. Dr. Hans Hirsch (Chef E-Musik DGG) und seinen technischen Aufgabenbereich an Ing. Han Tendeloo (Chef Group-Adva). Die Leitung des DGG-Aufnahme-Bereichs übernimmt Klaus Hiemann.
The first CD-ROMs (reald-only memory) are produced in Hannover.
A six-year cooperation between Philips and Dupont Optical begins under the logo PDO.
digital delay technology is used for the first time to compensate for time differences between main and spot microphones.
The CD-Video with analog picture and digital sound is created.
During the Funkausstellung P. K. Burkowitz, invited for this purpose, explains to interested visitors the principles of recording in the “digital era”. This is followed by an exchange of ideas with Oliver Berliner about the situation and plans of the descendants of Emil Berliner and his views on subsequent developments (see the following pictures).
The bit rate for two-channel recordings is increased from 16 to 24 bits.
Development of High Capacity Discs (forerunners of the DVD).
The remaining production facilities are transferred from Hannover, Podbielskistraße, to Langenhagen.
The first recordings in “4D” technology are carried out, with A/D conversion as close to the microphone as possible, so that only digital signals are carried to the mixing desk via cable. (Resolution during both the recording and the mixing process should exceed the CD standard).
DG producer Hans Weber receives a Grammy Award for his recording of Charles Ives' orchestra works (New York Philharmonic, Leonard Bernstein) in the category „Best Classical Album“. Tonmeister was Klaus Scheibe.
DG Tonmeister Gregor Zielinsky receives a Grammy Award for his recording of Leonard Bernstein´s Candide (London Symphony Orchestra, Bernstein) in the category „Best Engineered Album, Classical“.
Patenting of the CD recycling technology, a PolyGram Hannover product.
For 2 and 4-track recordings, the resolution is increased from 16 bits to 24 bits (Nagra-D).
24-bit technology is also introduced for multi-track recordings (> 4 tracks). For this purpose, the DASH machines (Sony) are modified by the in-house audio engineering department under the direction of Stefan Shibata.
The PolyGram plant Hannover/Langenhagen is renamed PolyGram Manufacturing & Distribution Centres GmbH (PMDC).
DG Tonmeister Rainer Maillard receives a Grammy Award for his recording of Bartók´s The Wooden Prince and Cantata Profana (Chicago Symphony Orchestra, & Chorus, Pierre Boulez) in the category „Best Engineered Album, Classical“.
The first functional high-capacity discs are released.
The favorable business prospects and the closure of the administrative building in Langenhagen enable Klaus Hiemann to realize the old plan of building a separate accomodation for recording purposes, and also to give it a truly appropriate name, independent from any commercial ups and downs: The Emil Berliner House. After its completion the recording centre of PolyGram Hannover moves into the new building on the company premises in Langenhagen. It is on the ground level throughout. Oliver Berliner is present at the official opening ceremony. Also the street in front of the Langenhagen premises is renamed, so there is now an official Emil-Berliner-Straße in Hannover.
PolyGram Hannover exceeds the mark of one billion CDs.
Production of DVDs with a memory capacity of 7 CD-ROMs (DVD-5).
Celebration of “100 years of record technology”.
Seagram (US) acquires the PolyGram shares from Philips and integrates them into its global enterprise, creating the world´s biggest music company inside this new holding.
The DVD-9 (equaling 13 CD-ROMs) is now produced serially.
The first recordings at 96 kHz sampling frequency are produced in the Emil Berliner House.
PMDC is renamed Universal Manufacturing & Logistics GmbH (UML). PolyGram Recording Services (PRS) are dubbed Universal Recording Services (URS).
The repertoire is digitalized for the purposes of electronic commerce.
During a URS recording session with Max Raabe and his Palast Orchester (see picture below) both modern condenser microphones and a historic Reisz microphone from the late 1920 are used, the latter borrowed from the museum of Georg Neumann GmbH, restored by Manfred Hibbing (Sennheiser electronic).
Emil Berliner Studios is now the name for all services of the previous Recording Centre, such as implementation of recording sessions, recording practice and technology, mastering of tapes and the keeping of archives.
As part of the Cannes Classical Awards, Klaus Hiemann is awarded The Emile Berliner Memorial Award for Lifetime Achievement.
The French company Vivendi merges with Universal Music to form Vivendi-Universal.
January: Since the end of 1996, more than 5 million DVDs have been produced.
The first DVD-Audio is made at the Emil Berliner Studios, but the first products are released not until 2003 (see examples below).
The department Media Authoring is a new addition to the existing services of EBS, devoted to authoring the new sound carrier formats DVD-Audio and Super Audio CD. It provides pioneer work and is subsequently complemented by the screen picture, together with the DVD-Video.
Much ado about nothing: The experts and parts of the Hi-Fi/High End scene are at cross purposes over the new recording format DSD, on which the Super Audio CD is based, and possible advantages of this format in comparison to PCM, as it is used for CD and (in its high-resolution variety) for DVD-Audio, the rival format of SACD. Whereas the discussion is marred by the use of unsuitable comparisons and untenable marketing slogans, EBS really undertakes to compare the formats. They are the first (and perhaps the only) team worldwide to do so. During the recording of Mahler´s 2nd Symphony (Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, Gilbert Kaplan, released on Deutsche Grammophon CD 474 380-2, SACD 477 594-2) in the Musikvereinssaal, Vienna, the whole recording sequence is carried out by using both PCM and DSD technology following the microphone. To exclude sound variations by different A/D converters, the team uses special converters capable of dealing with both formats. The result of the subsequent listening comparisons by double-blind test is as straight-forward as sobering: There is no difference whatsoever.
The Universal-owned plant for optical data carriers on the premises in Hannover/Langenhagen is sold to the American company Entertainment Distribution Company (EDC).
