A small office building stands at the corner of Tampa Ave. and Roscoe Blvd. in
Northridge. From its half-timbered, archaic look, it might have been designed
by and for a gang of Munchkins. Instead, it houses the headquarters of DCC
Compact Classics, which is the outfit you talk to whenever you’re looking for
recordings from Bulgaria.
DCC is a label both old and new. Old, it was known as Dunhill, with a strong
pop identification and a catalog listing the likes of Sammy Davis Jr,, Judy
Garland and Ray Charles. Then, sometime last year, the makers of Dunhill
cigarettes brought suit against the use of their name, and so Marshall
Blonfield, the head of Dunhill-the-record, set up new quarters in Northridge,
with a new label, DCC in which the “D” — which doesn’t require an
encyclopedia to figure out — maintains the link with the past.
What has any of this got to do with Bulgaria? Enter Jerry Tolmich, one of the
surviving patriarchs of the classical record business, p-r executive for a
time at Columbia Records on both coasts, currently head of his own company
called AVM (“Audio-Visual Masterpieces”) which is the exclusive American
affiliate of Balkanton, which is Bulgaria’s major classical label. Under a
DCC-AVM alliance, Tolmich has moved his office, too, up to the Munchkin
building in Northridge, making that corner the Bulgarian records capitol of
the entire Western World.
“AVM is a company to be reckoned with, now and in the future,” says the
hearty, garrulous Tolmich. Already, his catalog bears out his boast.
Everything in it so far is some kind of premiere. One disc contains all of
Bartok’s Piano Concertos — the first time all three have been on a single
record. Another contains three Liszt Piano Concertos: the familiar Nos. 1 & 2,
and an obscure orchestration of the solo “Concerto Pathetique” and also,
thus, a world premiere. A complete recording of Debussy’s piano Preludes is
listed as “the first time complete Preludes in stereo on 1 CD.” One genuine
curiosity is a piano transcription of, of all things, Edward Elgar’s First
Symphony. Responding to a raised eyebrow, Tolmich asserted that the pile of
advance orders for that undoubted rarity was already mountainous.
One AVM-DCC disc clearly bound for success is an operatic recital, recorded in
1981, by the legendary Bulgarian bass Boris Christoff, with chorus and
orchestra conducted by Ettore Gracis. “That one is only a western-world
premiere,” smiled Tolmich. “It has never been issued outside Bulgaria.”
One major breakthrough concerns price: AVM’s classical line lists at $8.98.
with an even cheaper “Best of Composer” line priced at $5.98. Even here
there are surprises: a “Best of Gershwin” disc with performances of
“Rhapsody in Blue” and the Concerto in F, by the Bulgarian Broadcasting
Symphony under Jo Alfidi.
Remember Jo Alfidi? They called him Joey back in 1960, when as a dimpled
cherub of 10 he had played his Piano Concerto for the Queen Mother Elisabeth
of Belgium. Two years later, he got her to visit his own home in Yonkers; now
there he is, conducting Gershwin in Sofia for records distributed out of
Northridge. Small, indeed, is the world!
[*]bo. Where and When? [B] Trying to discover the extent of Los Angeles-area
music making is frustrating at best, and becomes more so as the number of
events increases year after year. No daily or weekly newspaper has room for
the complete list, nor the facility to hunt down all the information.
This, then, is by way of greeting the 1990/91 Cauer Calendar of Classical
Musical Events, fresh at hand, a 36-page well-printed listing of the entire
ongoing musical season so far as it is presently known. Robert Cauer is a
violin restorer and dealer, with a shop at 2242 Cahuenga Blvd., Hollywood
90068. He has produced his calendar free of charge, supported by a few
It’s a remarkable job, covering the concert and operatic scene from the San
Fernando Valley down to Costa Mesa and east to Riverside. It even includes
such added amenities as an accurate phone list of musical venues, including
churches. Blessings upon Robert Cauer, for recognizing one of this community’s
most urgent needs and fulfilling it so well.