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Researching EMI, and new additions to my collection: rarities from the early EMI catalog

This August I’ve been busying myself with completing my (huge) discography of EMI’s budget series from the late 1980s and 1990s – Studio, Laser, Références, Great Recordings of the Century, Introuvables, Rarissimes, Rouge et Noir, Eminence, Classics for Pleasure, and that’s only a sample, EMI had many branches and a vast catalog to tap from. The research requires using my pet-method – follow the barcode! Just roll the sequence and see what you fish. Typically EMI’s barcode for its budget series in the early years was in the form 077776xxxx2y with 7 6xxxx 2 (preceded by three letters, usually CDM or CZS for the single CDs, CMS or CDS for sets) being the label number (full-priced issues would be 07777xxxxx2y if an individual CD and 07777xxxxx8y if a set. Editions from EMI’s German branch Electrola went by the barcodes 5099925xxx2y with 25 xxx 2 as label number. (I’ll keep it at that for the purpose of this post, to make it – seem – simple. In fact it is, once you get the logic).

Now, there may be a number of reasons why a  barcode doesn’t yield:

  1. In multiple-CD sets, each CD received its individual barcode. For instance, in two-CD set CMS 7 62533 2 from EMI France’s collection “Rouge & Noir” (Cziffra plays works for piano and orchestra), with barcode 077776253329, CD 1 is attributed the barcode 077776253428 and CD 2, 077776253527. So the next release in the series is going to be CMS 7 62536 2, barcode 077776253626, which turns out to be “Menuhin plays Concertos for violin”. Still, the discographer can’t afford to just jump two barcode numbers in his research, because sometimes – rarely, but I’ve seen it – EMI breaks the rule and what should be the barcode of CD1 is attributed to another release. I surmise that it is another branch of EMI that has located would appeared to be an available label number and has used it.
  2. On Amazon, now (it wasn’t always the case – part of the website’s general deterioration over the years), if a product isn’t currently offered, research sometimes (not always) won’t yield on the search engine. Heck, sometimes, for reasons incomprehensible to me, it won’t yield even if it IS currently offered. Solution is to go through your seller account and “add a new product”. If it is listed at all, it’ll show up.
  3. The label number and corresponding barcode have been skipped by the label. It happens, oftentimes. I’m not privvy with the way those big firms function and how they decide to allocate their barcodes to their different branches, I don’t know why they leave barcodes “blank”.
  4. The release exists, the barcode has been used, but it is not listed on your customary websites – either because an early release, made before your customary website was even invented, or (cumulative, not alternative) because it comes from an “exotic” branch of EMI, like EMI Spain, or Finland, or The Netherlands, Greece, and has had a circulation limited to those countries.

So, when the discographer finds a gap, he is confronted with a riddle: is there a gap because the label hasn’t used that barcode, or simply because the website you are searching does not list the CD, which otherwise exists? That’s why, when typically a barcode doesn’t yield on Amazon, to make sure I search on multiple other websites, Melomania, eBay, Discogs, and ultimately Google (see my blogpost from 10 April 2020 for more on my research methods). If it doesn’t yield after all that, than the odds rise that it doesn’t exist, although it’s not yet a certainty: it could simply not be listed anywhere, I’ve seen it, releases that I knew existed only because I had seen references in magazines, no trace showed up online.

And, so, here’s an interesting case that happened recently. CMS 7 63679 2, barcode 077776367927, is a 4 CD-set published in 1990 on the occasion of the bicentennial anniversary of Mozart’s death, a compilation of chamber Music and piano works. So, in principle, no release until label number 79 + 5 = 7 63684 2 barcode 077776368429. But that barcode, which should have been EMI’s next release, didn’t yield either on the Amazons (France, UK, US). So I used my alternative websites, and Google: nothing. So I was ready to pass on that one; still, as a last resort and just to make absolutely sure, I made a Google search on the label number, “EMI 7 63684 2”, not the barcode (problem with researching barcodes is that, on some websites, they are listed with blanks, as they appear on the back cover of the CD, like 07777x xxx2 y, so search on barcode all-attached won’t yield). And, surprise, puzzlement, it yielded: disc listed litterally around the corner from where I live: on Melomania!

The puzzlement, because, if listed on Melomania, it should have responded to a call on the barcode, 077776368429, and it didn’t. Plus, if a 6-CD set, the next EMI listing should have been 684 + 7 = 077776369129; but, no, 685 is filled (2 CDs EMI Références  CHS 7 63685 2 Mozart Idomeneo conducted by John Pritchard in Glyndebourne barcode 077776368528, then CHS 7 63688 2  Mozart Complete Piano Sonatas by Walter Gieseking on 8 CDs).  So that release, 7 63684 2, if truly attested, would have been one of those “pirate” fill-ins that I occasionally encounter? Plus, Melomania’s listing didn’t provide photos, to enable me to understand the apparent incoherence between label number and barcode: Sibelius by Berglund with the Helsinki Orchestra on 6 CDs, could it be a Japanese edition, which sometimes use Western label numbers but Japanese barcodes? More research didn’t help me corroborate that. Could it be a listing for Warner’s recent (2017) reissue of apparently the same recordings, barcode 0190295869151? But if so, why the label number corresponding to EMI’s releases from 1990, and why did it not show up either when I searched 0190295869151 on Melomania’s website (which takes you to a genuine entry for the Warner set). Plus, their mystery EMI listing said 6 CDs, and the Warner reissue has 5. Of course, that “6” could have been a typing mistake from Melomania…

I wasn’t even sure that all performances were with the Helsinki Philharmonic, Melomania’s product info is not always entirely detailed, and Berglund also did an earlier Sibelius cycle with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra…

After spending an unreasonably large amount of time on the research, I was about to give up and inscribe it in my discography as “dubious”, when I made a last-ditch effort and Google searched on “7636842 (all-attached) Sibelius”. And… bingo: a yield, a selling platform in Finland.