Deutsche Grammophon/Universal gives up large portions of its company-owned Emil Berliner Studios for “strategic reasons”. The departments Mastering and Media Authoring are closed down. They carry on as independent companies, managed by their respective executives (Eastside Mastering Studios Berlin GmbH headed by Götz-Michael Rieth and Dirk Niemeier, platin media productions GmbH & Co. KG headed by Harald Gericke). By this time, the extensive company archive has already been disincorporated into a separate branch. Only the recording crew remains, still carrying out assignments for DG and DECCA.
By way of a management buy-out Emil Berliner Studios – Deutsche Grammophon GmbH turns into the new independent company EBS Productions GmbH & Co. KG, carrying on under the Emil Berliner Studios with more or less the same crew. In the meantime Hannover/Langenhagen is getting emptier by the day: All tape archive stock is transferred to Arvato Digital Services (previously Sonopress) in Gütersloh, Westfalia.
The management of EBS decides to leave Hannover/Langenhagen and to move to Berlin. The premises there in the Köthener Straße 38, close to the Potsdamer Platz, still house the historic Meistersaal and various other companies from the section “media production”. The studios are rebuilt completely, which takes as much as nine months to be completed.
At the same time overdub recordings for actor Ulrich Tukur´s album “Mezzanotte” are underway in the studios in Hannover/Langenhagen, the last recording sessions at the old address.
EBS leaves the location Hannover/Langenhagen and moves to Berlin. On October 21 the crew celebrates the start into a new and hopeful era of its outstanding and complex history.
The author does not guarantee the correctness of calendar data, as the figures in the sources do not always match.
© 2010 Peter K. Burkowitz †
Additions since 1983 and editing for web presentation: © 2013 Daniel Kemper
We would like to thank Mrs A. Panczel-Lenke for translating this historical survey into English.
Revisions & supplements: © 2020 Rainer Maillard
Revisions & supplements translation: Sidney Claire Meyer
Sources (Peter K. Burkowitz)
- Private notes, researches, memories
- Corp. membership: DGG 1945 - 1946, RIAS 1946 - 1953, EMI 1953 - 1967, PolyGram 1967 - 1983.
- Oliver Read, Walter L. Welch: „From Tin Foil to Stereo“; Howard W. Sams & Co., Inc.; The Bobbs-Merrill Co., Inc., 2nd edition, Indianapolis, USA. ISBN: 0-672-21505-6
- DGG prints, among others „65 Jahre Deutsche Grammophon Gesellschaft, 1898 - 1963“, „100 Jahre Schallplatte“ – von Hannover in die Welt (P. Becker, O. Heyne, U. Lencher, J. Popp, K. Schäfer, P. Schulze, D. Tasch, W. Zahn, F. R. Zankl).
- Bruch, Walter „Von der Tonwalze zur Bildplatte“, offprint from the Funkschau, Franzis Verlag München
- Internet, div., e. g. Nipper vor dem Trichter (DIE ZEIT, 2001)
- DVD booklet „Emil Berliner – Von der Schellackplatte bis zur DVD“, Emil Berliner Studios, May 20, 2001
- Report from Walter Schindler (emplyed in Berlin 1926, transferred to Hannover in 1949, retired in 1962), based on a MC recording from September 29, 1976 and conversations from November 5, 1981 and February 21, 1983, summarized in 1982/83 by Ernst Kwoll
- Informations from Lester Smith, Abbey Road Studios
- The Gramophone Archive (Internet)
- Martland, Peter: „Since records began: EMI – The first hundred years“. EMI-Group plc. 1997, Amadeus Press, ISBN 1-57467-033-6
Sources (R. Maillard)
- Edwin Hein: „Ein Name macht Geschichte", manuscript, Museum für Energie Geschichte(n), Hanover
- Correspondence between Helmut Haertel & Hugo Wünsch 1945-1946, historic folders DGG, Museum für Energie Geschichte(n), Hanover
- Pensioner interviews (German: "Pensionärsgespräche") 1956 & 1957, tape recordings, DGG tape archive
Do you have any comments, criticism or additions? Please write to us. We are looking for further sources and documents about the history of our recording studio.
"I would do everything the same way again!"
The history of audio technology, of the record and its dissemination can be told in many different ways, depending on whether the focus lies on technical, contemporary or industrial history. But it can also be recounted from the personal viewpoint of a woman who witnessed the development at first hand: for most of her professional life, Erna Elchlepp worked as an executive, as producer and as head of the "artists' department" at Deutsche Grammophon in Berlin, Paris and Hanover. From about 1920 until the 1960s, she witnessed major technical innovations as well as continuous minor changes that were accomplished in the field. She experienced the "Roaring Twenties," the Great Depression, World War II, and the so-called German Economic Miracle, the Wirtschaftswunder, under the aspect of recording technology and the analog record. Her energy and determination, but also her kindness and great loyalty made her a professional and personal authority whom friends, family members and colleagues affectionately and respectfully simply called "Aunt Erna".
Erna Elchlepp was born in Zittau on August 5, 1887, to textile merchant Theodor Elchlepp and his wife Minna. Around 1900, when Erna Elchlepp was 12 years old, the family moved to Berlin. The desire for independence apparently stirred in Erna Elchlepp early on: at the age of 16, just after having graduated from school, she surprised her parents with the request to be allowed to go to France for one year in order to learn the language there. This was extremely unusual at the time.  Her family was open to the idea of their daughter's professional independence, and her father complied with her wish and arranged an exchange with a young Frenchman.
Not long after Erna Elchlepp's return to Berlin she went to spend another year abroad in England: a private school in Ventnor on the Isle of Wight had taken her on as a French teacher. However, Erna did not stay there for long but decided to prioritise improving her language skills instead. After just three months, she sought employment as a lady’s companion. Then it was back to Berlin; within a year she finished her education at a local business school and, still in her early 20s, started her professional career.
This way Erna Elchlepp had made the best possible use of the educational opportunities available to a woman at the time; around 1905, when she left school, preparation for university entrance qualifications was still reserved almost exclusively for young men. In 1896, just 9 years earlier, 6 externally prepared women had been admitted to the Abitur exam in Berlin. And it was not until 1908 that women were allowed to officially enrol at Prussian universities.
