Experimental record pressing plant of Art Management Office of Leningrad Regional Administration 1938-1940th known as "LEF"|
The plant located on 9-b Solyany alleyway. As soon as in 136 it began pressing of records while serving Lenoblkino (Leningrad District Cinema Committee) bureau. In 1937 they issued the first records with inscription on the upper part of the label: «Experimental record pressing plant « Lenobliskusstva» (Leningrad District Art Committee)».
The early LEF discs feature Claudia Shulzhenko records (the first ones that were recorded exclusively for the records), records of various Leningrad artists (mostly variety performers) , re-recordings from popular Moscow and foreign records, films’ soundtracks.
Engineers V.A.Zaikin, L.Abramovich and V.N. Tovstoles worked on the plant and conducted sound recording experiments on discs and obtaining matrixes since 1934. Their names were featured on the labels with «on-site» (i.e. original, « live») recordings and re-recordings from soundtracks (they usually used retouched Lenoblkino labels).
Since 1938 LEF that was at time was under the authority of Lenoblispolkom (Leningrad District Executive Committee) began to issue «duplex» records. On one side of the grand record (plant issued just grands) thanks to higher density, narrower groove width, and reduced mirror area they managed to record two tracks of 2-3 minutes each. The tracks were recorded on the disc either sequentially, or (that is common for early duplexes) in parallel, i.e. the listener putting phonograph needle on the record could play a random number. «Duplexes» usually featured popular recordings, copied from Moscow and foreign discs. Sometimes labels of such discs were decorated with «Collective Farmers’ Party» inscription.
They often used «duplex» technology to record single compositions of extended duration. In some cases in the middle of the phonogram they used the increased the grooves step (that was used for the silent area between two tracks). In many cases the increased the grooves step have records with standard recording time.
In 1940-1941 some records were made with eccentricity of the lead-out grooves (for reliable auto-stop of playback devices. Such method of cutting lead-out grooves was widely used abroad).
One of the most interesting periods of the plant were years of WWII and Siege of Leningrad. In the first years of the war, LEF remained the only active plant in the country that pressed the records. Those were the instructions of air-raid precautions, recording of Agitation Platoon of Leningrad Red Army House conducted by A.A. Vladimirtsev, Jazz-Orchestra of KBF Theater of N.G.Minh, Volkhov’s front line troupe, re-recordings from popular Aprelevka plant and etc. discs. Many original recordings were originally made on «American glass» of Leningrad Radio (they were round glass discs covered with resin on both sides), end ten copied on records’ matrixes. After the war some records were once again re-recorded from the «American glasses» and reissued.
In 1943-1945 they issued limited editions of Peter Leschenko, Alexander Vertinsky, Konstantin Sokolsky, and Yuri Morfessi records. They were didivated to the Party elite of the city; some of them were probably manufactured for profiteering on the Leningrad market places.
Since 1944 they began to print large issues of re-recorded foreign records with dance music (they mostly copied Riga’s Bellacord-Electro records). They agile re-recorded and re-issued copies of Aprelevka’s discs with Claudia Shulzhenko, Leonid Utesov, Lydia Ruslanova, and others. Some records were transcribed from broadcasting, sometimes from live performances on Radio.
At the end of 1940-th, V.A.Zaikin who was at this time the CEO of the pant, was arrested, the number of pop-dance records sharply diminished. As before they copy Moscow records (V.A.Bunchikov, V.A.Nechaev, M.N.Bernes, V.A.Kandelaki, R.Beybutov, and other artists). They issue some magnetic phonograms of Leningrad Radio and also broadcasting transcriptions from City’s Theaters and Concert Halls (for instance a series of Leonid Utesov concert recordings). In 1954 LEF cease to record and issue records. Apparently, the plant could not withstand competition from Artel “Plastmass” .
The total number of matrix numbers of LEF records is about 12 thousand.
The plant used three different numbering systems. The first one was adopted in 1937 and ended approximately with the break of Leningrad Siege in 1943. The matrix numbers are from 1 to approximately 3400.