With photos! Eurêka!

…but no image of the barcode unfortunately. You can see part of the barcode of one of the CDs comprising the set, but only the last digits, 688, just enough to figure out that it did not correspond to the set’s label number and didn’t give any lead.

So here’s what I did – “pel piacer di porle in lista”, that’s the (only) motivation Don Giovanni (ever) gives (in the “Champagne” Aria) of his lust for conquest, “for the pleasure of adding her to the list”: with the help of Google’s Finnish to English translator, I registered on the Finnish selling platform and got in touch with the seller. He was kind enough to provide the requested info: the set itself bears no barcode, and contains 6 individual barcoded CDs, themselves Finnish releases badly listed on the major Amazons (if listed at all, but Google search them, and they’ll show up):

CDC 7 47443 2 (Symphonies 4& 7) barcode 077774744324,
CDC 7 49052 2 (Symphonies 1 & 6)  077774905220,
CDC 7 49175 2 (Symphonies 3 & 5)  077774917520,
CDC 7 49511 2 (Symphony No. 2, Oceanides, Finlandia) 077774951123,
CDC 7 47496 8 (2 CDs) Kullervo, Our Native Land, The Origin of Fire 077774749688 (that’s the one whose last digits appear on the photo)

And that makes 6 CDs alright. After some agonizing I decided not to buy it (I don’t even know if seller would have accepted to send outside of Finland): as much as I prefer having first editions, the Warner reissue is more complete (it adds Tapiola) and cheaper. And, yes, they managed to cram it all on 5 CDs.

On the other hand, I did buy some (cheap) EMI rarities that my systematic barcode research fished out of the depths of oblivion:



(so far in my EMI disography I’ve encountered only one other instalment from that “Baroque Special” series)


(rare recordings of David Munrow as flautist – he is recalled more as a conductor of early music, and he died tragically early, less than three years after these recordings)

And this, a real rarity from EMI Spain:


More in a next post about some other rarities from Spain: Zarzuela! Stay tune.

But all these hours of research (and writing this post!) for a minuscule entry in my discography! No wonder I don’t finish anything!


Alain Damiens contemporary solo clarinet on Adda (1988)

Posted a new review of another old CD from Adda: Alain Damiens playing solo clarinet pieces by Stravinsky, Boulez, Denisov, Stockhausen, Donatoni, Berio, Adda 581066 (1988) and Accord reissues (link will take you directly to review). Can’t say I immensely enjoyed the recital: works for contemporary solo clarinet tend to be catalogs of effects, more “narrative” (clarinet telling a story, and it’s up to the listener to invent which one) than “pure music”. But at least it gave me the opportunity to listen very carefully to Berio’s Sequenza, Stockhausen’s “In Freundschaft” and Boulez’ “Domaines”, so I’m now a better human being.

Quick listen, quick review

Posted a review of Cimarosa’s six Flute Quartets on Adda 581031, from 1988. Adda was an entreprising but short-lived French label from the late 1980s and early 1990s, which I collect. Also, Cimarosa, other than the comic operas for which he retains today a semblance of existence in the minds of the music lovers, wrote marvelous keyboard sonatas, which are a sort of gap between Scarlatti and Haydn – I’ve reviewed a number of recordings on Amazon and need to import them over here. But his flute quartets are inconspicuous, background music. Quick listen, quick review.

Other than that, I’ve been busying myself lately with various discographies, in particular EMI’s budget and mid-price collections from the 1980s and 1990s, and, these last few days, my great work-in-progress: a chronological discography of Toscanini, 1920 to 1954- I don’t know that I’ll be able to complete that one before I die (even leaving out of my survey, as I do, the sonically-subpar Italian pirate issues), and it would be a pity (for the Toscanini fans; I may find some relief in the thought that there are less and less of those).

Another botched entry on Amazon

Looking for a rarity on, Joseph Hector Fiocco’s (1703-1741) Lamentations by Ensemble Concerto under Roberto Gini, a recording from 1992, 2 CDs on the obscure Italian label Giulia, GS 201021, barcode 8011662200204.

FIOCCO - Gini - Lamentations pour la Semaine SainteFIOCCO - Gini - Lamentations pour la Semaine Sainte



Searching the barcode on Amazon’s search engine takes me instead to Bach Violin Sonatas by London Baroque on EMI Reflexe (link will open a new tab to my discography), label number CDC 7 49203 2 barcode 077774920322 – an entry in itself entirely botched, scanty product info, no product image:

Things are slightly better on At least you get the label and indication of the works played.

Here are the front and back cover photo of that EMI Reflexe CD, since the Amazons do not provide it:




Why such a mess? Well, again, because the impenetrable and all-dominating “system”, in its great wisdom (or rather, human error by the ignorant dunces who enter that information), associated two entirely different barcodes, for two entirely different recordings, discs, labels, to one entry:

The result of that situation: if you buy, you don’t know what you get: Bach by London Baroque on EMI Reflexe or Fiocco on Giulia. And that’s through no major fault of the sellers: they just scan the barcode of the disc they have to sell and it is automatically added to the offers. I don’t even blame them for not checking if the entry accords with the CD at hand: I understand that they are mass sellers and don’t have the time for such petty details.