The beginnings of Erna Elchlepp's professional life were rather modest: she took her first job at the "Deutsche Dental-Gesellschaft Erhard Zacharias" (German Dental Company Erhard Zacharias) in Berlin-Mitte,  where she was responsible for the English-language correspondence. The company supplied equipment and fittings for dental practices and also maintained international business relations, especially with the United States.
Only a few years later, World War I started, which had its own consequences for Erna on the "home front": in 1914 the company owner was drafted and Erna Elchlepp, together with her colleague Mrs. Warsany, took over management of the company. The company’s elderly accountant, "an old invalid who would become irascible and throw the books to the ground if disturbed" was apparently less than pleased to take instructions from a female management team. Erna Elchlepp herself was aware of how unusual her professional situation was: "You have to take into account that in my youth, seeing a woman in a management position was very uncommon!", she proudly told her interview partner at 90 years old. Whether she was afraid taking on new responsibility is not known; however, her subsequent career suggests that she regarded the new task as a challenge and welcomed it wholeheartedly.
In the last year of the war, a new chapter began in Erna Elchlepp's personal and professional life: in January 1918 the German Dental Company was liquidated, and in October, a few weeks before the end of the war, her father died (her mother had already died in 1915). This marked the beginning of a new chapter in life for both her and her brother Walter, who was two years her junior. Erna Elchlepp, now in her early 30s, was about to start a new career. In 1919, while looking for a new employer with international connections where she could profitably use her language skills, she finally came across an advertisement of Deutsche Grammophon looking for a foreign language correspondent for English and French. Erna applied and was hired. On October 1, 1919 she began her career in the recording industry, a career that was as extraordinary as it was long.
Erna Elchlepp joined Deutsche Grammophon's export department, which at that time had about 50 employees, at its Berlin headquarters based in Markgrafenstraße 76. At first, she felt "rather lost in a large room, working on file cards at antiquated standing desks”. After a few months, Fritz Schönheimer (1895–1975), who had been hired at about the same time, took over the position of export manager, and Erna Elchlepp was assigned to him as his assistant. The international business picked up, and "soon the formerly large empty room was populated with hard-working typists who, each having her own special field of work, competed with one another in the mornings after the mail had come in to see who had the largest number of incoming orders."
One of the export department’s tasks was to take care of the extensive technical travel needs of the recording expeditions that spanned the globe:
"The recordings were made on wax plates using gramophone horns for amplifiers. In addition to the wax plates, which were packed in large zinc-covered boxes to protect them from mechanical shocks and moisture, a so-called heating cabinet was required to heat the wax plates before use. The recording engineer, who was either Mr. Blaesche, Mr. Ehrich or Mr. Goile, set off with quite a lot of luggage – about 10 large boxes and suitcases. [...] We were always glad when the recorded waxes arrived in Hanover for development without too much damage."
Apparently it was easy to get by as an employee at Deutsche Grammophon despite the galloping inflation at the beginning of the 1920s:
"Generally speaking, there was a good working atmosphere in the company. In addition to the quite reasonable salaries, each employee received a full month's salary at Christmas and another month's salary as a bonus at the end of the business year. The payment of 14 months' salary was by no means common in those days. In addition, an excellent lunch was provided for only a few pennies. Traditionally, an annual works outing was organized each summer, with the popular Woltersdorfer Schleuse in Berlin as its destination. During the years of inflation, temporary fluctuations aside, the German economy was in full swing; good money was being earned."
One of the few remaining staff photos of the 1920s shows a company outing in 1921 (to the aforementioned Woltersdorfer Schleuse?).
Another picture from the early 1920s shows some members of the Deutsche Grammophon management team at a "Rococo costume party" on the premises of Markgrafenstraße 76, among them Erna Elchlepp (with fan), behind her probably Fritz Schönheimer.
Times were good, the future was looking bright and Erna Elchlepp's field of profession expanded again: in 1926, the secretary of general director Bruno Borchardt (1886–1940) fell ill and was on leave for six months. Erna Elchlepp was asked to take on the director's secretarial services during this time – in addition to her previous work. Working two jobs soon proved grueling, but Erna Elchlepp was made of hardy stuff:
"The strain of this extra burden may have been obvious at times, and the GD also noticed my exhausted appearance. One day after I had finished my lunch in the cafeteria, the chef brought me a second helping of spinach and egg, which was served that day. On my remark that I had already received my portion, he said, "Mr. General Director has ordered that you always receive two helpings now!" Suppressed laughter. Of course, this story spread across the company like wildfire and in the afternoon, as so often before – Mr. Schönheimer has a lot of ironic wit – the following little note was slipped through the little window in the glass wall separating us (we sat back to back separated by a wood and glass wall): "Good bait catches fine fish, spinach and egg catch secretaries!" He was right – a short time later the GD asked me whether I would not like to take over the secretary’s office. I refused, aware that I might have to expect my dismissal as my refusal must have offended the GD. But lo and behold, a few days later there was a note on my desk that I had been given the power of attorney to trade, with a corresponding salary increase!"
But that was not all: when Fritz Schönheimer went on a one-year trip around the world in 1926 (which was followed by a second, shorter one in 1928) "in order to further expand the export business and to finalise negotiations",  Erna single-handedly managed the export department in his absence.
Apparently Erna Elchlepp carried out her duties to great satisfaction; in 1929 she was entrusted with an even greater task, this time on management level: together with the young Herbert Borchardt (1906–2000), a nephew of General Director Bruno Borchardt, she was sent to Paris to get the newly founded "Société Phonographique Française Polydor" up and running.
In 1924, Deutsche Grammophon had founded the export label "Polydor", as the company were no longer allowed to use their old brand "His Master’s Voice" due to the conditions of the Treaty of Versailles. The distribution of Polydor records in France was entrusted to the Paris agency of the well-known instrument manufacturing company Hohner/Trossingen, which first introduced the brand.. In order to be able to develop the French market more sustainably, in 1929 the "Société Phonographique Française Polydor" was established in Paris.
