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DG

The History of Deutsche Grammophon

Learn more about what happened in the 119 years since The Yellow Label has been founded in Hanover, Germany.

2010-2017

  • A major event is the return of Deutsche Grammophon to Berlin ... read more

  • A new Mozart Complete Edition "Mozart 225" is released together with Decca Classics

  • The DG Curator Channel on Apple Music is launched

  • Clemens Trautmann takes over operational management

  • Archiv Produktion celebrates its 66th Birthday

  • Beethoven 9 app is released

  • The Berliner Philharmoniker & DG celebrate 100 years of recording together with a consumer-selected CD-Edition

  • Deutsche Grammophon returns to Berlin

  • Sokolov

    Salzburg Recital

    Details


    Ott · Tristano

    Scandale

    Details


    Netrebko

    Verdi

    Details


    Petibon

    Melancolía

    Details


  • Nelsons

    Shostakovich

    Details


    Abbado

    Bruckner

    Details


    Mutter

    Dvorak

    Details


    Grimaud

    Brahms

    Details


    Barenboim · Boulez

    Liszt

    Details


2000-2009

  • At the beginning of the new millennium, the Universal Music Group is ...read more

  • To mark its 111th birthday in 2009, Deutsche Grammophon releases a 55-CD box-set containing 111 of its most celebrated recordings, with a broad range of great artists and favourite repertoire.

  • After half a century at their Alte Rabenstrasse address, Deutsche Grammophon moves its headquarters to the historic Slomanhaus building near Hamburg harbour.

  • Deutsche Grammophon is named “Label of the Year” at the 2007 Classic FM/Gramophone Awards.

  • Launching of the edge label, dedicated to music that embraces the world.

  • At the beginning of the new millennium, The Seagram Company Ltd. sells its Universal entertainment holdings to Vivendi.

  • Garanca

    Belcanto

    Details


    Netrebko · Harnoncourt

    Le Nozze di Figaro

    Details


    Kozená · McCreesh

    St. Matthew Passion

    Details


    Terfel

    Wagner

    Details


    Quasthoff

    Schubert · Brahms

    Details


  • Lang Lang

    Chopin

    Details


    Pollini

    Mozart

    Details


    Carmignola

    Concerto Veneziano

    Details


    Mutter

    Beethoven

    Details


1990-1999

  • In 1989 and 1990 respectively, the music world loses two great conductors long associated with Deutsche Grammophon, Herbert von Karajan and Leonard Bernstein ... read more

  • Contemporary composers and musicians find a new forum with the introduction of the quickly acclaimed 20/21 label.

  • International celebrations for Deutsche Grammophon’s 100th anniversary. Release of the 63-CD set Centenary Collection, featuring the artists that shaped Deutsche Grammophon over the past century.

  • Archiv Produktion celebrates its 50th anniversary.

  • Opening of the Emil Berliner Haus museum in Hanover.

  • Launch of The Originals series, featuring legendary recordings from the Deutsche Grammophon catalogue.

  • Introduction of 4D Audio Recording technology.

  • Söllscher

    Preludes

    Details


    Domingo · Levine

    Idomeneo

    Details


    Studer · Hampson

    Barber Songs

    Details


    Pogorelich

    Brahms

    Details


  • Levine

    Wagner

    Details


    Previn

    Strauss

    Details


    Boulez

    Messiaen

    Details


    Boulez

    Bartók

    Details


1980-1989

  • Giuseppe Sinopoli conducts his first Deutsche Grammophon recording in 1980 ... read more

  • In celebration of the conductor’s 80th birthday, Deutsche Grammophon releases the Karajan Edition, 100 masterpieces with the Berliner Philharmoniker, on 25 CDs.

  • Deutsche Grammophon releases its first Vladimir Horowitz recording (a soundtrack to the documentary The Last Romantic).

  • Introduction of the CD and first Deutsche Grammophon title in mass production: Richard Strauss’s Eine Alpensinfonie with the Berliner Philharmoniker conducted by Herbert von Karajan.

  • First compact disc launched at the Salzburg Easter Festival by its co-developers, Sony and Philips, and PolyGram, its first European producer.

