Classical sleeves

Three nice illustrated sleeves which I have stumbled across in recent months, all for classical music and issued in the 1950s and 1960s.

Cuckoo and Nightingale Columbia sleeve.jpg

The first cover design is a real work of art, produced for Columbia’s classical label in 1963 by Henrietta Condak, who did sleeve designs for them well into the Eighties. The later covers tend to feature mostly photographs of the performers, probably dictated by the label and the market, but many of the earlier designs when budgets were less constrained are typographical or illustration based.
Here the two bird illustrations turn out to incorporate smaller images of other birds when you start to look more closely, all taken from old Victorian engravings. This is then set amongst some beautiful calligraphy credited to Irene Trivas. She was also an illustrator, but appears to have worked less often on record covers, and mainly in the Fifties, although her output is always really striking.

scheherazade RCA sleeve 1951.jpg

The Scheherazade cover is yet another interpretation of the ballet based on the narrator of the Arabian Nights. There are dozens of recordings of this work out there, all presenting different visions of the story, and it’s fascinating to see how designers tackled the challenge. This is one of the earliest LP versions on RCA Victor, dating from 1951. I was quite surprised at the excellent condition, the multi-coloured printing with solid black, pink, turquoise and blue inks has survived without the usual ring wear associated with paper sleeves from North America (it’s actually a Canadian pressing). Even better it was a garage clearance (all LPs £2) find at a local market. Frustratingly the cover artist is not credited anywhere, but it is a real gem.

Guisti Command sleeve design.jpg

The last of the illustrated sleeves is an abstract design by Italian born George Guisti, for the Command Classic series. I picked up the Pye UK issue from 1966 but the album was first issued in this cover in 1961 in America. Guisti did around 50 sleeves for the label across the Sixties, most are excellent. Guisti emigrated to America in the late Thirties as he was offered so much work there whilst visiting. As well as the sleeves, his work graced books, magazines, corporate material and advertising, as well as sculpture and even architecture (I’ve just been drooling over one of his 1964 houses which is up for sale!). The image is very abstract, seeming to depict a pine tree on a hill, but I’ve no idea if there is anything in the music which inspired it. All his sleeves feature the recognisable signature.

About simon robinson

Having worked as a graphic designer in the music industry, mainly in the reissue sector, I now concentrate on the design and publication of books about popular culture - and even write some of them.
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