For Erna Elchlepp, this promotion was a great honor, but with it came hard work and long hours; it is proof of her assertiveness and persistence (remember her previous management role at the German Dental Company) that she tackled the task and did not allow herself to be discouraged by the many fundamental difficulties that had to be cleared out of the way in Paris. And there were many, starting with the company building itself: the factory at 6-8 rue Jenner in the 13th arrondissement, which had been taken over from the Maunoury, Wolff & Cie. paper mill, was in a terrible state, the power supply hardly adequate:
"In Paris, I was greeted by a concierge on rue Jenner and a run-down and dirty factory building. I had the concierge give me a chair that stood in the middle of the empty room, and that's how I began my work. We had a lot of difficulties in the beginning, because the power distribution was insufficient and some time passed until a bigger system was installed. So whenever I turned the corner into rue Jenner in the mornings, I first looked up at the chimney. If there was no smoke coming out, we were once again at a standstill and that always meant delays in delivery that we couldn't afford."
Sometimes the staff had to get technical advice on the go over the phone from Hanover.
"There were all sorts of technical difficulties as well and Master Stieghahn often came into the office in despair, saying he was at a loss. Neither Mr. Herbert Borchardt nor I had ever visited the Hanover site, I had had all technical matters explained to me as far as possible by Mr. Bierwirth, who had been setting up the factory, and often questions had to be clarified over the telephone with Hanover."
The early days were not for the faint of heart. However, things soon improved. The number of presses was increased from 6 to 12 and the expansion continued further, not only in terms of the volume of runs produced, but also structurally:
"After business had taken off well, we were commissioned to set up a rolling mill and electroforming shop as well, and in the process the adjoining new building was built. A master electroplater poached from The Grammophon [sic] introduced a shorter development process, which he also applied in Hanover."
The factory's activities did not go unnoticed in the neighborhood: the owner of a small hotel on the corner, which rented single rooms mainly to Italian workers who slept during the day, filed a complaint. The vibrations were indeed "so strong that the spoons rattled on the coffee cups." An attempt was made to improve the situation by means of felt and rubber pads, but still a compensation claim was made that ended in a settlement.
The Paris company, however, was not only intended as a production site but was also supposed to record new repertoire specially tailored to the French market, satisfying both classical music lovers as well as those preferring popular music such as operetta and chanson; Fritz König was seconded to Polydor as recording manager and moved to Paris with his family. For the classical repertoire, Erna Elchlepp was advised by Albert Wolff (1884–1970), the chief conductor of the Orchestre Lamoureux at the time. For popular music, she was advised by an expert of the Paris scene, Albert Olivier. In order to select appropriate repertoire and associated artists, Erna Elchlepp went "to the cinema and attended cabaret and opera performances ad nauseam."
The speed at which the establishment of the company, along with construction work, record production and recording activities developed was nothing short of breathtaking. Elchlepp had only just been installed in Paris when Berlin already announced repertoire requests:
"We had not yet been resident for three months, that is, we were still in the process of setting up, when one day Mr. Wünsch gave me the order over the telephone to prepare and record two French short opera versions of Bohème and Carmen as quickly as possible, saying they were quite successful with projects of this kind, and that he would send me the orchestral material and the reduced parts. [...] If it had not been for Maître Wolf [...] who had the orchestra, the choir, the copyists, etc. at hand, the realization of such a recording, when we had barely settled down, would hardly have been possible."
Since the company had not yet set up their own recording studio, interim solutions were sought. These were initially found in the Bal Bullier dance hall in the 5th arrondissement, 31-39 avenue d'Observatoire (the aforementioned short operas were also recorded here). Small chanson and dance recordings were made in a nearby theater. Soon, however, the need for permanent facilities became apparent:
"Since the setup and teardown of recording equipment took a lot of time, we were looking for our own hall and found an empty factory hall nearby of rather large dimensions, with an adjoining smaller hall. Here we set up. The equipment found a permanent spot from which both halls could be operated. Only the machine noises from a nearby chocolate factory caused us grief at first, until we installed two wooden walls close together on this side, filling the gap in between with sand. We also covered the large cement floor in the back with sand and as a result the acoustics were quite good. A podium for the orchestra was built. We also held our monthly receptions for our clients, to whom we presented our latest productions in this hall – a tradition that I later also started in Berlin in Lützowstraße, despite Herr Wünsch’s initial protests."
The chocolate factory mentioned was the "Compagnie coloniale", 68 boulevard de la Gare (today boulevard Vincent Auriol), which was only a stone's throw away from Polydor; the two recording halls, where stars such as Louis Armstrong and Edith Piaf also recorded in the course of the 1930s (72–74 boulevard de la Gare), were thus in the immediate vicinity of the Polydor offices.
In January 1930, the legendary first recording of "Boléro" with active participation of the composertook place. Erna Elchlepp herself had persuaded Ravel to record for Polydor:
"The Lamoureux Orchestra under Maître [Albert] Wolf [sic] gave a concert in the Salle Gaveau and it was there that the first performance of Ravel's "Bolero" took place. Immediately after the concert I went to Maître Wolf and asked him to introduce me to Ravel. At my request, he agreed to personally conduct the Bolero for us, and so we were the first company to bring out the Bolero in authentic performance, and the recording sold well."
There has been much speculation about the exact nature of Ravel's contribution to this recording; in the preface to his 2007 edition of Ravel's "Boléro, musicologist Jean-François Monnard writes that four years before his death Albert Wolff claimed to have directed the recording himself. This is contradicted by the account of the "Edition musicale vivante" of January 1930, which contains an extremely detailed report of the recording session. According to this report, Wolff acted as Ravel's assistant for the "Boléro": he rehearsed the tempo that suited the composer with the orchestra and then handed over the baton to Ravel for the recording itself.
The recording did not go off without a hitch, however: Ravel even ruined one take because he (to the great horror of the technicians) threw the baton loudly and audibly onto the rostrum before the green light was on, giving the all-clear from the control room. At the same session, Ravel's Menuet antique was also recorded, with Albert Wolff conducting the orchestra. The great detail of the report in the "Edition musicale vivante" suggests however that Ravel conducted the "Boléro" himself.
