Certified Beethoven, 69c at Safeway! You've seen the ad on TV; a poor bewildered shopper in a record store just wants some Beethoven, "Madame," sneers the clerk. "Beethoven wrote 300 pieces." Then the announcer comes to her defense. "Not every piece a master wrote is a master-piece." No such problem at Safeway - their masterpieces are all graded prime quality by an advisory editorial board made up of the likes of Sir John Barbirolli and Prof. Leo Qualye of the Transvall. You can buy them one week at a time, for 22 weeks - from Beethoven to Berlioz.
At the Columbia Road store this week you could find Album 1, Beethoven, along with Album 2, Tchaikovsky, sitting in a plain brown box across the bread.
Beethoven sells for 69c - a special introductory offer - and Tchaikovsky sells for $2.69. That discrepancy in prices can cause confusion in the check-out line with clerks, who don't understand that they are dealing with classics, not carrots.
Ernie Moore, public relations manager of the Washington Division of Safeway, reports that the records "are moving very well. Some stores sold out. The records are doing better than the last TV promotion we had with encyclopedias. The other specialty item we're now advertising on TV is a new line of party hose. We're more excited about classical records than panty hose.
Washington is not the first area to be exposed to the Family Library of Great Music. An outfit in Italy started the promotion back in the '60s. Selling at newsstands everywhere, the Family stormed Europe and Japan. Funk and Wagnalls brought it to America.
"We were a little skittish about classical music in supermarkets." Sebastian Fiore, ad manager at Funk and Wagnalls explained yesterday on the telephone. "But we tested the albums for four weeks in a Midwestern city and it outsold all other records but rock." The series sold extremely well in San Francisco, he added.
Today in the offices of Funk and Wagnalls there is a gold record commemorating the sales of 1 million 69c Beethoven albums. Of course, Fiore explained, sales will taper down steadily, and Album 22 probably won't break any records (you lose again, Berlioz)
Anyway, they're happy at Safeway and they're happy at Funk and Wagnalls. The have letters from regular folks admitting that they indeed were afraid of record stores, but really liked classical music, and now they have the 69c Beethoven and are happy.
George Bernard Show counseled musi critics to pay heed to economic considerations and any reviewer of Album 1 of the Family Library must recognize the winning price of 69c buys you Beethoven's 6th; 12-page booklet that tells the story of Beethoven's life from 1770 to 1804; notes on the 6th; a colorful brochure that introduces the listener to the world of classical music with the headline," CONGRATULATIONS."
Sir Charles Groves and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra play all the notes and the performance is worth every penny. The colorful brochure suggests while the record plays, since "it will serve as lovely background as you continue reading about this collection."
This procedure however, does tend to prevent any definitive critical statement about the collection after the first hearing. Who can keep his mind on Ludwig von while reveling in further classics revealed by the brochurs? Album 4 features the Baden Baden Radio Symphony playing Brahms. Albums 11, 19 and 21 feature the South West German Orchestra, the North German Radio Orchestra and the South German Philharmonic Orchestra respectfully.
As the brochure says, "The preselected music, the quality of the performers, and the completeness of the record selections themselves make the Family Library of Great Music a collection every family is proud to own the disply on their bookshelves right next to their store system."
The idea really hits you after buying Album 2, the Tchaikovsky Pathetique Symphony. The price is high enough to make a reviewer forget about Shaw's strictures. So it's not Deutche Gramophone - but what about this free binder "stamped with gold and bound in sturdy leather-grained material" that 20 albums later will hold your 264 pages on the lives of the great composers, and make "an attractive conversation piece on your cofee table."
Walter Jurgens and the Berlin Symphony Orchestra give you the Pathetique - but you can also get a magic Cady Cloth to clean your records by merely sending in the addessed reply card and becoming a "registered" owner of the Library of Great Music.
By registering you "PROTECT YOUR PURCHASE," because Funk and Wagnalls provides that if your albums are stolen, lost, damaged or destroyed in the next three years "we guarantee to replace it at the orginial price . . . no matter how high prices have increased in the meantime."
Next week our local Safeways will feature Album 3 with a Mozart piano concerto - four, count'em, overtunes - not to mention a dozen pages on Mozart's Early Years illustrated.
It's all packaged in a plastic-wrapped album with a colorful picture of "The Magic Flute's" inimitable Papaganeo.
And unlike the bread across the aisle, these classaneo.
And unlike the bread across the aisle, these classics will never go stale.