Not that it matters anyway: at 40 £ best price, the offers on are ludicrously expensive even if you were sure you were buying the Fiocco (and no better on, and the one at 9.95 on is evidently for the EMI Reflexe CD, as per the seller’s description of the CD condition: “The ‘Made in Japan” audio CD will play flawlessly, guaranteed, despite a number of very light surface marks. Includes a somewhat scuffed jewel case with, in VG or better condition, the pictured cover insert and the rear inlay. NO cut-out or ex-library marks. The track listing for this CD is as follows: 1-4) Sonata, BWV 1021; 5-8) Sonata, BWV 1023; 9) Cantabile, ma un poco adagio, BWV 1019a; 10-12) Sonata, BWV 1022; 13) Fuga, BWV 1026; 14-16) Sonata, BWV 1024. Featured performers are Ingrid Seifert, Charles Medlam and John Toll.”

The entry on Melomania is perfect:

I’m not even going to bother to try and fix things with Amazon. It’s not worth the energy and time I’d have to spend – and more likely, waste.


3 for the price of one, or one for the price of 3? Another jinxed barcode

Not that I think this has any interest to anyone but a mad discographer like myself, but just to keep record for myself and as a follow up on my blog post from May 24, I’ve just found another of these (rare) cases where a label gives the same barcode to two different CDs. In this case, it is Chant du Monde (and the true culprit would be Harmonia Mundi, who distributed the label and thus attributed the barcodes), with two issues bearing the same barcode 3149025056559: 288 015/17, 3 CDs with Vassili Sinaiski leading the Moscow Philharmonic in the Complete Tone Poems of Sibelius, and 288 051, Russian Pianno Trios vol. 2 with Rimsky-Korsakov’s Piano trio in C minor and Borodin’s Unfinished Piano Trio by The Moscow Trio, two releases from 1992. I haven’t found any entirely suitable backcover photo online of 288 015/17 (Sibelius), all are unfocused on the vital information: the barcode, but from what I can make out of it, it is indeed the same (and backcover photo is not my only clue; some eBay sellers unmistakably selling the Sibelius set give its barcode as 3149025056559):

Sibelius Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra-and Vassili Sinaiski:


The French Amazon entry is typically jinxed:

So again, if you buy on Amazon, you don’t know what you’ll be paying for: 3 for the price of one, or one for the price of 3? Melomania and Rakuten list the barcode only as Russian Piano Trios.

Back to Garnier in Satin Slipper!

Saturday, May 29. I’m back from Opera Garnier! I hadn’t been there for ages – can’t remember when was the last occasion. The gap was due to the pandemic and shut down of all crowd-gathering places, of course, but only partly. Opera tickets are expensive, CDs are cheap, and laziness and temptation of staying-at-home prevails over hours in public transportation and coming-back-late. But it’s when you are force-deprived of something (rather than by choice or laziness) that you truly realize its value. Independent even of what’s being performed in the pit and on stage, what a beautiful place! Palace Garnier indeed…

And the occasion was special too: not your customary Handel or Mozart (now that they’ve built the modern Bastille Opera, that is the kind of repertoire that is confined to the gilded Garnier), but a new opera by French composer Marc-André Dalbavie (a protege of Boulez, born in 1961): Le Soulier de Satin (The Satin Slipper), after the play of French 20th century playwright Paul Claudel (and ambassador, and erstwhile creative partner of Darius Milhaud in the 1920s, and brother of the famous sculptress Camille Claudel).

After I had bought the tickets and proudly annonced it to my companion, she balked a bit: “after Claudel’s play? How long is the opera?” I tried to reassure her: “don’t worry, it’s a contemporary opera, it’s probably not going to be over two hours”. Only then did I look at the indications on the Opera’s website: all compounded, intermissions and all: SIX HOURS! Playing on Saturday, from 2pm to 8pm… Claudel indeed! Does Dalbavie really think he’s Wagner writing Götterdämmerung or Meistersinger? And it is fortunate that the composer and his librettist made cuts! The original play may take 11 hours in performance… It is famous with theatre afficionados in France among Claudel’s output, if only for its unplayability: it is rarely staged, but when it is, it is by very prestigious directors in productions that are always memorable (yes, I’m sure even someone plagued with amnesia would remember spending 11 hours in a theatre): Jean-Louis Barrault in the 1940s to 1980s, Antoine Vitez, Olivier Py…. French playwright (and famous womanizer) Sacha Guitry famously quipped: “fortunately we got only one slipper, not the pair”…

Well then, we took an early and solid lunch, packed our bags with bottles of water and snacks, and off we went, not excluding the option of leaving at one or another of the intermissions if it got too boring.

One positive thing I can say about Dalbavie’s opera is that it is easy to stay until the end. For a former protege of Boulez, the music is surprisingly un-aggressive, easy-to-take, and even, yes, “pretty”. It is filled with Ravelian delicacy, at one point there is a theme played by brass that immediately evoked Britten’s Passacaglia from Peter Grimes, and there are even moments that are quasi-tonal and romantic, including a beautiful duet between Doña Prouhèze (the female lead) and Doña Musique. One of the most fascinating passages was the “Monologue of the Moon”, with the mesmerizing pre-recorded voice of French actress Fanny Ardant.

But here starts the criticism. First, Claudel’s mystical Catholicism is, unless you are a mystical believer yourself, insufferable and close to the corny. What the hell is the matter with these two characters, Doña Prouhèze and Don Rodrigo. Can’t they just recognize that it’s only lust, lust made frantic by religious interdiction and social convention (she’s already married)? Do they really need to couch it in so much incomprehensible Catholic mysticism (I guess they do…). But hey, guys, satisfy yourselves with the thought that, had you mated, it probably wouldn’t have worked out very long between the two of you… we’ve all been there (at least most of us)!

