Hunting down the undead ghost of classical conductor George Richter

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At one point in life I acquired myself a CD with famous works of Edward Elgar: Pomp and Circumstance, Nimrod, Sospiri, the Cello and all that. I found the recording fairly good. The cover stated that the conductor was George Richter handling the London Symphony Orchestra. Googling my way on George Richter I couldn’t say that I found much. I found several references to CDs but not much about the man. London Symphony Orchestra has had a Richter as conductor: Hans Richter. Perhaps George was related? But I could not find any information about that.

I then on 6th December 2009 added George Richter to Wikipedia in the hope that someone would seek more sources. But on the 16 May 2011 a fierce Wikipedia deletionist came by the article threatening to kill poor George due to lack of references, – a cardinal sin for articles about living persons on Wikipedia. Interesting though, the deletionist had diligently discovered one single reference through Google Books: To Jonathan Brown’s (who is he?) book of 2000 “Tristan und Isolde on Record. A comprehensive discography of Wagner’s music drama with a critical introduction to the recordings.”

And now comes the spooky part.

On page xiii Brown describes our George as an “apocryphal conductor”. So what do that mean? That George didn’t get to join in on the Bible along with Mary, Moses and the rest of the band? No. As further on page 215 Brown states that one Wagnerian Richter recording is actually Heinrich Hollreiser and the recording is not as stated with London Symphony Orchestra but rather with Bamberg Symphony Orchestra. Brown – the Wagnerian discographier – had timed the different recordings of Wagner and found that Hollreiser’s recording has been issued under a number of other names: Heinrich Heller, Hans Burg, Ralph deCross, Otto Friedlich, Karl Ritter, Leon Szalar and our George Richter. Likely it seems that also the Elgar recording is not by George Richter but another yet unidentified conductor, perhaps Hollreiser?

Apparently George Richter is an invented name. Why?

My Elgar CD brands itself as an “Apollo Classics” and the company issuing the CD is “Wisepack Ltd.” in 1995. Tracking this company I find that Business Directory North Central London records Wisepack Ltd.’s address as “Unit 12. Latimer Road. London. W10 6RG” with a “PIN Tel.” 0904 049 8229. Their business is “production of records tapes and CDS”. So we are nearing. UK company search Companies House lists two entries for Wisepack: “Wisepack (1992) Limited” incorporated the 24 January 1992 and dissolved 2 April 1996 company number 02680885 with an unknown nature of business. The other entry is and “Wisepack Limited” incorporated 1988 and dissolved 29 September 1998 with company name 02245831 and on the Latimer Road address. Their nature of business is stated as “Publishing of sound recordings”, “Reproduction of sound recording” and “Wholesale electric household goods”. Peeking with Google Street Viewwe might get a glance at the Unit 12 address as it looks today. As far as I can identify the Unit 12 address today is the one with the company “city electrical factors ltd” who describe themselves as “electrical wholesalers, suppliers of electrical equipment”.

Why would the Wisepack company invent a name and not attribute the recording to the right conductor?

Jonathan Brown may give us a hint. Google Books does not show page 216 of the book but another page on the Internet may have listed the information from the Brown book. It reads: “The absence of copyright restrictions may explain why this recording has been issued under so many fictitious names”. My take on this is: The recordings with Wagner and Elgar are in the public domain and several record publishers have taken advantage of this and reissued the recordings. They change the attribution to hide the source of the original recording and thereby inventing the ghost of George Richter. We are dealing with some copyright hanky-panky.

Whether this hypothesis is correct I do not know. In support I would say that the the Wisepack logo looks like something done in DrawPerfect, – not a logo from highly esteemed company. Brown has some reservation about the identification of apocryphal conductors “because there remain a number of recordings attributed to conductors about whom very little, if anything is known”. Still I say we are dealing with a ghost. And more ghosts to come. The Elgar cello concert has a Veronique Desbois at the soloinstrument. She is likely a ghost too.

The ghost of George Richter has also conducted the “Royal Danish Symphony Orchestra” in works by Smetana and Rimsky-Korsakov as well as an overture by Gioacchino Rossini. There are two major orchestras in Copenhagen. In English they are called Danish National Symphony Orchestra and The Royal Danish Orchestra, so which one has the ghost conducted? The Rimsky-Korsakov piece is issued by the Sine Qua Non label that belongs in One Charles Street, Providence, RI, USA. A version of Elgar is apparently also issued by the GR8 label under the brand “Spectacular Classics” (wow what a name!). George Richter continues to issue CDs. As recent as in 2005 a Beethoven CD was published. Here Richter conducted London Symphony Orchestra. You can buy a Richter-Smetana CD at Amazon. This CD also has the work of conductor Henry Adolph, – another ghost according to a Anton Bruckner site

Strange things are going on in classical music. One may begin by reading the Wikipedia article about British record producer William Barrington-Coupe who according to a judge was involved in “blatant and impertinent frauds, carried out in my opinion rather clumsily.” One of his schemes exposed in 2007 involved unauthorised copies of commercial recordings. These were rerelease under his wife’s name, Joyce Hatto – and highly acclaimed. Barrington-Coupe and Hatto are real people – nonghost – though one of them is dead. The conductor in the fraud scheme is holocaust survivor René Köhler. He is likely a ghost – an invention of Barrington-Coupe – and died in 2002. The death of the George Richter has not been announced, so we may continue to hear recordings from this undead ghost, – if he is a ghost. ;-)