According to music producer Jacques Canetti and other sources, the Polydor recording of the "Boléro" is said to have taken place at the Bal Bullier. However, recently discovered privately owned photos showing Erna Elchlepp and Maurice Ravel in the Polydor studio (recognizable by the company logo on the floor) have caused some confusion. It is not yet clear on what specific occasion these photos were taken, whether during rehearsals for the "Boléro" recording or during a later recording of Ravel for Polydor. However, regardless of the question of who ultimately took the baton and where exactly the recording took place, Erna Elchlepp's engagement of Maurice Ravel was a highly publicity-effective coup and the undisputed highlight of her time at Polydor.
The five months she had initially been supposed to lead the Polydor label ultimately turned into 4 years. And it might even have been more, had not the catastrophic political upheavals and repressive measures brought about by the National Socialist regime led to a personnel castling at Deutsche Grammophon in 1933: in order to escape the boycott of Jewish businesses and enterprises announced for April, Fritz Schönheimer (in March 1933) and Bruno Borchardt fled first to Switzerland, and from there to France; in May, Erna Elchlepp ceded her post to Schönheimer and Herbert Borchardt and returned to Berlin. Fritz Schönheimer took over the management of the "Société Phonographique Française Polydor", Bruno Borchardt took over the management of Polydor Holding AG.
The group photo taken on the occasion of Erna Elchlepp's farewell reception shows the entire Polydor staff of about 80, gathered in the aforementioned Polydor recording room. In the center, looking somewhat lost, is Erna Elchlepp, framed by her successor Fritz Schönheimer and Herbert Borchardt. "For me it was a hard parting, the end of a happy and prolific time," she later recalled. Nonetheless she had to submit to the call of the company and the reversal of political fortunes.
She did not return to the export department in Berlin in 1933. Thanks to the experience she had gained in Paris, director Hugo Wünsch made her head of the "Artists' Department" of Deutsche Grammophon, where she acted as program director for the classical segment as well as popular music.
Times were becoming difficult – in the years following the onset of the Great Depression in 1929, sales in the phonographic industry went rapidly downhill, and prices for records plummeted. While Deutsche Grammophon had pressed 6.85 million records in Hanover in 1930, by 1936 it had pressed only 1.4 million.  In the course of the cost-cutting measures, there were massive cutbacks in the group and operations; in August 1934, the company parted with the representative sprawling building complex with concert hall at Markgrafenstraße 76 and moved to more modest rented premises in Jerusalemer Straße, and in the fall of 1938 to Ringbahnstraße 63 in Tempelhof. Erna Elchlepp commented:
"I still remember the moment when Herr Direktor Wünsch came and asked me to walk through the rooms with him one last time. With heavy hearts, we walked through the deserted top-executives’ offices towards the front of the building, the beautiful concert hall that had served so little of its purpose – it had been intended as a means to give young artists the opportunity to make their first debut in Berlin before members of the press and a select audience. [...] On our farewell walk we also thought about the Rococo costume party, the baroque-style hall had provided the right setting for the occasion, realizing how ephemeral wealth and splendor can be."
In her function as director of production, Erna Elchlepp was in contact with artists of all genres. In the field of popular music, she signed singers like Johannes Heesters, Mimi Thoma and Rudi Schuricke as well as the orchestras of Oskar Joost, Erhard Bauschke and others. However, due to the dire economic situation the budget was limited, which led to severe cutbacks, especially in the popular segment: "What could I do, for example, with a budget of 80,000 marks that I was not allowed to exceed by a penny? Dance recordings were not allowed to cost more than DM 150 to DM 200, but somehow the Joost and Bauschke orchestras managed. New contracts were out of the question."
Greater financial leeway was not available again until 1937, when the DGG group was reorganized (from an AG to a GmbH) and merged with Telefunken. Thus, in the late 1930s, Erna Elchlepp witnessed recordings with Victor de Sabata in the studio on Alte Jakobstraße ("this spirited musician lost his temper when the trumpeters intoned the opening fanfares of the triumphal march in Aida and did not immediately sound as desired, he threw down his baton and wanted to leave"), with Herbert von Karajan in the same studio, with Wilhelm Furtwängler, Paul van Kempen, with Hans Pfitzner and Carl Schuricht ("both difficult to deal with [...] Mr. Hasse, Mr. Ehrich or Mr. Blaesche certainly did not have an easy time dealing with them") and many other artists.
Nevertheless, the internal mood of the company during these years seems to have been good: for a company outing on June 30, 1939, Grammophon employees prepared a joke radio report, which was presumably performed or "broadcast" during the outing itself. The manuscript of this cheerfully ironic action has been preserved and provides a few small glimpses behind the scenes of the company, highlighting the particular strengths and preferences of the employees. Erna Elchlepp is also represented, named "Erna Dampf," a pseudonym apparently due to her well-known assertiveness. The synonym of "cheese factory" for Deutsche Grammophon was apparently an old internal running gag, referring to the recording wax blanks that looked like wheels of cheese.
"That's the most important person in our cheese factory, Erna Dampf, our artistic cheese maker – [response from the "radio" announcer]: "Golly, well done! Yes, yes, the so-called weaker sex!" – But Erna Dampf is the good spirit of the whole cheese factory. She has to stick her nose into every cheese. She takes special care of the young and charming cheese mixers. The specialist Johannes [Heesters] hired from Holland and the talented expert Gino [Sinimberghi?] are her favorites. She doesn't think much of female cheese mixers. However, with our new mixers Mario [Traversa] and Fin [Olsen], she has shown a fine instinct for quality cheese makers. The cheeses made by these two are bound to be box office hits."
Erna Elchlepp was apparently particularly taken with the "crooners." The carefree, naïve tone of this "radio" business report seems strange, however, in view of the racist activities of the National Socialists taking place outside at the same time. In April of the same year, only a few weeks before the company outing, there had been an éclat at the Berlin "Delphi": Fin Olsen and the dancer Viola Rosé, who were touring with Max Rumpf's band, were dragged off the stage by SA people because they "did not like the so-called "eccentric dance" of the two artists, who were already considered very decadent and "un-German"; on top of that, Olsen had presented his homosexuality all too obviously. [...] However, the Danish citizen Olsen was released again and was even able to produce some nice recordings with the Erhard Bauschke Orchestra before he had to leave Germany."