And then, Dalbavie’s music. Okay, so it isn’t aggressive or “repulsive” (in the sense that it doesn’t make you leave the theatre at the first intermission or before). It’s pretty. But the word that came to my mind was also: inconspicuous (or anodyne, innocuous). Beautiful sounds, Ravelian delicacy that seemed, from scene to scene, inter-changeable, and with very little development or change between begining and end, as if (and this may be unfair, of course, it is the reaction from a single hearing) the composer didn’t have the resources or skills to write four and a half hours of music (that’s counting the two intermissions) of true variety.

Another thing bugged me throughout: Dalbavie’s setting to music of Claudel’s French prosody: he trivializes it. French every day language isn’t pronounced as “elevated” or “formal” French, e.g. the language of poetry, or of verse theatre, or even of the “uppity” (which today would sound haughty or snobbish) – and, as with English, it even further deteriorates as times goes. Without even mentioning the cuss words, the French equivalents of the F. word, that everybody today seems to think appropriate to adorn their conversation with, or the useless equivalents of “you know?” or “I mean”, many of the typical French so-called “mute Es” are elided (not pronounced), “liaisons” (pronouncing the last, and normally un-pronounced, consonant of a word, when it is followed by a word starting with a vowel) are not done.

What it does is that it vulgarizes the language – litterally: it makes it sound vulgar. But what is unpleasant enough in the everyday life (and I am not pretending that I do not follow the trend) becomes awful when it is imported into places where it doesn’t belong, like verse theatre, or the opera. And that’s exactly what Dalbavie does: his rhythmic setting to music of Claudel’s poetic language elides all the mute Es and skips all the liaisons. His characters speak Claudel’s language as if it were today’s everyday French.

Can’t entirely blame Dalbavie for doing so, when even the young (or not so young) generation of theatre people are total ignoramuses in those matters of French poetry and poetic pronunciation. Television won. But it shows, in my opinion, not only a terrible aesthetic taste (if you don’t feel that daily pronunciation is plain ugly and vulgar, and that following the rules of poetic pronunciation gives a musicality to the language that constitutes its beauty, then, sorry, you have no taste, and no culture), and not only a complete betrayal of the poet’s language, but also a fundamental misunderstanging of what theatre (or opera) fundamentally is: NOT “day-to-day reality” (or the actors/singers wouldn’t be “clowning” on a stage!!!), but a transfiguration of reality, to express things that remain concealed in reality. The language they speak or sing on stage sounds “artificial”? Sure it does! Everything on stage is “artificial”, singing out your phrases is very rarely done in everyday life and you probably wouldn’t hold on very long to your job if you fancied doing so, and those people on stage don’t actually die when they are killed! But the goal and challenge of the actor / singer is to make that “artificiality” sound entirely natural to the audience: not because it is the language of the audience; but because the audience accepts that it is the language of those characters who are “clowning” on stage. To put it in other words, to me the goal and challenge of the actor / singer (and composer!) is not to lower the poetic language to the level of their daily language, but to elevate themselves, and their audience, to the beauties of that poetic language. And that’s what Dalbavie’s vocal writing lamentably failed to do. The fact that the opera was surtitled didn’t help either (although it did help intelligibility), because I could read them first and pronounce them in my mind before actually hearing them, and hearing them was always a painful letdown.

Dalbavie’s vocal writing isn’t very original either: lots of quasi-parlando or even sprechgesang, and the customary upward-rising phrases when dramatic tension built, the stock-and-trade of vocal writing. It is hard to reconcile innovative vocal writing and intelligibility, even though, even there, the surtitles helped (although the surtitlist was terribly clumsy). The writing for the character of Doña Prouhèze also required a lot of chest voice from the singer, which wasn’t her best range.

Despite its length, not a very memorable moment then – maybe that’s why I’ve written this review, then. I must mention one special treat of the occasion, though: because all restrictions have not yet been lifted on crowd-gathering venues, Garnier was filled at only half, or perhaps one-third capacity (I don’t know if a contemporary opera would have drawn a larger audience otherwise, but let’s leave them the benefit of the doubt…). The incredible privilege that it was, not only to be in Palais Garnier, but to benefit from an 8-seat central 3rd balcony box… for just me and my companion!

I took the opportunity to pull out of my shelves two Dalbavie CDs, that I’ll try and review ASAP.


Discophage indeed!

Although it is trivial, I’ve got to share this.

Yesterday I received a message that first puzzled me, sent through the contact form of my website. Those messages are transferred directly to me in the form of e-mails, and I receive an amount of spam through that contact form: serious correspondents use the comment space, by which the messages can be posted at the end of the relevant page. So initially I thought it was more spam, and I was about to ditch it without even reading.

But on second perusal it appeared that it was something else:

From: basia
Sent: Thursday, May 27, 2021 7:24 PM
From: basia <email address>
Subject: searching  album/recording
Message Body:
I’m in search for an album a duo from  Les Etoiles
singers Rolando Faria & Luiz Antonio, Les Etoiles – 1982 – LP (2021)
1979 au Discophage, à Paris (album live sorti en 1980 et réédité en 1991)
any information will be appreciated!
thank you basia

This e-mail was sent from a contact form on My Website (

Yes the e-mail mixed French and English so I suppose the person is located in France. So here’s my response:

Hello BasiaAnd why are you asking me ? Because the album, CY Records 733.604, was recorded live at the end of the 1970s at a night club in Paris, located “rue des Ecoles” and called “Discophage Sarava”, and my website, 40 years later, is called ? Frankly, the link is very tenuous….

