Hugo Winterhalter Goes Digital

I think I have good taste. In epic thrift store excavations, I’ve gone through hundreds of used records—probably thousands. More than I wanna think about it. There are a lot of bad ones. Mostly, one hopes that one may find something funny to share with one’s friends. Old stuff is weird (admit it). But oh, there are some gems, and usually they don’t fall out of the cracked wooden bin and yell “I’m worth buying off Ebay for $50! Here I am for ¢50!” It takes a trained eye to efficiently sift through the absolute junk at most places.

Or a trained ear. Finding an incredible record has a lot to do with knowing what you like in the first place—although for those wanting to take up the hobby, it’s perfectly reasonable to make it up as you go along. A good place to start? By all means, judge by their covers. Me, I happen to know that I like gypsy music. I pick up many records simply because they contain in their titles one of these: Gypsy, Roma, klezmer, or Bulgaria. In general I also recommend looking out for: home recording, demonstration, spectacular, incredible, “_____ and the [word intensifier]s,” Moog, olde tyme, fart, and dinosaur. It’s a wide net, a rough algorithm, but it get’s results.

Which is what brings me back to “gem.” I got one. I wasn’t able to actually play it until I found a new record player on the street (thank you, city of cannibals). Even after I discovered its magnificence I didn’t pick up the phone on the ol’ Share-The-Love hotline until a roommate suggested it. And then I had to fiddle with knobs and buttons and wires and other esoteric equipment, only to discover that no matter what I did, the digital transfers just didn’t measure up to my high standards. I’m a wizard with audio software… but there’s no way to get pristine audio from salvaged parts. Get what you pay for, I guess.

But wait, what was this musical masterpiece, I hear you say? Let’s listen to the first track:

Even through my peasant’s needle, you can hear the tambourine sparkle… the horns shimmer… the tubas thump… the piano tinkle… the flutes shriek. It’s exciting! It’s powerful! We’ve heard this song before, but not like this. Easy listening and exotica both seem to apply, but can’t measure the appeal of the real nifty fifties, big bang band, swank-ocracy. Mostly the album is made up of low-key low-tempo stuff, soothing music that might be played without irony on KWXY, which might very well bore you. The poppy ones sure do pop though. On all of them, the arrangement is top-notch and the production values are beyond reproach.

This makes sense considering that the arranger was none other than Hugo Winterhalter, musical director at RCA for more than a decade. This album is dated 1960. For the time, I’m sure, it was somewhat standard. It’s a formula: take a bunch of songs people know, ones that you can tie together with a theme, write them for ensemble, make it modern and “now!”; you have yourself an easy sell. It’s a formula, and it worked. Still does.

Some say stuff like this is more craftsmanship that artistry. It’s the carpenter’s work, not the sculptor’s. I had a music teacher who made the same comparison between Bach and Mozart. He said that while Mozart was a genius, transcended forms and gave the world beautiful music heard neither before nor since (etc., etc.), Bach was simply working within established convention—and when you wanted a fugue, he made the best. They were differently brilliant. Both men became immortal through their music. If you’re like me, though, you have to respect Bach a little bit more. It’s a clever mind that can conjure immortality working with someone else’s rules. I’m thinking that Mr. Winterhalter was a Bach fan.

Now I’m getting a little antsy thinking about how poor my equipment is, and how enjoyable some of the actual songs are, and how there’s hardly any CDs of Winterhalter available, and how it might be up to me to handle this guy’s continued existence. Then I remember the long tail, realize I’ve been praising the guy for seven paragraphs, and things are probably gonna be ok. I’m hesitant about uploading the good stuff (hand-restored LAME V2 mp3s) because I understand perfection, and I understand pragmatism, and I understand that they aren’t the best of friends. Let it be known across the land that I sadly consider these songs as “orphan works,” and hereby claim stewardship of them until someone better steps up. For goodness’ sake, even if you have a better record player step up. Here are the songs from “Hugo Winterhalter Goes… Gypsy!” that will thank you if you do:

  1. Hungarian Dance No. 5 (2:53)
  2. The Back of Her Head (3:08)
  3. Hora Staccato (3:12)
  4. Golden Earrings (3:46)
  5. When a Gypsy Makes his Violin Cry (3:08)
  6. Francesca (3:17)
  7. Csárdás (4:32)
  8. Zigeuner (3:16)
  9. Gypsy Don’t You Cry (3:53)
  10. Gypsy Love Song (2:58)

Total playing time – 34:05

Without further ado, I give you the imperfect recording of my favorite thrift store record in the past year:

Front Cover, Hugo Winterhalter Goes GypsyHugo Winterhalter Goes Gypsy (full album, direct download)

2 image files (front & back cover), 10 mp3 audio files,
LAME 3.97 codec at V2 quality, 50.1 MB


  • Annielalo

    You are amazing! Lots of fun and passion – you might want to enter into negotiations with Frank Lloyd Wright re: that turntable in our closet that has not seen the light of day in several years.

  • Cherry Green

    This is so awsome! My mother loved this album and I listened to it a lot as a kid. Thank you so much for sharing. You have made two very happy ladies!

  • mash_11

    This is really great. My father has been missing this album since it was stolen from him in Istanbul, Turkey, back in 1961. Thanks for sharing!

  • mary mayo

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! I have been looking for a copy of this for years; I loved it as a child and still love it. My 2 year old granddaughter wanted to dance and of couse this music came to mind. I searched for it again and found you copy. We have been having fun dancing til I was out of breath–now I am resting and thanking you!

  • You hinted that you’d like a better sounding copy. I know this post is over a year and a half old. But if you’re still interested, email me. I have a pristine copy of this album and my turntable was NOT cheap. It’s a Numark TT-100 which I bought brand new in 2005 at Guitar Center. I run it through a Marantz preamp to the soundcard (Creative Labs – Soundblaster Live) on my PC. For recording software I use Audacity (because it’s free, and I’ve already spent too much on this setup!) It takes time to rip stuff, so I’m not going to bother unless there’s interest. I have a dozen or so Hugo Winterhalter records in my collection. It’s top-notch music. 🙂

  • Kath

    My comment is redundant, but THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THIS!!! I have searched for this music for years, as I listened to it (and Hugo Winterhalter Goes Latin) every night while going to sleep in my childhood. It was one of my parents’ collection. I love the net, and people like you!

  • spenser

    I’m so glad i found this download somewhere on the internet. I have this record on vinyl but recently moved from Indiana to attend school San Francisco and sadly couldn’t bring my collection with me. I’ve been going through withdrawls and this album was on the top of my list. thanks for this, much appreciated!

  • Bertie Gros

    I had the record for a long time; then records went out of date and CD’s came in. I found a place on the net called “Vinyl Revolution” that converted a copy for me: vinylrevolution.com. The problem today is that there is a lot of good music on the long playing albums, but no one wants to put them on a CD. I’ve been looking for the soundtrack of Hallmark’s “The Littlest Angel”. Don’t ask me why they don’t have a cd of this, but they don’t. Who ever you are, you need a pat on the back for being so free-spirited to share this wonder of wonders with everyone. There will be a place in Heaven for you. Thanks a million for listening.

  • Kash_nikraveh

    God Bless.

  • hreffobloggo

    And they released it in the UK on iTunes and Spotify!

  • Monkeypowered

    Just found this. Love it!