On September 1, 1939, the Second World War began. As early as December, Deutsche Grammophon's in-house magazine "Die Stimme seines Herrn" advised: "Please return old records! Records consist partly of material that (since it is produced in enemy states) cannot be imported at present. Therefore, attempts must be made to keep production going by using old material." Even during the war, there were further changes in the ownership of the DGG group, which resulted in the company becoming a subsidiary of Siemens in 1941.
On January 30, 1944, the building complex at Ringbahnstraße 63 was completely destroyed by incendiary bombs; once again downsized, the staff moved on to rooms in Alte Jakobstraße above the recording hall, the former Central-Theater, where DGG had been recording since 1938. But less than a year later, this building also went up in flames during a bombing raid on February 3, 1945. Fortunately, no one had been in the office that day due to a lack of coal. The staff of Deutsche Grammophon were lucky and escaped, unlike the residents of the front building, "these had perished in the basement rooms, which we also used."
Two months later, a traumatic event hit Erna and her family in the last days of the war: during the so-called "Bread Revolts," on April 6, 1945, citizens in Berlin-Rahnsdorf staged protests at two bakers in Fürstenwalder Allee. The local group leader of the NSDAP had arranged for special bread stamps to be issued only to members of Nazi associations. This led to a riot among the hungry population; Margarete Elchlepp (the wife of Erna's brother Walter Elchlepp) and her sister Gertrud Kleindienst tried to mediate. However, together with some other participants they were arrested and handed over to a summary court martial. While Gertrud Kleindienst was sentenced to eight years in prison, Margarete Elchlepp (together with the carpenter Max Hilliges) was beheaded in Plötzensee shortly after midnight on April 8 for "undermining of military strength" and "breach of the peace." The murders were placarded in Rahnsdorf in the following days as a deterrent.
Erna Elchlepp thus experienced worst atrocities of the Nazi regime in the core of her family. Life and death were only a hair's breadth apart at every moment. We can hardly imagine today how difficult it was to survive psychologically and physically in Berlin at that time.
Nevertheless, life went on in the ruins – even record life. Immediately after the end of the war, Deutsche Grammophon tried to set up new production and distribution facilities in Berlin under the direction of Erna Elchlepp. With presses and machine parts from Hanover and old record material a new makeshift factory was put up in the derelict remains of the Ringstraße building in order to supply the city itself as well as the Soviet zone of occupation with records; provisional quarters were provided by Hugo Wünsch's Zehlendorf villa (who died in 1948). Even during the Berlin Airlift, recordings were still taking place in Berlin in March 1949: "We were recording with the Dresdner Kreuzchor under Rudolf Mauersberger at the time and had to interrupt every four minutes because an airplane was roaring by."
However, as bold and promising as these attempts were, the 1949 blockade soon made distribution to the Soviet occupation zone impossible. Deutsche Grammophon's headquarters were therefore moved to Hanover, and some of the Berlin staff was transferred there.
Erna Elchlepp, now in her early 60s, also packed her bags and moved to Hanover, where for three years she built up the classical repertoire together with Dr. Fred Hamel and tried to win old DGG artists back; she visited Wilhelm Kempff in Bremen for the purpose, and approached Heinrich Schlusnus, then contracted by Decca, after a concert in Hanover.
In 1953, Erna Elchlepp officially retired. But that still didn't mean the end of her professional activities: she then took over the management of the Berlin office of Deutsche Grammophon at Kurfürstendamm 26a for another two years. Accordingly, she worked together with the legendary DGG producer Elsa Schiller (1897–1974) both in Hanover and in Berlin.
On April 30, 1955, she finally did retire – or did she? In fact, "Aunt Erna" never completely cut her ties with Deutsche Grammophon, tangible proof are some telegrams and messages from and to Ferenc Fricsay from 1956–1962, kept in the Fricsay Archive at the Akademie der Künste, Berlin.
Throughout the years, Erna Elchlepp always stayed in close contact with her colleagues and with the artists of Deutsche Grammophon. During the turmoil of the war years, she tried to keep in touch with the musicians:
"Whenever the names of their fighting units were known to me, I kept up the connection, also with parcels, and it was often touching to see how strong the attachment to "Deutsche Grammophon" was, with popular music artists in particular – when on leave, they always came by the offices of "their" Deutsche Grammophon. For instance [Erhard] Bauschke came by and told me that he had swum with his saxophone through some river in France and the only thing he could save was his saxophone. Before a second vacation, he died. I also visited [Oskar] Joost in hospital shortly before he died."
Erna Elchlepp also supported Deutsche Grammophon artists financially in the hard post-war period by repeatedly taking household goods or other valuables in payment. As her foster daughter remembers, who moved in with her for a time in the mid-1950s, a new piece of furniture or an unfamiliar carpet would suddenly appear in her Schöneberg apartment now and then, only to disappear again at some point.
Erna Elchlepp maintained her connection to Deutsche Grammophon well into old age. And she never regretted the path she had chosen in life: when asked if she had done everything right in her long successful life, the 90-year-old replied emphatically, "I would do everything exactly the same way again!"
On August 1, 1979, Erna Elchlepp died in Berlin at the age of almost 92. When the mourners gathered for the funeral at a Berlin cemetery to escort her to her final resting place a few days later, the ceremony had to be called off and postponed because they were standing at the wrong grave site and the right one could not be found – as if the indefatigable "Aunt Erna" had raised one last objection.
Hamburg, January 2021
Dr. Eva Zöllner
I am indebted to several members of the Elchlepp family. In particular, I would like like to thank Ute Steffen née Elchlepp, Erna Elchlepp’s foster daughter, who answered my many questions in a very obliging, friendly and patient manner. Further grateful thanks are due to Dietrich Elchlepp, MdB/MdEP a.D., Jan Elchlepp as well as Pia Elchlepp.