Anyway, it’s very easy to find info online about that album, and you mustn’t have tried very hard. First of all, it’s been uploaded on YouTube if you want to hear it

From there, you can easily find the LP on sale, and for pretty cheap, on eBay:

The CD reissue has also been uploaded on YouTube

…and from the backcover photo that appears at 32:00 it is easy to retrieve the barcode information: 3229261079229

…making it easy to locate the CD on all online commercial websites, like

It might be of interest to you to know that also documents a 45rpm titled “Rolando / Luiz Antonio Au Discophage Sarava”, apparently a promotional copy issued at the time of the performances, with four songs that don’t seem to be on the LP:

It has also been uploaded on YouTube

…and, if you are ready to shell out 35€ for four songs, it is currently on sale on Rakuten:

All this research, which is way out of my own scope of interest and which frankly you could have done yourself, took about half an hour of my time: so if I charge you 5 €, which is less of an hourly rate than a cleaning person, I think it is fair, right?

Best wishes


BTW, the music is Brazilian disco. Reminds me, when I started publishing reviews on, some ten years ago, and some dunce took me to task in a comment for chosing the alias “discophage” – because it contained “disco”, so that made me a fan of disco music. Well there we are.

On what research and findings the internet now allows, my favorite story is the one of the mystery Vanguard Mahler recording.

Collector’s tip – jinxed (about barcodes, the labels Russian Disc and SOMM’s “Ariadne” series

One of my pet obsessions as a CD collector is: barcodes. I have written and repeated that the barcode is the best, surest and sometimes only way to find your CD online, for purchase on commercial websites or even just documentation. Many entries on many commercial websites are so flawed – and Amazon is the worst – that in such cases you have no chance of finding the CD you are looking for using the most obvious search criteria : composer, work, interpreter, label. Oftentimes those credits are false, or missing, the cover photos are wrong, for another edition or even for an entirely different CD, or missing. Good luck to the “uninformed” purchaser. Chances are, he won’t find what he’s looking for, or he won’t find the cheapest offer on the website, or he’ll unwittingly buy another edition than the one he tought he was buying, or will even find himself landed with a totally different CD from the one he thought he had ordered.

The barcode, on the other hand – if you know the barcode of the CD you are looking for – will take you for sure to that CD. That is because, on most commercial website that I frequent (the Amazons, Rakuten, Melomania,… – things are not as consistent on eBay, it depends if the individual sellers provide the barcode information), the entries are indexed on the barcodes. Most big marketplace sellers – Momox, Zoverstocks, ReBuyReCommerce, Round3, Worldofbooks, you name it (whatever happened to Caiman?) – simply scan their CDs for sale, and the offer is automatically added to the website’s relevant page (and that’s why they don’t even know – and don’t really care – when the information of the CD that they are selling doesn’t match the credits and product info of the page under which they are selling it, because said credits are false). So type the (usually 12, sometimes 13) digits of the CD’s barcode in the search engine, and it takes you to the entry for that CD. Even if the page’s product info and photo(s) are hopelessly false and misleading, there’s a very strong chance that it IS your CD that is sold there. I’ve found great bargains using that trick – because the entry was so flawed that nobody could know what was sold, and consequently nobody bought, and consequently offer prices were low.

It is very rare that the barcode trick doesn’t work. It may happen (on Amazon and Rakuten particularly) because those website have implemented a nasty feature which I guess they thought very clever: a search on the barcode will NOT yield results if there are currently no offers from marketplace sellers. Well, yeah, I guess the clever ignorants who manage the day-to-day computer operations of those websites said to themselves: “if there is no current offer, who would be interested to even go to the offerless entry”? Well: me, for instance because I am compiling a discography. But, okay, there are workarounds (too complicated to describe here). Using those workarounds has also enabled me to find out that on Amazon (and especially, it seems), sometimes a search on the barcode won’t yield even though there ARE currently offers; I don’t know why.

Worse than that: on Amazon, again, sometimes a search on the barcode WILL take you to the wrong CD. The reason is that, in another example of Amazon’s bureaucratic un-wieldiness, for no reason that I can comprehend except sheer mistake or Gremlin in the machine, an entry will be indexed on two entirely different barcodes, the legitimate one (e.g. the one corresponding to the product info) and another one. They are not, mind you, barcodes of two different editions of the same CD (that would make sense, for instance, with many issues from the late 1980s and early 1990s, when labels like CBS – not yet Sony – or Deutsche Harmonia Mundi had a barcode for their European distribution and another one for their US distribution – but otherwise the two editions were exactly the same CD, cover art, liner notes). In the case of Amazon’s flawed listings, they are two entirely different CDs. It has happened to me a number of times, though infrequently (I think no more than ten in all my online-purchasing “career”) that I thought I had bought a certain CD, and received an entirely different one – usually junk pop music or “easy listening”. That was through no fault of the seller (except the fault of not checking, and not caring, if the entry’s product info matched their CD – see above), but because of the faulty listing indexed on two different and non-related barcodes. I’ve never had any problems getting a refund in those cases – but it was more complicated to buy the CD I was looking for, because I could buy it a number of times and always receive the other, infamous CD. If ever you are considering buying Koch Schwann’s 3-1146-2, barcode 099923114628,

…with Dvorak’s famous Cello Concerto but also his much rarer posthumous Concerto – don’t! Because chances are, you’ll receive instead “Painted Orange”, barcode 5014182482139, published in 1991 on the label Star Song, SSD8213 (there’s another edition of the same – probably US vs Europe, or the other way around – that has more online visibility, barcode 054438821324). I gave up trying (I junked the two copies I had received of “Painted Orange” and kept the jewel cases as spares).