  • Emerson String Quartet

    Schubert

    Details



    Bernstein

    Westside Story

    Details



    Levine

    Orff

    Details



    Abbado

    Berlioz

    Details


    Rostropovich

    Brahms

    Details


  • Karajan

    Beethoven

    Details


    Pinnock

    Brandenburg Concertos

    Details


    Kremer · Maazel

    Tchaikovsky

    Details


    Karajan

    Franck

    Details


    Mutter · Karajan

    Violin Concertos

    Details


1970-1979

  • A restructuring of the DGG/PPI group in 1971 is followed by the formation of PolyGram, with headquarters in Baarn (Netherlands) and Hamburg ...read more

  • First digital recording (Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto with Gidon Kremer and the Berliner Philharmoniker conducted by Lorin Maazel).

  • Archiv Produktion releases its first Bach Edition in eleven volumes (on 99 LPs) to mark the 225th anniversary of the composer’s death.

  • Leonard Bernstein makes his first recording for Deutsche Grammophon.

  • Formation of PolyGram International.

  • Argerich

    Liszt

    Details


    Pollini

    Chopin Études

    Details


    Michaelangeli

    Chopin Mazurkas

    Details


  • Kleiber

    Orchestral Recordings

    Details


    Giulini

    Giulini in Vienna

    Details


    Ozawa · Pletnev

    Tchaikovsky

    Details


    Bernstein

    conducts Bernstein

    Details


    Böhm

    Mozart Symphonies

    Details


1960-1969

  • In 1960, DG signs an exclusive agreement with Martha Argerich ... read more

  • Deutsche Grammophon releases its first 12-part Beethoven Edition on 76 LPs.

  • Introduction of the MusiCassette (better known as the cassette).

  • First stereo recording of the nine Beethoven Symphonies with Karajan.

  • Siemens and Philips merge their recording interests to form DGG/PPI (Philips Phonographic Industry).

  • Fischer-Dieskau

    Schubert Lieder

    Details


    Grace Bumbry

    The Art of Grace Bumbry

    Details


    Amadeus Quartet

    Schubert · Mozart

    Details


    Keilberth · Fischer-Dieskau

    Arabella

    Details


  • Argerich · Abbado

    Chopin

    Details


    Richter

    Weihnachts-Oratorium

    Details


    Karajan

    Beethoven

    Details


    Jochum

    Bruckner

    Details


    Anda · Fricsay

    Bartók Piano Concertos

    Details


1950-1959

  • In 1950 78-rpm records with up to nine minutes playing time per side are introduced, based on the DG invention of variable grooves ... read more

  • A second factory in Hanover begins production of injection-moulded records.

  • The new Deutsche Grammophon trademark, the “cartouche”, is introduced – and is still used today.

  • The company’s offices move to Hamburg. First stereo recording is made.

  • Karl Böhm signs with Deutsche Grammophon and makes his first recording (Beethoven: Symphony no. 5).

  • Introduction of 33-rpm vinyl long-playing records (ie, the LP).

  • Amadeus Quartet makes its first recordings for Deutsche Grammophon.

  • Wilhelm Kempff begins his first complete recording of Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas for Deutsche Grammophon.

  • Borg

    Sibelius

    Details


    Jochum

    Beethoven Symphonies

    Details


    Bream

    Spanish Guitar Music

    Details


    Dieskau · Ristenpart

    Bach Cantatas

    Details


  • Sanderling

    Beethoven

    Details


    Hindemith

    conducts Hindemith

    Details


    Jochum

    Bruckner

    Details


    Scherchen

    Haydn

    Details


    Fricsay

    A Life in Music

    Details


1940-1949

  • After the outbreak of World War II and faced with a shortage of raw material, Deutsche Grammophon again stagnates ... read more

  • First recordings with Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Ferenc Fricsay.

  • First postwar printed catalogue is issued.

  • The Archiv Produktion label, dedicated to early-music recordings, is founded.

  • Berlin studios destroyed in war.

  • Berlin office destroyed in war.

  • Hanover factory partly destroyed in war.

  • Siemens becomes sole owner of Deutsche Grammophon GmbH.

