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Can The Classical Recording Industry Ever Return To What It Used To Be ?

   If you have collected classical recordings for many years ,and follow new releases , you can't help but notice that the entire classical recording industry has changed vastly from the past . For a variety of reasons ,  things just aren't what they used ot be.

  No longer do the world's top orchestras regularly issue recordings of the standard repertoire and other works made under studio conditions, that is, without an audience and put together from a variety of takes and carefully edited for release for the most part.  Top  U.S. orchestras ,such as the New York Philharmonic,the Boston Symphony, the Cleveland and Philadelphia Orchestras, and the Chicago Symphony once had lucrative recording contracts with such leading record labels as  Decca, EMI , R.C.A. , C.B.S. records (now Sony Classical) and Deutsceh Grammophon. 

  Every year, under their music directors and sometimes under guest conductors, they would produce a steady stream of new recordings .  But all this has changed. None of these orchestras now makes such commerical recordings or has a contract with a record label, although they have issued a handful of live recordings for them here and there. It's just too expensive to produce such recordings , and few of them are best-sellers.

  However, the Boston,Chicago and San Francisco orchestras have been releasing a number of their live performances on their own private record labels , as well as European orchestras such as Amsterdam's Royal Concertgebouw orchestra and the London Symphony .  In countries such as Germany ,Poland  and Switzerland etc, some independent record labels , for example, Chandos, CPO and others are able to make studio recordings , often of interesting off-beat repertoire ,with those countries radio symphony orchestras in various European cities ,because costs are much lower than in the U.S.

   Leading record labels such as EMI,Decca, Sony Classical, Deutsche Grammophon etc have pretty much ceased making studio recordings of complete operas ; these are much too expensive to make and often don't sell very well. They already have enormous catalogues of a wide variety of operas made under studio conditions, some of which are considered classics.  They occaisionally release live recordings of operas now. But the big thing in opera today is DVDs of  live performances of operas from all over Europe and America, and these labels have issued many, as well as classical DVD companies which do not make sound recordings but specialize in DVDs.

 Most of today's leading conductors do not have have contracts with a label , and make them on a freelance basis.  There are a few exceptions, such as the Los Angeles Philharmonic's young dynamo Gustavo Dudamel, who has been recording for Deutsche Grammophon for about five years now.

   The Netherland's once presitigious Philips records has ceased releasing anything new, but has an enormous back catatlogue, and Decca records, which is part of a conglomeration with Philips and Deutsche Grammophon, has been reissuing many Philips recordings as Decca releases, oftenat bargain prices .

  There are encouraging reports of an increase in the sales of classical recordings, but they are still only a very small part of CD sales overall .  There are an unprecendented number of smaller independent classical record labels, and they have given the giants, such as Decca,EMI, Sony, D.G. and R.C.A. a lot of competition . 

   But for classical CD collectors , things have never been better in many ways. They can choose from a bewildering variety of repertoire ranging from  music by composers from the Renaissance and earlier to works by contemporary composers .  They are not limited to the same old beloved  works of Beethoven, Mozart, Bach, Mozart, Tchaikovsky and Brahms, but can hear music by countless different composers living and dead. 

   There are countless different symphonies, concertos, miscellaneous orchestral works, operas, oratorios, chamber works and piano pieces etc which had never been recorded before ,or which had had very few recordings previously .  It's an embarassment of riches . 

Posted: Sep 06 2011, 06:04 PM by the horn | with no comments
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