Whenever I discover such faulty entries, it is an ordeal to get Amazon to fix them. Usually, Amazon’s agents misunderstand what I’m asking (“split page, create new page with barcode matching CD information”), and after tiresome explanatory back and forth, it takes them weeks to fix it – and sometimes they even send me a message that it’s fixed, and I check, and it’s not. All this is wearing and not much is at stake, so now I’ve more or less stopped even trying.

It has been exceedingly rare, however, that I’ve received the wrong CD because two entirely different CDs were actually attributed THE SAME barcode. I’m not sure who attributes barcodes, but the way it goes, each label has its own barcode. Among the barcode’s twelve digits, the first five or six are specific to the label (Universal’s, for instance, with the labels DG, Philips, Decca, but also at some point the French Accord, the Australian ABC Classics…, has been, from the start, 02894, Hyperion 034571, Chandos 095115, etc), the next ones individualize the specific issue (usually reproducing its label number). I’ve seen it happen that a label gave the same barcode to two entirely different releases, because of their choices of label numbering: the example that comes to mind is Tahra’s COL 001, a set devoted to the complete Pathé-Saphir recordings of French conductor Edouard Colonne, barcode 3504129000110 – with 3504129 being Tahra’s label designation – which has the same barcode as their Karel Ancerl set, ANC 001. Search the barcode on and it will take you to:

…but type the same in Melomania’s search engine and it will yield:

…and it makes things very frustrating for the buyer who’d be looking for the valuable Ancerl set, because he won’t find it on Amazon. Or maybe he will: maybe one or the other of those offers under Amazon’s Edouard Colonne listing is actually for the Ancerl set; but are you really going to take the chance? Are you going to try and buy the overpriced one-CD Edouard Colonne (best offer on Amazon at the time of writing is 25$), in the hope of receiving a bargain Ancerl 7-CD set (currently on sale on Melomania for 165€ – that’s got to be around 200$ at the current exchange rate)? I wouldn’t. I waited for the coveted Ancerl set to show up on eBay, where I was sure of what was being sold.

But okay: that’s the same label, obviously its label prefix is going to be the same which multiplies the risk of reproducing a barcode between two different releases (although I don’t recall seeing the same with any other label whose discography I compile, so it was pretty thoughtless of the single-handedly-run Tahra) (and a post-script from June 6: I’ve just happened on another case, Chant du Monde 288 015/17 and 288 051. See my blog post from June 6). But two different labels receiving the same label code? How can that happen?

But it does, apparently. Some years ago, I chanced on one such case: barcode 016861395520. That’s the barcode of a valuable CD I have, Emergo Classics EC 3955-2 with the Orlando String Quartet and George Pieterson (clarinet) playing works of Alfred Schnittke, Isang Yun and Tristan Keuris:

   Playlist (141) - Page 2 Orland12

Hence my surprise (well… not really. You grow accustomed to these things) when, searching the barcode on Amazon, I was directed to an entirely different CD: “Photograph Single, Import” by Nickelback, Roadrunners Records RR 3955-2 (note the same label numbering). So, another case of those botched entries indexed on two entirely different barcodes? Not this time – and that was the real surprise: same barcode!

Image 1 - NICKELBACK -Photograph / We Will Rock You- 2 track CD Single Queen cover

In fact, the Amazon entry is as big a mess as it gets:

And it’s been impossible to get them n to create an entry specific to the Emergo CD. I gave up trying.

Well: long introduction (thanks for reading it to here!) to say that yesterday, I found not one, but a whole series of duplicate barcodes. I was working on one of my discographies, that of the label Russian Disc (valuable for bringing to us many unavailable recordings, live or studio, from the former Soviet Union). Russian Disc’s barcode starts with the digits 74887; it’s flagship series goes by the label numbers RD CD 10 001, 10 002 etc, hence the barcodes 748871000124 , 748871000223 etc. (the penultimate 2 designates a CD, and the final digit goes down one when the label number goes up one, with jumps of four when come the tens, hence 748871000926 and 748871001022 – that’s one of the “mechanics” of barcode progression). But one sub-series of Russian Disc, “Great Soviet Artists”, goes by the label numbers RD CD 15 001, 002 etc., hence barcodes 748871500129, 748871500228 etc. – you get it. I was going to work on compiling that series, starting with 15 001, “Sofronitsky Plays Prokofiev” (backcover photo retrieved from an eBay offer, not high quality, but barcode fully legible):

PROKOFIEV - Sofronitsky - Sonate pour piano n°7 en si bémol majeur op.83

Surprise again, because searching 748871500129 on Amazon didn’t yield the expected Russian Disc Sofronitsky plays Prokofiev, but a record from the label SOMM (and a series called “Ariadne”), 5001: Carole Farley sings Grieg Songs. But the real surprise came from seeing the backcover photo (for once duly provided by Amazon) and the barcode :

And this time, it’s not a one-off, the series goes on. Russian Disc 15 002 ( 748871500228):

TCHAIKOVSKY - Oistrakh - Concerto pour violon en ré majeur op.35

SOMM Ariadne 5002:

…and it goes on. Russian Disc’s series was published in 1993, SOMM’s dates from 2018, so it’s really a case of SOMM parasiting the barcodes of Russian Disc.  I’m conjecturing that what may have happened is that Russian Disc was attributed the five-digit barcode prefix 74887, which, when complemented with their label numbers 1500x, gives barcodes 748871500x2y, and SOMM was landed with the six-digit barcode prefix 748871, which, with the addition of their label numbers 500x, unfortunately gives barcodes 748871500x2y, same as Russian Disc’s.