  • Haas

    Complete Recordings

    Details


    Walcha

    Bach Organ Works

    Details


    Furtwängler

    Live Recordings

    Details


    Heifetz

    It ain't necessarily so

    Details


1930-1939

  • Ravel’s Boléro is recorded by the company’s new French subsidiary Société phonographique française Polydor S.A. in 1930 ... read more

  • Herbert von Karajan makes his first Deutsche Grammophon recording.

  • First experiments with stereo recording in USA.

  • High Fidelity (“hi-fi”) recording is developed.

  • Polyphon-Musikwerke and Deutsche Grammophon merge and the Leipzig factory is sold. The firm retains the name Deutsche Grammophon.

  • de Sabata

    Brahms

    Details


    Karajan

    First Recordings

    Details


1920-1929

  • In 1920 the 25-year-old Wilhelm Kempff makes his first Deutsche Grammophon recording ... read more

  • Emile Berliner dies on 27 November.

  • Complete recording of Beethoven's Missa Solemnis (Berliner Philharmoniker conducted by Bruno Kittel) is released on eleven 30cm discs.

  • Wilhelm Furtwängler’s first recordings for Deutsche Grammophon (Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony and Weber’s Freischütz Overture) with the Berliner Philharmoniker

  • Introduction of the electro-acoustic recording system, using microphones, allowing much improved sound quality in comparison with the previous acoustic recording system.

  • Melchior

    CD1 · Track 7

    Details


    Strauss

    conducts Strauss

    Details


1910-1919

  • The earliest orchestral recording is marketed in 1910: the opening movement of Grieg’s Piano Concerto with Wilhelm Backhaus ... read more

  • Deutsche Grammophon is taken over by the Leipzig firm Polyphon-Musikwerke.

  • Outbreak of World War I. Deutsche Grammophon is forbidden to produce war-goods and its assets are confis­cated by the German government as enemy property. In 1916, the German and English companies split. The latter continues as the Gramophone Company – then, in 1931, merges with UK Columbia Gramo­phone to create Electric and Musical Industries Limited (now better known as EMI)

  • First complete recording of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony – with the Berliner Philharmoniker conducted by Arthur Nikisch.

  • Nikisch

    Beethoven

    Details


    Kreisler

    CD 33 · Track 15-20

    Details



1897-1909

  • The story of Deutsche Grammophon goes back as far as the birth of recording itself ... read more

  • The Deutsche Grammophon “Recording Angel” logo is replaced by the now-legendary “His Master’s Voice” logo, featuring Nipper the dog – designed by Francis Barraud.

  • Deutsche Grammophon becomes supplier by appointment to the royal households of Britain and Spain.

  • In Milan, the acclaimed tenor Enrico Caruso records ten arias for the company. The most famous Russian opera singer of his time, bassist Feodor Chaliapin, signs a contract with Deutsche Grammophon.

  • Deutsche Grammophon Gesellschaft mbH is founded on 6 December.

  • Emile Berliner receives a patent for his new invention, the gramophone and the flat gramophone disc.

  • Caruso

    CD 1 · Track 1

    Details



A major event is the return of Deutsche Grammophon to Berlin in September 2011.

Since its foundation Deutsche Grammophon has always been a pioneer in the use of new technology but it is during this decade where digital technology is on a level to move beyond familiar audio and video products: the first of these is Beethoven’s 9th Symphony released in 2013: an audio-visual, interactive and informative iOS app, combining these three elements into a revolutionary experience. It is followed by the Vivaldi Four Seasons App in 2014 which compares the original Four Seasons by Vivaldi, represented by the acclaimed recording by Trevor Pinnock, with a Recomposed version by Max Richter. In 2015 DG releases the universal iPhone / iPad app „Peter and the Wolf in Hollywood“ together with the New York producers Giants Are Small, an unforgettable journey of classical music, visual wonder, and digital play, giving an invigorating new perspective on Prokofiev’s classic. Narrators of the story are Alice Cooper and, for the german version, Campino.

By end of 2015 senior media executive and award-winning Juilliard scholar Dr. Clemens Trautmann takes over operational management of the label. He succeeds Mark Wilkinson who takes up a global role within Universal Music’s classical business as Vice President International Strategy & Artist Development.