I would also like to thank Véronique Genouvès from AFAS (Association française des détenteurs de documents sonores et audiovisuels) in Paris, as well as AFAS members Thomas Henry and Henri Chamoux for their extremely friendly and prompt assistance with my questions about the Polydor studio on the Boulevard de la Gare.
And to Rainer Maillard (Emil Berliner Studios) and Alan Newcombe (Deutsche Grammophon): thanks for the inspiration and tireless support!
-  Typewritten curriculum vitae of Erna Elchlepp, in private possession. Unless otherwise stated, all details of her schooling and professional training are taken from this document.
-  In the Berlin directory (Zentral- und Landesbibliothek Berlin / Digitale Landesbibliothek Berlin) Theodor Elchlepp is listed from 1884 as "representative of foreign weaving mills / companies of the textile industry". Concurrently, he is listed in the directory and business gazetteer of the city of Zittau until 1896 as merchant and "warehouse manager" (SLUB Dresden Hist.Sax.H.1959). In early 1886, a son born to Theodor and Minna Elchlepp in Berlin died at the age of three months, as well in Berlin (Landesarchiv Berlin, Personenstandsregister, Sterberegister 1886 Nr. 150). The family thus seems to have commuted between Zittau and Berlin for some time.
-  At the Königliche Elisabethschule, Kochstraße 65.
-  "Erna Elchlepp feiert 90. Geburtstag. DGG-Pionierin erinnert sich in einem Gespräch mit Dr. Ursula Klein« (conducted on August 1, 1977), p. 1. typewritten press release Polydor, copy in private possession.
-  Presumably the Lette Verein for the "promotion of higher education and earning capacity of the female sex," cf. "Statuten und Programme des Lette-Vereins" Berlin, 1907, on the website of the vocational training center Lette Verein Berlin (letteverein.berlin); upon Erna Elchlepp's recommendation, her foster daughter later completed a commercial apprenticeship at this institution. It seems likely that the recommendation was based on Elchlepp's own experience and that she herself had attended the school before the First World War, even if this can no longer be verified due to the absence of surviving lists of students.
-  Cf. Prof. Dr. Sylvia Schraut (2018): Mädchen- und Frauenbildung, in: Digitales Deutsches Frauenarchiv URL: www.digitales-deutsches-frauenarchiv.de/themen/maedchen-und-frauenbildung
-  Deutsche Dental-Gesellschaft Erhard Zacharias & Co, (listed under Hedemannstraße 15 until 1908, Linkstraße 2 from 1909 in the Berlin directories). The company "stood out for its metal instrument cabinets, metal tables, etc.; this concept of offering washable, so-called aseptic furniture was notable throughout." Deutsche Monatsschrift für Zahnheilkunde 1909 (27), p. 776.
-  Subject Index to Correspondence and Case Files of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, 1903-1952. NARA microfilm publication T458, 31 rolls. Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, Record Group 85. National Archives, Washington, D.C., image 3262 (accessed via ancestry.de).
-  Typewritten curriculum vitae of Erna Elchlepp.
-  "Erna Elchlepp feiert 90. Geburtstag", p. 1.
-  Cf. Berliner Börsenzeitung 30 January 1918, p. 10.
-  Erna Elchlepp, "Mein Leben bei der Grammophon", typewritten manuscript in private possession, p. 1
-  "Mein Leben bei der Grammophon", p. 2.
-  "Mein Leben bei der Grammophon", p. 3
-  Edwin Hein, "Grammophon - Ein Name macht Firmengeschichte", typewritten manuscript in the Museum für Energiegeschichte(n), Hanover, pp. 47-48.
-  Erna Elchlepp, "Erlebtes", typewritten manuscript, DGG Archive, p. 1
-  "Mein Leben bei der Grammophon", p. 4
-  Edwin Hein: "Grammophon – Ein Name macht Firmengeschichte". p. 45–46.
-  Etablissements Hohner, 21 rue des Petites-Écuries, run by the Coulon brothers.
-  "Mein Leben bei der Grammophon", p. 5
-  Edwin Hein: "Grammophon – Ein Name macht Firmengeschichte". p. 55.
-  "POLYDOR acquiert, dans le courant de l’année 1929 les bureaux et les hangars de la société Maunoury, situés à la fois au 72–74 boulevard des la Gare et au 6–8 rue Jenner (Paris 13è). Il y avait là une manufacture de papier qui, notamment fournissait en rouleaux une maison d’édition de musique perforée située dans ce même quadrilatère." Jacques Lubin, "Phonogrammes Polydor", Bulletin de l’AFAS, S. 17–24. Archives des Sonorités. URL: journals.openedition.org/afas/1603, p. 17. Maunoury, Wolff & Cie. produced, among other things, piano rolls for 65 and 88 pianos under the Opéra-Paris brand. The factory at 6 rue Jenner was abandoned due to financial difficulties and listed in January 1929, cf. Lorraine Aressy, History of EMP (L'Édition Musicale Perforée), Perforons la Musique Society Toulouse, put online 28 January 2002. URL www.mmdigest.com/MMMedia/EMP/EMP02.html
-  "Erlebtes", p. 1
-  "Erna Elchlepp feiert 90. Geburtstag", p. 3.
-  This is probably the building for which the "Société phonographique française" = Polydor submitted the building application, which was published in the Bulletin municipal officiel (Bibliothèque nationale de France) on 6 November 1930, p. 4686: "13e arr. - Rue Bruant, 27th - Prop., Société phonographique française, 6, rue Jenner. - Magasins (2 étages)."
-  "Erlebtes", pp. 1–2. This new building was intended, on the one hand, to speed up the release of the hit records demanded by the French market and, on the other hand, to solve the problem with the pressing material originally delivered from Hanover, which did not always survive transport undamaged; cf. "Mein Leben bei der Grammophon", p. 5.
-  Cf. "Erlebtes", p. 4. Irony of history: Whereas the space once occupied by the Polydor offices is now occupied by an ugly prefabricated apartment building, the small Italian hotel, now Hotel Jenner, 10 rue Jenner, has survived the course of time unscathed.