SOMM’s Ariadne is not an uninteresting series, but what sucks is that they make it impossible to find on many websites, starting with Amazon, the Russian Disc installments. KHATCHATURIAN - Sitkovetsky - Concerto pour violon et orchestre en ré miAnd what pisses me off even more at – again – Amazon, is that now, the reviews I and others posted prior to 2018 under Russian Disc 15 009 (barcode 748871500921), with a fabulous recording of the Violin Concertos of  Khachaturian by the stupendous and tragically short-lived Julian Sitkovetsky (father of Dimitri – “Hearing these recordings as well as Sitkovetsky’s Sibelius, I am left with no doubt that, had he lived, he would have been viewed, indeed, as one of the greatest violinists of the 20th Century, an equal to Oistrakh. A tragic loss for music.”), now appear to be for SOMM’s “Great Classic Film Music, vol. 2”. Oh please! Well, heck… I’m haven’t even tried to get Amazon to fix it. [9 February 2023] I’ve now reposted my review on this website.

Melomania is again fine – probably because the SOMM CDs have not yet reached the shores of Saint-Germain-des-Prés. You can find Russian Disc 15 007 (Heinrich Neuhaus plays Chopin, recordings from 1953-1955) listed on Amazon (badly – no cover photo), because, bizarrely, its barcode is slightly different from the rest of the series: not 748871500723 as it should have been, but 12-digit 744887150075 (as often, information including front and back cover photos is the most complete on Melomania – link will open a new tab). The cover art is different from the rest of the series, and I wonder if that has anything to do with the discrepancy, or the fact that it was published in 1994 (but the rest of the series, which returns to the normal barcode numbering, also). I don’t know.

Also, apparently SOMM’s series stops at 5012 barcode 748871501225. I don’t know what happens next for the series, if it just stops there or is given another barcode. But the good thing about its disappearence is that finally, Russian Disc 15013, barcode 748871501324 (Samuel Feinberg plays Bach’s Well-Temperered Keyboard, 4 CDs, much-coveted and expensive on the marketplace) and subsequent releases are listed. Russian Disc’s Great Russian Artists series seems to stop in 1996 at 15 025, barcode 748871502529, Glière’s Symphony No. 3 “Ilya Murometz” conducted by Natan Rakhlin in 1974, see the excellent entry on

And while I’m at it, here is, as an teaser to my future (?) discography of Russian Disc, a listing of the releases of that 15 00x “Great Russian Artists” series. There are some gaps, corresponding to issues I haven’t found trace of; since no corresponding listing appears on the existing discographies or on, I am assuming that they were never released.

RD CD 15 001  Sofronitsky plays Prokofiev Tales of the Old Grandmother (11.VI.55), Gavotte op. 12-2, Rigaudon op. 12-3, Légende op. 12-6 (9.VI.53), Prélude op. 12-7 (11.VI.53), Allemande op. 12-8, Scherzo humoristique op. 12-9 (18.VI.53), Sarcasmes op. 17 (10.IV.55), Sonata 7 (11.VI.55), Visions fugitives (10.4.55) (1993) 748871500129

RD CD 15 002 “Oistrakh Plays Tchaikovsky” Violin Concerto (Oistrakh 1939), Rococo Variations (Knushevitsky 1951) All-Union Radio Orchestra, Gauk, Romeo & Juliet (adaptation for Soprano Tenor & Orchestra) Samosud 1954  (1993) 748871500228 

RD CD 15 003  Mravinsky conducts Tchaikovsky Serenade for Strings (25.III.49 incorrectly dated 1961), Capriccio Italien (23.II.50), Francesca da Rimini (10.III.48) Leningrad Philharmonic (1993) 748871500327

RD CD 15 004 Neuhaus plays Scriabin Piano Concerto (All-Union Radio Orchestra, Nikolai Golovano 1948), Poems op. 32/1&2, op 59/1, op.  63/1&2, Prelude & Nocturne for the left-hand op. 9, Preludes op. 11/4 & 10, 8 Preludes op. 13 (1993) 748871500426 Front and back cover art with track listing on

RD CD 15 005 Shostakovich plays Shostakovich Cello Sonata op.40 (Rostropovich 1957), Piano Concerto No.1 op.35 (Moscow Philharmonic, Samosud 27.XI.57),  Piano Concerto No.2 op.102 (Gauk, Moscow Radio Orchestra, 1958) (1993) 748871500525

15 006  not found

RD CD 15 007 Neuhaus plays Chopin Barcarolle (1955), Impromptu No.3 (1955), Nocturne, op.62/2 (1955), Piano Concerto No.1 op.11 (All-Union Radio Orchestra, Gauk 1953)  Polonaise op.61 (1955) (1994) 744887150075, barcode 748871500723 not found. Front and back cover photos with track listing on Melomania

RD CD 15 008 Myaskovsky Symphony No.  6 op. 23 Kirill Kondrashin USSR SO (7.II.1959) 748871500822

RD CD 15 009  Julian Sitkovetsky Glazunov Violin Concerto op.82  (Kondrashin, Moscow Youth Orch. 1952), Khachaturian Violin Concerto ((Romanian Radio Orchestra, Niyazi 1954) (1994) 748871500921

BEETHOVEN - Yudina - Variations Diabelli, trente-trois variations pour pRD CD 15 010 Maria Yudina Beethoven Diabelli-Variationen, op.120 (1961), “Eroica Variations” op.35 (1961) (1994) 748871501027

15011, 15012 not found

RD CD 15 013 (4CDs) Bach Well-Tempered Clavier Samuel Feinberg 1969 (1994) 748871501324