The Streaming of Music is one of the great changes for listeners and recording companies in this decade. So it is quite natural that Deutsche Grammophon started a Curated Channel on Apple Music with recordings especially selected by a team of Deutsche Grammophon curators. This channel can act as a guide, both for its many faithful followers and for novices who may not know where to begin in the world of classical music.

2015 also sees the announcement of a new longterm collaboration DG and the Bayreuth Festival to join forces for future video releases on Deutsche Grammophon.

New signings in this decade include the conductors Pablo Heras-Casado, Andris Nelsons and Yannick Nezet-Seguin; pianists Seong-Jin Cho, Jan Lisiecki, Daniil Trifonov, Vikingur Ólafsson, Murray Perahia and Grigory Sokolov; violinists Nemanja Radulovic and Lisa Batiashvili, oboist Albrecht Mayer, and in a series of instrumentalists new or rare to Deutsche Grammophon harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani; mandolinist Avi Avital, sitarist Anoushka Shankar and accordeonist Ksenija Sidorova. 

In an important strategic development in the area of streamed music DG signs composer-performers in the areas of neo-classical, film music and ambient music, including Max Richter, Jóhan Jóhansson and Joep Beving.


At the beginning of the new millennium, the Universal Music Group is purchased by the Vivendi Group, adding the largest record company to its portfolio as its new-media vision expands.

Deutsche Grammophon focuses on strengthening its artist roster through new exclusive recording agreements including singers (Anna Netrebko, 2002; Rolando Villazón and Elina Garanča, 2006; Patricia Petibon, 2008; pianists (Hélène Grimaud, 2002; Lang Lang, 2003; Rafał Blechacz, 2006; Pierre-Laurent Aimard, 2007; Yuja Wang and Alice Sara Ott, 2008); violinists (Hilary Hahn, 2002; Giuliano Carmignola, 2003; Daniel Hope, 2007); and, in a decade that witnessed the passing of the legendary conductors Giulini, Kleiber, and Sinopoli, new conductor Gustavo Dudamel (2005).

In 2006 a new digital-only imprint, DG Concerts, brings top-flight, live orchestral recordings directly to iTunes listeners, inviting them into the great concert halls of the world via the internet.

In recognition of these achievements, Deutsche Grammophon is named „Label of the Year 2007“ by Gramophone magazine,“ who writes: „Deutsche Grammophon stands for all that is best about classical music.“


In 1989 and 1990 respectively, the music world loses two great conductors long associated with Deutsche Grammophon, Herbert von Karajan and Leonard Bernstein. At the same time two other acclaimed conductors begin new phases of activity at DG: Pierre Boulez and André Previn, featuring works of the 20th century (including their own). On the Archiv label John Eliot Gardiner conducts period-instrument recordings of Baroque (Bach oratorios, Monteverdi operas), Classical (Mozart operas and Beethoven symphonies), as well as Romantic works.

New recording agreements are made with conductors Myung-Whun Chung, 1990; Oliver Knussen and Christian Thielemann, 1995. Archiv Produktion’s roster is further internationalized through the signing of Paul McCreesh and his Gabrieli Consort & Players; Marc Minkowski and his Musiciens du Louvre; and the Renaissance wind band Piffaro. In 1998 PolyGram is acquired by Seagram – and is merged with its subsidiary Universal, forming the world’s largest record company, Universal Music Group. Deutsche Grammophon also reaches its centenary in 1998, as the world’s largest and most successful classical record company of its day.


Giuseppe Sinopoli conducts his first Deutsche Grammophon recording in 1980 – and three years later signs the first of several long-term exclusive recording-agreements, resulting in a complete Mahler-cycle with the Philharmonia Orchestra, Bruckner symphonies with the Dresden Staatskapelle, and several opera projects. James Levine becomes an exclusive DG artist in 1987, making recordings including Mozart’s complete symphonies and violin concertos with the Wiener Philharmoniker and Itzhak Perlman and the Metropolitan Opera production of Wagner’s Ring.