(2011-09-21. Minor change: spell correction)

3 thoughts on “Hunting down the undead ghost of classical conductor George Richter

    Tom Mc Clain said:
    September 21, 2011 at 6:42 am

    Your ghost conductor is unfortunately not a new phenomenon. In the 1950s a small company, Period Recordings, released performances pirated from the Salzburg Festival broadcasts. To avoid lawsuits they issued them as being bythe Patagonia Festival Orchestra and Chorus. And there was a seies of recordings back in the seventies billed as being by obscure Russian Orchestras (Rostov Philharmonic, Odessa Symphony, etc) which were actually pirated Boston Symphny Broadcasts from Tanglewood. The term business ethics is an oxymoran when it comes to copyright. And then there were the ‘white box’ operas. Let’s not go there. George Richter may or may not be a real person. Try Ascap, BMI, or Grove’s Dcitionary of Music and Musicians to find out. But don’t be surprised if you don’t find anything. About me: lifelong record collector, born in Detroit, now live in Lincoln NE, havea large collection of LPs, Cd,s etc. Let me know what, if anything, you find out.

    Granville Stout said:
    July 15, 2014 at 9:58 am

    I have a recording of the same cd but on a label called classical spectacular saying that this compilation is Musicbank Ltd licensed from Newsound 2000 Ltd .www.musicbank.co.uk, one of their products is wholesale, licensing and export!

    John O'Hagan said:
    February 17, 2015 at 11:08 pm

    Herr Richter turns up on quite a few of the CDs in this 30CD set http://www.amazon.fr/Triomphes-Musique-Classique-%C3%89dition-biographique/dp/B00H9FXNTE/ref=sr_1_8?ie=UTF8&qid=1424207620&sr=8-8&keywords=triomphes+de+la+musique+classique, which I somehow acquired recently (don’t ask – never fear, I only paid cents for it!).

    Some way short of a high-class production. The first one I sampled, a CD of 3 Haydn symphonies, purports to have Richter conducting that very same hybrid-name Danish orchestra. First three tracks are supposed to be Symph 26 (“Lamentation”), an Allegro, followed by an Adagio, and ending with a Menuet. But the reality is: a slow movement, followed by a fast sonata-form movement; a minuet and trio; and a fast finale. Checking against a set I have of the complete Haydn symphonies, it turns out to be Symph no 34, with the 3rd and 4th movements combined as Track 3! Performance stodgy, sound presentable earlyish-sounding stereo. Next up is the 4 movement Symph 53. Correct piece this time, but unutterably shrill sound, completely different acoustic; I tolerated a minute or two. Finally, Symph 104. Completely different acoustic again, murky and again, unlistenable to.

    Richter also turns up as conductor of the Beethoven violin concerto (with the “Pro Musica Symphony Orchestra” – his presumably equally mythical twin Walter Richter does the 9th symph with the same band, and one Hans-Jurgen Walther conducts the “Pro Musica Orchestra” in Bizet, and other stuff), Brahms Symph 1 (with the Danish guys again), and the same forces accompany one Adolf Drescher in the Chopin piano concertos, the Moldau from Smetana’s Ma Vlast, and the Overture to Wagner’s Tannhauser (apologies to Herr R if I’ve overlooked some of his contributions).

    “Henry Adolph” also appears a few times (in Bach, Bizet, perhaps others).

    A few genuine folk do get credited (but of course that’s not proof that they are actually the true source):

    Hans Swarowsky (usually as Prof HS, once as Zwarowsky). He quite possibly is also the original of some of the several items attributed to Alberto Lizzio (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alberto_Lizzio), and possibly also those attributed to one Alexander von Pitamic (see https://musicbrainz.org/taglookup?tag-lookup.artist=pitamic&tag-lookup.release=&tag-lookup.tracknum=&tag-lookup.track=&tag-lookup.duration=&tag-lookup.filename=);

    there does seem to have been a genuine Edouard Lindenberg (the reputable Warner have issued several of his recordings on their budget Apex label, for example); an Eduard von Lindenberg is credited in this set for Beethoven’s 6th symph (with the “Vienna Festival Orchestra” – seems to be the same performance as this (genuine?) Lindenberg one with the Vienna Volksoper Orchestra http://www.amazon.com/Beethoven-Symphony-No-Major-Pastoral/dp/B006BGHAS2/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1424209872&sr=8-1&keywords=lindenberg+beethoven);

    harpsichordist Christiane Jaccottet in the Bach Goldberg Variations and Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue (almost certainly the same performances as those reviewed favourably in several respectable journals). Interestingly, the same CD has two Bach organ pieces. One is credited to Otto Winter-Silbermann; the other should presumably have been Hans Sommer-Frobenius or some such, but it’s actually Otto VA(sic)an der Velden. I’m feeling a bit nervous tonight, so I think I’ll put off sampling these two guys until tomorrow; on second thoughts, I’ll risk it – but alas, although the CD display promises 75 mins or so, it only recognises 9 tracks, so the whole thing stops after Variation 9 of the Goldberg’s. So I’ll never get to hear messr’s W-S and V-d-V (or indeed, more than that small fraction of the Ms Jaccottet’s work);

    and there are probably a few more genuine ones buried deep in the undergrowth.

    I’ve come across a few shoddy productions in my time …..

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