748871501423, 15014 not found

RD CD 15 015   Shostakovich From Jewish Folk Poetry, op.79 (Zara Dolukhanova mezzo, Nina Dorliak soprano, Alexander Maslennikov tenor,  Shostakovich piano, 1956), Yuri Shaporin Six Songs (Dolukhanova, Berta Kozel  piano 1952), Mikhail Ippolitov-Ivanov Four Poems of Rabindranath Tagore (Dolukhanova, Eduard Grach violin, Berta Kozel  piano 1952), Dmitri kabalevsky Six  Joyful Songs (Dolukhanova, Nina Svetlanov piano 1966) (1994) 748871501522 see cover art on Melomania

RD CD 15 016 to 15 020 not found

RD CD 15 021 Pavel Lisitsian Romances by Rachmaninov and Tchaikovsky Recordings 1939-61. Pianists Naum Walter, Malvel Sakharov, Alexander Erokhin, Boris Abramovich, Andrei Mytnik, Nikolai Korolykov, Alexander Dolukhanian M. Pazovsky (1995) 748871502123 see cover art and track listing on

RD CD 15 022 Pavel Lisitsian sings Glinka, Dargomyzhsky, Cui, Balakirev, Arensky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Schubert, Schumann, Liszt, Grieg, Saint-Saëns, Ravel Recordings 1939-61. Piano Malvel Sakharov, Naum Walter, Boris Abramovich, Andrei Mytnik, Nikolai Korolykov, Alexander Dolukhanian, Alexei Zybtsev, Orchestra conducted by Semyon Gorchakov (1994) 748871502222 see cover art and track listing on

RD CD 15 023 Zara Dolukhanova  Arias by Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev, Mussorgsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Meyerbeer, Saint-Saëns, Verdi, Mozart, Rossini    Moscow PO, Grigory Stolarov (1995) 748871502321 For track listing, good front and back cover photos on Amazon

RC CD 15 024 not found

RD CD 15 025 Gliere Symphony No.3 in B minor, “Ilya Murometz”          Natan Rakhlin, USSR Radio TV SO 1974 (1996) 748871502529 cover art on


Aaron Avshalomov / Avshalomoff’s Orchestral Music vol. 2: Chinese wine in Western bottles

Done. As announced in my blog post of yesterday, I’ve published my review of Aaron Avshalomoff’s Orchestral Works vol. 2: Violin Concerto (Rodion Zamuruev, Moscow SO, David Avshalomov). Soul of the Ch’in, The Hutungs of Peking (Moscow SO, Jacob Avshalomoff) on Marco Polo 8.225034 (1999)

violinists, try it on FOUR strings!

Something to share.

I’m currently listening to and in the process of reviewing a CD of music by Aaron Avshalomoff on Marco Polo, a Violin Concerto  and two Symphonic Poems. Avshalomoff was born in Siberia in 1895 but early on he established in Shanghai and, as the liner notes put it, he “worked to evolve a synthesis of Chinese musical elements with Western tecniques of composing for symphony orchestra”. The Violin Concerto may strike the listener as being to Chinese Music what Khachaturian’s Violin Concerto is to Armenian music, but I have a sweet tooth for it (and for Khachaturian’s VC as well). I’m not going to write the review here, stay tune [PS: here it is].

But I wanted to check how Avshalomoff’s compared to the “famous” “Butterly Lovers” Violin Concerto. Famous mostly in China and South-East Asia that is. I had heard of, seen as I compiled discographies, but never actually heard the “Butterfly Lovers” Co. It was composed for Western violin and symphony orchestra in 1959, in the era of “Chairman Mao”, when composing for Western instruments probably took you to the reeducation camp (just kidding – it was officially premiered in Shangai to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of Mao’s victory over Chiang Kai-shek), by a pair of composers, He Zhanhao and Chen Gang (because, in Communist China in those days, you composed collectively). For more on the Concerto, see the entry on Wikipedia (link will open a new tab).

Anyway, it turns out that the Concerto is everything I expected it to be: utter sentimental crap (there’s another similar piece, equally famous in China, the “Yellow River” Piano Concerto, a Chinese imitation of Hollywood Rachmaninov). Judge for yourselves, you may not agree (but just look at the smile over the pretty fiddler’s face, and even before the first note you can grasp the kind of sentimentalism…):

Yes but… One thing on YouTube leading automatically to something related, I chanced on this: a version of the Concerto which I suppose is an arrangement of the original work (no explanation provided, and haven’t found anything online about it), for Erhu – the traditional Chinese two-string fiddle – and an orchestra mixing Western and traditional Chinese instruments. And suddenly it all makes sense! It’s lovely, still (in parts) sentimental but when played on traditional instruments I find the sentimentalism touching rather than corny, it has a wonderful feel of genuine authenticity, and fiddle and fiddler are impressive.

And, again, one thing on YouTube leading to the next, two contemporary Concertos for Erhu – I am indebted to Google translator to simply establish who the composer is (same in both works): Wang Danhong (that’s a she,  I found these biographical tidbits about her).



I find that these works offer the best of what “cross-over”, or “East Meets West” has to offer, not the bastardization of Eastern music so often encountered in such attemps (or the bastardization of Western music heard in the “Yellow River Butterfly Lovers” concertos), not “the West” appropriating whichever superficial aspects of Eastern music for entertainment, but, in fact, Eastern composers trained in Western compositional techniques and putting those techniques to bear on their own musical traditions. The results are revelatory for both cultures.

And, yes, there ARE some similarities between the Butterfly Lovers Concerto and Avshalomoff’s, although I find the latter free of the corny sentimentality of the former – when played in its original version for Western instruments. Now, I wonder how the Avshalomoff’s VC would sound in a transcription for Erhu. Anybody ready to try it?