The label’s three premiere pianists following Kempff’s retirement, Martha Argerich, Maurizio Pollini, and Krystian Zimerman, all make distinguished recordings with repertoire that Kempff generally avoided, particularly Chopin, Liszt, and music of the 20th century. Ivo Pogorelich begins recordings in 1981. Two elder statesmen of the keyboard come to Deutsche Grammophon: Rudolf Serkin in 1981 and Vladimir Horowitz – the latter releases five successful discs between 1985 and 1989. A younger generation of artists begins to join the label, including singers (Kathleen Battle, 1984; Anne Sofie von Otter, 1985; then later, Bryn Terfel, 1993; and Thomas Quasthoff, 1999), instrumentalists (cellist Mischa Maisky, 1982; pianist Maria João Pires, 1989), string quartets (Hagen, 1985; Emerson, 1987), and orchestras (Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, 1985).

At the end of 1984 Siemens sells 40% of its half share in PolyGram International to Philips, who later buys the remaining 10% in 1987. In 1986 the Hanover factories – the first and largest producers of CDs – are taken over from PolyGram by Philips as part of a Hanover factories joint venture with the chemical company, DuPont; Hanover remains the label’s most important supplier. In 1987 DG, with its sister PolyGram labels Philips and Decca, begins to ­release videocassettes and laser discs of mainly ­concert and opera recordings licensed from Unitel, entering a new era of video recordings of classical music.


The Eighth Decade

A restructuring of the DGG/PPI group in 1971 is followed by the formation of PolyGram, with headquarters in Baarn (Netherlands) and Hamburg. In 1973, to mark its 75th anniversary, Deutsche Grammophon releases The Symphony on ninety-three LPs. Also in this decade, DG continues to expand its international horizons as Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli makes a series of distinguished recordings beginning in 1971. In 1972, three conductors begin long-term associations: Daniel Barenboim (also as a pianist), Seiji Ozawa and, most prominently, Leonard Bernstein, who in 1981 becomes an exclusive DG artist. Bernstein begins recording the Austro-German symphonic repertoire, largely from live concerts with the Wiener Philharmoniker, as well as many of his own and other American works (his 1985 recording of West Side Story becomes one of the bestselling releases in the company’s history).

Carlo Maria Giulini makes his first recordings for DG in 1976 with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. During the coming years the company documents his return to opera after a long absence to record Rigoletto in Vienna, Falstaff in Los Angeles, and Il trovatore in Rome. Carlos Kleiber’s first recording, Der Freischütz in 1973, is followed over the next decade by La Traviata, Die Fledermaus, Tristan – and symphonic works by Beethoven, Brahms, and Schubert. In 1978 a brilliant career begins as 14-year old violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter makes her debut recording of Mozart with the Berliner Philharmoniker under her mentor Karajan.

Also Gidon Kremer records the first of many lauded projects for Deutsche Grammophon. The LaSalle Quartet’s recordings of the Second Viennese School win numerous prizes. Archiv Produktion signs exclusive contracts with the violinist Reinhard Goebel and his Musica Antiqua Köln in 1977 and with the harpsichordist Trevor Pinnock and his English Concert the next year. These represent the company’s first period-instrument ensembles since Wenzinger’s Schola Cantorum Basiliensis in the 1950s. Also in 1978, John Eliot Gardiner makes his first recording for Archiv with the English Baroque Soloists. In 1980, PolyGram takes over Decca Records.


The Seventh Decade

Artists Joining (Selection):

Claudio Abbado · Martha Argerich
Janet Baker · Grace Bumbry
Christoph Eschenbach · Brigitte Fassbaender
Pierre Fournier · Friedrich Gulda
Gundula Janowitz · Rafael Kubelik
Christa Ludwig · Sir Charles Mackerras
Gerald Moore ·  Edda Moser 
Birgit Nilsson ·  Narciso Yepes

In 1960, DG signs an exclusive agreement with Martha Argerich, one of a number of leading pianists who join the label over the next decades.

In 1962 Karajan’s first stereo recording of the nine Beethoven Symphonies with the Berliner Philharmoniker is released as DG’s first subscription package.

