La Scena Musicale

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Lebrecht's Report on Decca's Demise Generates Response

Norman Lebrecht's weekly column published yesterday broke the news on the imminent demise of the Decca label, and has generated heavy readership and several responses.

We welcome your comments.

Read more comments here.

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Update from Norman Lebrecht:
The story I broke in my Evening Standard column yesterday that the Decca record label is about to be shut down has kept me in phone calls and emails all day.
Producers phoned from London, Paris and Vienna to question the motives of Bogdan Roscic, the not-terribly-active Decca chief who jumped to a non-job in Sony the moment he heard his label was for the scrapheap. A Universal insider called to suggest that Chris Roberts, president of classical and jazz, may himself be heading for termination.
And the production team behind Julia Fischer's new album protested that, while they have no idea what it takes to create a Decca sound they are, at Polyhymnia, the last of the Philips studio team. Sic transit gloria mundi - or, there goes another one. And just in case you have forgotten, it is all predicted here.
One of the day's most interesting comments came from Rainer Mockert who, after 20 years in feature films, became involved in producing classical music DVDs.
Here, in part, is what Rainer says about the record bosses:
I was shocked at the level of some people in the top management of the former important labels. I recognised that these people think and act only in short term profit, based on a few artists who are very good but not good enough on a long term. It reminded me of discussions with brokers on Wall Street, when I produced the only feature of Peter Sellars during a small recession in the 1990s. Their only interest was how to secure their BMW's or second/third apartments, by handling other people's money. The black humor line from this time I never forget: Your money is not lost it only belongs to somebody else. This is true again today and has reached the classic music world.
I am not worried about classic music and what is happening right now is probably refreshing and renewing the business. The big record companies totally forgot to support talent, they only invested in shooting stars who are forgotten in a few
years.

I am not worried about the violinist from Munich you are talking about because she is not only very good she seems also very secure about herself and what is important for her as an performer and artist.
You might ask, why I am very positive about classic music. Since I am back in this world I saw during the last 18 months some brilliant stagings of operas, which are attracting younger audiences. I left the music world after I produced the Mozart/DaPonte/Sellars cycle and Peter's GIULIO CESARE in the early 90s because everybody started to copy him like 10 years earlier Chereau ( I was a young line producer on this RING at UNITEL). Peter was for sure also influenced by Jonathan Miller's RIGOLETTO at the ENO, but he worked out his own way.
I started 14 months ago to produce live recordings for dvd and tv of operas which were never done before or very seldom or very different to existing ones. We are just finishing the postproduction of the Weimar RING. Not a staging like most of the other 10 RING's I saw since the Chereau RING, which very often looked like Cirque du Soleil productions.
Check Weimarhttp://de.youtube.com/watch?v=dRQFcKA-fSk
http://wagneropera.blogspot.com/

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11 Comments:

  • Artists need to collaborate more and create projects of mixed bag, I believe, to make recordings appealing. A smorgasbord of music is not only educating, but entertaining. People have wide interests, and I don't see why labels don't leave the old ways and merge more, rather than one style per recording--and, mopre 35-40 minute deals combining artists and genres. Hey guys out there that agree--call me.

    By Anonymous Jeffrey Biegel, At 5 February 2009 at 08:49  

  • Dear Mr. Lebrecht,

    Thank you so much for this beautifully written and insightful post. I look forward to reading more of them, hopefully on far happier topics.

    By Anonymous John Bowen, At 5 February 2009 at 09:01  

  • Not sure I agree that Decca was "unfailingly discreet, a sound that never played ping-pong with your ears."

    Remember Decca's "Phase 4 Stereo"?

    By Blogger D Whitley, At 6 February 2009 at 04:23  

  • I did some work at the Decca studios in the 1960's ( as a recording engineer ) and remember the energy and dedication of the staff, which flowed from the manager, Arthur Haddy.

    When PolyGoon bought the company in 1980 we all knew what would happen; perhaps we should be surprised that it survived so long.

    The intelligence of today's record company execuitives is on a par with that of today's bankers.
    The independant labels are showing the way by refusing to employ expensive passengers.

    Sean Davies.

    By Anonymous Sean Davies, At 6 February 2009 at 05:27  

  • It's very gratifying to read an article which depicts the music industry as it actually is today. All of your critiques are spot-on.

    But it's worth thinking about the music involved and whether or not there is a market for new classical and jazz recordings. It's my humble theory that both these genres are basically dead. This is not to say that they don't contain lifetimes worth of beautiful and priceless music, but rather that their stories are over and their books closed. It happens to all musics as it does to all people and all cultures.

    Recording techniques developed in the 1950s have allowed a body of interpretations of classical music to build up over a few decades. Among all these recordings, there is little of significance to left to reveal about any of the greater and lesser works of the cannon. Modern classical, even when outstanding, seems to be of little cultural relevance.

    Jazz was an art of the moment, relying for its vitality on a constant interaction with the popular music forms, performance venues and political situations of its time. In those moments, timeless music was made. But since the rise of Wynton Marsalis, jazz has become a museum piece. It had been dying its own natural death since the 70's, but Marsalis drove the stake through its heart. What is still living from the jazz tradition hardly calls itself "jazz" anymore. Which is how it should be.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 6 February 2009 at 09:22  

  • I wonder what going to happen to all those great artists that were/are with Decca? Maybe they'll have a chance to revive the London Records Label! I HOPE SO! These artists recording should NOT be put in a vault,then forgotten!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 6 February 2009 at 14:36  

  • Thanks to Mr Lebrecht for documenting an important milestone in music history. I grew up with Decca's 50s & 60s treasures. From the Stones to Van Cliburn playing Beethoven's 5th piano Concerto - & dame Joan, of course. Some of the best parts of my life came via Decca. I reckon I'm just gonna have to go christen my chooks Decca 1, Decca 2, etc. I'm very sad Decca is no more.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 9 February 2009 at 06:38  

  • Interesting but quite historically inaccurate. Bing and Louis recorded for the unaffiliated American Decca company, and their 78s appeared on in the U.K. on Brunswick. Decca didn't introduce the LP, American Columbia did in June 1948, and both Edison and RCA Victor had previously introduced LP systems in 1926 and 1931. Decca's stereo system was specifically rejected by the industry, and Cook Records had been issuing stereo discs since 1953. Soundstream and Denon were doing digital master recording before Decca. And Decca's post-war FFRR quality had been equaled and surpassed a dozen years earlier by Western Electric's Wide Range Vertical Recording system used on broadcast transcriptions.

    By Anonymous Michael Biel, At 10 February 2009 at 15:13  

  • Mediocrity has won the day.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 10 February 2009 at 21:58  

  • I cried when I read your article, for I am a fan of Decca since the 1950s.

    I fear that whatever label becomes the successor to the Decca artists does not attempt to change them into Britney Spears "objectifications", but instead helps them develop the unique style of each and display it to the public in a way deserving the professionalism of the artist.

    By Blogger Mark, At 19 February 2009 at 20:48  

  • So it is May 2010 and Decca Records seem to be releasing classical recordings (new and reissues) at the same level, or higher, than they were a year ago when they were proclaimed dead and "wiped off the map". What happened?

    By Blogger Steve, At 15 May 2010 at 09:09  

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