The second numbering system was adopted approximately in 1943and used as far as 1954. The matrix numbers have 4 digits from 0001 to approximately 7200.
The third numbering system was dedicated to re-recorded matrixes of emigrant singers (Leschenko, Vertinsky, Morfessi, and etc.) manufactured illegally. It started approximately in 1944-1945 and existed for a few years. Matrix numbers have 3 digits from 001 to approximately 200.
Matrix numbers on early LEF records (approximately up to number 100) were engraved manually. Later they start punching them. Except matrix numbers, records from 1937-1938 have engraved or punched issue year. The early records also have censorial number. Since 1928 censorial number was featured only on the label (with letters LK, L, since 1940 – LORK, since 1950 GRK). The original recordings of 50-th marked with letter M and 5 digit number (probably it was the common numbering of all Leningrad matrixes because numbers with letter M was also used by Artel «Plastmass» and Krasnoselsky Plant). They provided the original matrix numbers on the mirrors of copied records from the Moscow discs in 50-th.
Despite the quite large number of matrix numbers, the number of LEF record titles is in dozens if not hundreds times fewer. It can be explained by the fact that almost all issued records had several matrix numbers, often followed one another. Probably, matrixes weren’t durable, so they frequently renewed them. Another theory: they assigned own number to each new batch, though matrixes remained the same and replaced only after complete depreciation.
The approximate matrixes dating are provided in the Table 1. It based in its bulk on relating re-recorded records to the recording dates of their originals. The dating of records from 1000-3400 range is complicated because they can belong to either 1st or 2nd numbering system.
In 1944-1948 LEF issued several records from the matrixes of Leningrad records pressing plant Lenmuztrest and Gramplasttrest.
The labels of production records are made of photo paper. The most of labels are black with white letters. Some pre-War and post-War labels and all Siege ones are white with black letters. The color labels are rare. The diameter of early and some records is 75 millimeters. The other labels have diameter approximately 56-58 mm.
The labels of non production records were made of wrapping paper or foil. They were filled by hand, the foil labels might have pasted over tag with printed data.
Some records have manufacturer’s defects. The common one have re-recorded records from 1944-1945. During copying, the original disc did not manage to reach the necessary speed. As a result, the beginning of re-recorded disc will be wowing. During Leningrad Siege, Moscow records were delivered into the city by air; as a result many of them have cracks and even chips. There are skipping at the beginning of record 0118 «Partisan's quiet song» by Leonid Utesov and His Orchestra.
Many records in 1949-1951 were issued from depreciated matrixes.
Table 1. Dating of LEF matrixes
|Matrixes numbers by Numbering systems||Year|
|1 – 1010…?|| || ||1937|
|?...1021 – ?|| || ||1938|
|?...1650 – ?|| || ||1939|
|?...2356 – 2711…?|| || ||1940|
|?...?|| || ||1941|
|?...?|| || ||1942|
|?..3356..?||0001 – ?|| ||1943|
| ||?...0200 – ?||1(?) – ?||1944|
| ||?..0914 – 0972…?||? – ?||1945|
| ||? – ?||?.. – 145...?||1946|
| ||?...1439 – ?|| ||1947|
| ||? – ?|| ||1948|
| ||?...2861 – ?|| ||1949|
| ||?..3548 – ?|| ||1950|
| ||? – ?|| ||1951|
| ||? – ?|| ||1952|
| ||? – ?|| ||1953|
| ||?...7140 – ?|| ||1954|
Despite multiple shortcomings of LEF records, the most of them are of great art value. They bring through the decades to the listeners the voices of artists and works that are not available anywhere else because for numerous reasons weren’t recorded. In LEF it was possible to record song of any length without breaking it on two parts or abridgment; the Leningrad censorship was more liberal.
Because of small pressruns, just a few copies of some records have survived. That is why it’s a duty of each collector to preserve these fragile pieces of the history with a small label in the middle.
Yuri Boyarintsev, translated by Yuri Bernikov