In this decade’s early years, the label records Verdi operas at La Scala – Claudio Abbado, who makes his DG debut in 1967, resumes the series in the mid-’70s. His numerous recordings over the coming decades include the complete symphonic works of Beethoven, Brahms, Mahler, Mendelssohn, Ravel, and Schubert, as well as more than a dozen complete operas.

Significant large-scale projects in this period include Fischer-Dieskau with Schubert’s complete lieder, followed over the next ten years by his comprehensive collections of lieder by Brahms, Liszt, Schumann, and Wolf.

In 1969, anticipating the Beethoven bicentenary in 1970, DG releases its first Beethoven Edition on 76 LPs. Other generously documented complete composer anniversary editions undertaken include: Beethoven again in 1977 and 1997; Bach in 1975 and 1985; Brahms in 1983 and 1997; and Berg in 1985.

The electronics companies Siemens (Munich) and Philips (Eindhoven) combine their interests in the recording business in 1962, establishing a new entity DGG/PPI (Philips Phonographic Industry); however DG retains control of its own recording activities and catalogue.


The Sixth Decade

Artists Joining (Selection):

Amadeus Quartet · Karl Böhm
Christoph von Dohnányi
Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau
Ferenc Fricsay · Monique Haas
Paul Hindemith · Eugen Jochum  
Lorin Maazel · Igor Markevitch
David Oistrakh · Igor Oistrakh
Karl Richter · Sviatoslav Richter
Hans Rosbaud · Wolfgang Schneiderhan
Maria Stader · Rita Streich
Fritz Wunderlich · Nicanor Zabaleta

In 1950 78-rpm records with up to nine minutes playing time per side are introduced, based on the DG invention of variable grooves, and the next year the company releases its first 33-rpm long-playing records (also known as LPs). Wilhelm Kempff begins a new Beethoven piano-sonata cycle in 1950 and records the Beethoven Concertos in 1953 (he re-records both in stereo in the ’60s).

Furtwängler resumes his association with Deutsche Grammophon in 1951. The Amadeus Quartet and the violinist Wolfgang Schneiderhan make their first DG recordings in 1951 and 1952 respectively. In 1959, having already recorded Brahms, Haydn, Mozart, and Schubert, the Amadeus Quartet embarks on a complete stereo recording of the Beethoven Quartets. Also that year, Karajan returns to the company from EMI – he will make some 330 records for DG over the next thirty years, including three Beethoven cycles and the complete Ring.

Two other conductors play a significant part in establishing Deutsche Grammophon’s strong postwar position in the Classical and Romantic repertoire: Karl Böhm (most notably in Mozart and the conductor’s friend Richard Strauss) and Rafael Kubelik (most ­notably in Dvorˇák and Smetana, Lohengrin, and a complete Mahler cycle). The versatile American conductor Lorin Maazel is signed in 1957.

Archiv Produktion makes some pioneering recordings of medieval and Renaissance music during its first decades; however the focus is on Baroque, above all the complete Bach organ works with Walcha and German and Italian repertoire directed by Rudolf Baumgartner, Fritz Lehmann, August Wenzinger, and Karl Richter, who after Lehmann’s death becomes the label’s chief Bach interpreter.

In 1956 the company transfers its headquarters to Hamburg, while the production plants remain in Hanover. In the following year, the new Deutsche Grammophon trademark, the “cartouche”, is introduced.


The Fifth Decade

Artists Joining (Selection):

Géza Anda · Maria Cebotari
Hilde Güden · Hans Hotter
Herbert von Karajan · Margarete Klose
Annelies Kupper · Max Lorenz  
Maria Müller · Helmut Walcha

After the outbreak of World War II and faced with a shortage of raw material, Deutsche Grammophon again stagnates – and in 1941 it is taken over by the electronics and engineering company Siemens & Halske. In spite of curtailed production, recording projects such as a relatively complete St. Matthew Passion conducted by Bruno Kittel in 1942 are produced (with the matrices taken by submarine to Japan, where Nippon Polydor has ordered 17,000 sets). On 9 May 1942 the Gestapo formally prohibits DG from producing masters using Jewish artists and orders the destruction of all records in which they are featured. Some recordings continued to be issued during this and the following year, notably of Karajan conducting the Berlin Staatskapelle, Concertgebouw, Berliner Philharmoniker, and RAI Orchestra of Turin. Among the other recordings from 1943 is Strauss’s Ein Heldenleben, conducted by the composer.

