1-Recording with Luciano Pavarotti in Milan
2-Cecilia Bartoli rehearsing in Vicenza
3-Presenting Renée Fleming with the first Sir Georg Solti Award in Paris
4-Recording with James Levine in Bayreuth
(with Decca’s famed producer Christopher Raeburn)
5-Angela Gheorghiu and Roberto Alagna-she, an exclusive Decca
signing and he, a frequent ‘guest’
6 –Sir Georg Solti celebrating his 50th year as an exclusive Decca artist
7-Christopher Raeburn & Riccardo Chailly on a recording break in Milan
8-with conductor Christopher Hogwood
9-Renata Tebaldi in New York on the publication of her autobiography
10-My esteemed Decca predecessor Ray Minshull at his retirement dinner
11-Decca’s revered audio engineer James Lock
The Decca Record Company
In the summer of 1993 The Decca Record Company came calling. Their long time Senior Vice-President for Artists and Repertoire, Ray Minshull, was retiring and the search was on for his successor. I’d known Ray for several years, going back to the early 1980s when he would come to Chicago and produce Chicago Symphony recordings with Sir Georg Solti. I’d also visited the Decca offices in London to interview Minshull and his colleagues for the Music In America series. I met with the headhunter, who came to Tanglewood in a rather un-English ostentatious white limo! At first I said: “No thank you.” My partner Thom Dreeze and I both had wonderful jobs in Boston. Thom had worked his way up in the fast-growing Boston Lyric Opera and he, too, was now an Artistic Administrator. However, in December, 1993, while on tour with the BSO in Europe, I met Ray Minshull himself and, in a long afternoon at a café table in the Royal Festival Hall in London, he persuaded me to come to Decca. Even though the classical recording business was in a somewhat shaky state, the opportunity to live abroad and to shepherd the activities of a record company I had admired since my teens was finally irresistible.
When I began my appointment in 1994, Decca had a wide variety of artists under contract including no fewer than eleven conductors and several orchestras. At the top was Sir Georg Solti who had just celebrated his 80th birthday and would soon mark fifty years as an exclusive Decca artist.
Storm clouds for classical music recording had already been gathering and I had the unenviable task of pruning the Decca roster on all fronts. The CD boom was ending and, especially in the world of orchestral recording, there seemed to be no new generation of giants to take the place of the recently deceased Herbert von Karajan and Leonard Bernstein. Solti was the last of the superstar recording conductors and luckily Decca had him. The emphasis was increasingly on singers and projects like the Three Tenors, also a Decca recording.
While trying to find the artists who would ensure the survival of Decca (I signed both
Renée Fleming and Angela Gheorghiu), there were still plenty of orchestra recordings to be made. I wanted to create discs that were commercially viable and were also valuable additions to the catalog. Conductors Solti, Chailly, Dohnanyi, Hogwood, Ashkenazy, Blomstedt, Eschenbach, Tilson Thomas, Norrington and Simon Rattle (kindly loaned from EMI for a special project) and the orchestras of London, Paris, Amsterdam, Vienna, Milan, Rome, Berlin, New York, Chicago, Cleveland, San Francisco-all of these and many more made Decca recordings during my tenure.
When I arrived at Decca in 1994, I inherited a roster of 37 artists and the mandate to create 100 new top price recordings that year. In 2000, the roster was fewer than ten artists and twenty new recordings. On one hand, I had achieved the goal of a manageable number of discs with a handful of the very best artists. But, in those seven years, the company had been sold twice and each time the financial goalposts had changed. The historical method of return on investment for a classical recording was a seven-year cycle of sales at various price levels. By 1999, the bottom-line pressure had increased to the point where a recording project of classical repertoire would not be approved if we could not guarantee that it would make its costs back in ONE year. The role of the A&R Director would be very different and much diminished in the future. It was a fascinating era and it is not likely we’ll see such ambitious recording programs from major multi-national recording companies again in our time. I feel fortunate have worked with these artists and orchestras and supervised their recordings. It was time for new adventures.
1-Recording with Luciano Pavarotti
2-On location with Cecilia Bartolit
3-Presenting the first Georg Solti award to Renée Fleming
4-Recording with James Levine in Bayreuth
5-Angela Gheorghiu and Roberto Alagna
6-Sir Georg Solti's 50th Decca anniversary celebration
7-Producer Christopher Raeburn and conductor Riccardo Chailly in Milan
8- Renata Tebaldi-during an emotional return to New York on the publication of her autobiography
9-RayMinshull's retirement dinner
10-Jimmy Lock, Decca's superb engineer, beloved of all the great singers
11-Conductor Christopher Hogwood at Henry Wood Hall in London