-  Cf. "Erlebtes", p. 2.
-  "Erlebtes", p. 3
-  "Erlebtes", p. 2–3.
-  Cf. "Erlebtes", p. 6
-  "Erlebtes", p. 6.
-  Address according to the Paris directory of 1932, p. 678
-  "Erlebtes", S. 3. There is disagreement among researchers about the exact date (9 or 14 January 1930).Erna Elchlepp's report, however, points to 14 January: the Orchestre Lamoureux under Maurice Ravel gave a concert performance of "Boléro" on 11 January 1930 in the Salle Gaveau, which she witnessed in the audience; Erna Elchlepp did not receive Ravel's confirmation for the recording before the same evening, which rules out 9 January.
-  Maurice Ravel, Bolero, ed. Jean-François Monnard, Breitkopf und Härtel 2007, p. 6.
-  Cf. Arbie Orenstein (ed.): A Ravel Reader, Correspondence, Articles, Interviews. Dover Publications, 2003, p. 535.
-  In his autobiography On cherche jeune homme aimant la musique (Paris, Calmann-Lévy, 1978, p. 19). Canetti was hired by Erna Elchlepp herself at Polydor, and the interview left a lasting impression on him: "Vingt candidats s’étaient déjà présentés. Mlle Erna Elschlepp [sic], gérante de la société, me reçoit. C’est une digne Allemande, extremement pointilleuse. Je fais mon numéro en allemand, y ajoutant mon anglais, et mes connaissances en musique classique. Dix minutes après, je suis engagé, aux appointements fabuleux de mille trois cent francs par mois." (op. cit., p. 18)
-  Especially since Jacques Lubin (op. cit., p. 18) notes that the Polydor studios (Grand salle & Studio 2) had only been operating since April of the same year. However, Erna Elchlepp had already left Paris in May 1933. Lubin's date cannot be matched with the Elchlepp/Ravel photos.
-  Sophie Fetthauer: Bruno Borchardt, Fritz Schönheimer in: Lexikon verfolgter Musiker und Musikerinnen der NS-Zeit, Claudia Maurer Zenck, Peter Petersen (ed.), Hamburg: Universität Hamburg, 2006 URL www.lexm.uni-hamburg.de/object/lexm_lexmperson_00000851 & 00001092.
-  Edwin Hein, "Grammophon – Ein Name macht Firmengeschichte". p. 65.
-  Jacques Canetti (in light suit) is standing in the penultimate row, 7th from the right
-  Erna Elchlepp, "Mein Leben bei der Grammophon", typewritten manuscript, privately owned, p. 6
-  Edwin Hein, "Grammophon – Ein Name macht Firmengeschichte", S. 66.
-  Edwin Hein, "Grammophon – Ein Name macht Firmengeschichte", S. 66.
-  "Mein Leben bei der Grammophon", p. 6
-  Dutchman Johannes Heesters (1903-2011) came to Berlin in 1936 and made a career there as an operetta singer (as a member of the Komische Oper) and as a movie star. According to her own account ("Erna Elchlepp feiert 90. Geburtstag"), Erna Elchlepp herself had seen to it that Johannes Heesters was given a film contract with Ufa, "as an ideal prerequisite for good sales", cf. p. 4
-  "Mein Leben bei der Grammophon", p. 6–7
-  "Mein Leben bei der Grammophon", p. 7
-  Both quotes from "Erlebtes", p. 4–5
-  Broadcast report on the occasion of the Deutsche Grammophon GmbH works outing on 30 June 1939. Typewritten manuscript, DGG Archive.
-  Probably Gino Sinimberghi (1913-1996), Italian tenor, member of the Berlin State Opera from 1937-44, who recorded for Polydor and DGG during this period.
-  Mario Traversa (1912-1997), concertmaster under Toscanini at La Scala; performed with the Schoener Orchestra in the 1930s and 1940s and made several records with this formation for DGG.
-  Danish singer Fin Olsen (1914-2003) had also just released a record with the Erhard Bauschke Orchestra (cf. "Die Stimme seines Herrn, Hausmitteilungen der Deutschen Grammophon", July/August 1939).
-  Broadcast report, p. 12.
-  Horst H. Lange, »Zwischen Optik und Hot-Takt – Max Rumpf«, Fox auf 78 Nr. 5 (1988), p. 4
-  "Die Stimme seines Herrn, Hausmitteilungen der Deutschen Grammophon", December 1939, p. 5.
-  On the rapidly changing ownership of DGG / Telefunken / Siemens at the end of the 1930s / beginning of the 1940s, cf. among others Rüdiger Bloemeke: Die TELDEC-Story. Wie eine Plattenfirma unser Leben veränderte, Voodoo-Verlag 2020, p. 18.
-  "Mein Leben bei der Grammophon", p. 8
-  Heinrich-Wilhelm Wöhrmann, Berlin | Widerstand 1933-1945. Resistance in Köpenick and Treptow. German Resistance Memorial Center, Berlin 2008, p. 284. Berlin-Charlottenburg, Death Register, No. 1615
-  "Erna Elchlepp feiert 90. Geburtstag", p. 4
-  "Mein Leben bei der Grammophon", p. 8
-  "Erlebtes", p. 5.
-  Akademie der Künste Berlin, Ferenc-Fricsay-Archiv, Sign. 620
-  Apparently Erna Elchlepp had not heard about the circumstances of Bauschke’s end: The orchestra director survived the war and played for American Army clubs in the Frankfurt area for a few months after his release from captivity. After one of these performances, he died in Alt-Praunheim on 7 October 1945, fatally struck by a jeep. (Death register Frankfurt VI 1945 No. 790/VI, accessed via ancestry).
-  "Erlebtes", p. 5. Oskar Joost died of lung cancer on 29 May 1941 at the Charité (death register Berlin-Wilmersdorf 1941 no. 906, accessed via ancestry).
-  "Erna Elchlepp feiert 90. Geburtstag", p. 5