After the war’s end, a small record-manufacturing facility is opened in Berlin while the destroyed factory and administrative buildings in Hanover are being rebuilt. In 1946, Deutsche Grammophon becomes the first company to make all recordings using magnetic tape. In the following year, Archiv Produktion is founded to promote early music – its first recordings are of Bach played in Lübeck’s Jakobi­kirche by organist Helmut Walcha, who remains closely related with the label for 30 years. In 1949 exclusive rights to the trademark “His Master’s Voice” in Germany are sold to Electrola (EMI Germany) and the yellow Deutsche Grammophon label with tulip crown is introduced. Eugen Jochum, Ferenc Fricsay (who is to be a mainstay of the company’s roster during the 1950s), and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau make their first recordings for the now-Yellow Label.


The Fourth Decade

Artists Joining (Selection):

Claudio Arrau · Erna Berger
Alexander Brailowsky
Willi Domgraf-Fassbaender
Samuel Dushkin  · Max Fiedler 
Galimir String Quartet
Manfred Gurlitt · Hans Knappertsbusch
Pietro Mascagni · Maurice Ravel
Wilhelm Rode  · Victor De Sabata
Carl Schuricht

Ravel’s Boléro is recorded by the company’s new French subsidiary Société phonographique française Polydor S.A. in 1930, with the composer himself conducting the Lamoureux Orchestra. The worldwide “great depression” precipitates a decline in record sales and in 1932 the company merges with Polyphon and moves its headquarters back to Hanover.

In 1937, after further years of falling production, Deutsche Grammophon AG goes into liquidation and in its place Deutsche Grammophon GmbH is founded, co-financed by the Deutsche Bank and Telefunken Gesellschaft. In spite of increasing Third Reich restrictions, some important recordings continue to be made. In December 1938 the first record by Herbert von Karajan (the Zauberflöte Overture with the Berlin Staatskapelle) is released.

Other DG artists in this period included conductors Paul van Kempen, Carl Schuricht, and Victor de Sabata; pianist Elly Ney; violinist Georg Kulenkampff; and singers Erna Berger, Tiana Lemnitz, Walther Ludwig, and Julius Patzak.


The Third Decade

Artists Joining (Selection):

Fritz Busch · Carl Flesch
Wilhelm Furtwängler
Wilhelm Kempff · Otto Klemperer
Alexander Kipnis · Emmi Leisner
Caspar Melchior · Hans Pfitzner
Elisabeth Schumann · Richard Strauss

In 1920 the 25-year-old Wilhelm Kempff makes his first Deutsche Grammophon recording (Beethoven), as does Elisabeth Schumann (“Non so più” from Figaro, sung in German). Thus begins a new direction for the company with artists including the soprano Maria Ivogün, conductors such as Hermann Abendroth, Leo Blech, and Hans Pfitzner and a recording philosophy of uncut performances, faithful to the score.

In 1921 Frida Leider records Elisabeth’s Greeting from Tannhäuser and Richard Strauss is the pianist in his own lieder for baritone Heinrich Schlusnus, who soon becomes one of the company’s leading singers. In 1924 DG is allowed to resume use of the Nipper “His Master’s Voice” trademark as well as its pre-war matrices for issue in Germany, while the Polydor logo is introduced for exported records. The releases of this period emphasize Wagner and often feature the Berlin Staatskapelle under Leo Blech or the Berliner Philharmoniker under Max von Schillings.

By 1925, when the electro-acoustic recording system is introduced, the company has brought out all nine Beethoven Symphonies, with Oskar Fried and others conducting the Berlin Staatskapelle, plus such large-scale symphonies as Bruckner’s Seventh and Mahler’s Second. In 1926, Wilhelm Furtwängler overcomes his scepticism regarding the medium to record Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony and Weber’s Freischütz Overture with the Berliner Philharmoniker. In “Beethoven Year” 1927, when the company takes over the American Brunswick label, its catalogue also contains the composer’s symphonies conducted by Otto Klemperer, Hans Pfitzner, and Richard Strauss, as well as the Adagio from Bruckner’s Eighth conducted by Klemperer, Haydn’s “Oxford” under Hans Knappertsbusch, the Mozart 39 and “Jupiter” conducted by Strauss, Tchaikovsky’s “Pathétique” with Bruno Walter and the Fledermaus Overture under Erich Kleiber, all with the Berlin Staatskapelle, which also plays for Strauss’s recordings of his symphonic poems (1926–33).

By the time of Joseph Berliner’s death in 1928 and Emile’s the following year, DG’s annual production has reached nearly 10 million records, with the Hanover factory employing some 600 people.


The Second Decade

Artist Joining (Selection): 

Wilhelm Backhaus · Mattia Battistini
Berliner Philharmoniker · Claire Dux
Alfred Hertz · Fritz Kreisler
Lotte Lehmann · Arthur Nikisch
Heinrich Schlusnus

The earliest orchestral recording is marketed in 1910: the opening movement of Grieg’s Piano Concerto with Wilhelm Backhaus, who two years earlier made his recording debut for the company playing selections from Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier. Another famous pianist, Ignace Jan Paderewski, makes his recording debut in 1911.

In 1913, Deutsche Grammophon causes a sensation with its first complete recording of an orchestral work: Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, with the Berliner Philharmoniker under its principal conductor Arthur Nikisch, is released on four double-sided discs, for Mark 9.50 (then equivalent to about $2.25 / 1,70 €) per disc; in Britain it is issued on single-sided discs over several months. Also published at this time are excerpts from Wagner’s Parsifal with the Berliner Philharmoniker under Alfred Hertz.

With the outbreak of World War I, Deutsche Grammophon’s assets are impounded by the German government on the grounds that the company is English and therefore its holdings are enemy property. In 1916, the German and English firms – the latter destined to become the modern EMI – go their separate ways. Deutsche Grammophon can no longer use the trademark “His Master’s Voice” or export from Germany discs recorded abroad. Because the company can no longer sell records by such top names as Caruso, Melba, and Patti, a new repertoire has to be built up. In the next years, recordings will focus on the finest artists of Germany and central Europe.


The First Decade

Artists Joining (Selection):

Sarah Bernhardt · Emma Calvé
Enrico Caruso · Feodor Chaliapin
Leopold Demuth · Emmy Destinn
Geraldine Farrar · Mary Garden
Alfred Grünfeld · Maria Gutheil-Schoder
Josef Hofmann · Joseph Joachim 
Nellie Melba

The story of Deutsche Grammophon goes back as far as the birth of recording itself. In June 1898, the company is founded in Hanover along with the first record and gramophone manufacturing works. Its directors are Emile Berliner – the Hanover-born American inventor of both the disc and the player – and his brother Joseph. Their factory uses American-made hydraulic presses to produce shellac discs for the Gramophone Company, established earlier that year in London by Emile’s associate William Barry Owen, with recordings supervised by Emile’s American associate Fred Gaisberg. By 1900, when the Deutsche Grammophon Gesellschaft becomes a joint-stock company with headquarters in Berlin, Berliner’s disc has eclipsed Edison’s cylinder as the industry standard, and Gaisberg is busy acquiring respectability for the new medium by signing up famous artists.

Enrico Caruso makes his first recording for the Gramophone Company in Milan in 1902. Among others following suit are Mattia Battistini, Emma Calvé, Alessandro Moreschi (the last castrato), Antonio Scotti, Leo Slezak, Francesco Tamagno (Verdi’s first Otello), Geraldine Farrar, Mary Garden, and Elena Gerhardt.

The Russian bass Feodor Chaliapin becomes the first singer whose reputation is actually established by the gramophone. In 1904, the company finally succeeds in persuading the great Nellie Melba to record for it, and a year later Gaisberg brings his recording team and equipment to the Welsh castle of Adelina Patti – after Melba the world’s biggest opera star. Deutsche Grammophon is soon appointed purveyor to the British and Spanish royal households, thereby acquiring the ultimate seal of approval. By 1907 its Hanover factory has some 200 record-pressing machines in operation and that year it turns out the first two-sided records.