Disaster--Warner Classics Goes Pfffft!

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Modernistfan
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Disaster--Warner Classics Goes Pfffft!

Post by Modernistfan » Fri Jun 02, 2006 3:05 pm

A brief article posted on the Gramophone website indicates that Warner Classics is to essentially cease its operations as an active label. The article indicated that Matthew Cosgrove, who has been running the label, has left and will shortly be appointed Vice President for A & R(Artists and Repertoire) for Deutsche Grammophon. Warner Classics is to be rolled into Rhino, Warner's reissue division.

This brief announcement raises a lot of questions:

(1) What happens to the back catalogue? There are an awful lot of significant recordings that were made for Warner Classics, Erato, and Teldec. A few of these are Daniel Barenboim's Bruckner cycle and the the recordings of the Shostakovich and Prokofiev violin concertos by Maxim Vengerov.

(2) Will the Warner reissue labels, Elatus (mid-price) and Apex (budget), maintain any sort of existence? A lot of these are very good recordings. Note, however, that they have not had much United States distribution, virtually none in the case of Elatus. Apex actually included some new recordings not previously released in any format.

(3) Will the active artists who still were recording for Warner Classics, notably Pierre-Laurent Aimard, Nikolai Lugansky, Daniel Barenboim, and Sakari Oramo, follow Cosgrove to Deutsche Grammophon? Previously, a lot of major artists, such as Kent Nagano, left the Warner labels for various other alternatives (Harmonia Mundi for Nagano).

(4) Does this affect Nonesuch at all? (My guess is not.)

Unfortunately, this is just another example of how the major labels are sliding into irrelevance. In the old days, the pop divisions of those labels were expected to subsidize the classical divisions. This model no longer holds, because the majors cannot accept losses at the classical divisions, and also because the pop divisions have been bleeding money because of poor sales.

The real problems with the so-called "major labels," in my opinion, are: (1) their repeated recording, re-recording, and re-re-recording of standard repertoire where the competition is intense, dooming most new full price recordings to poor sales; (2) their inefficiency in producing and releasing recordings (compare the output of, say, Pierre Boulez or Esa-Pekka Salonen on Deutsche Grammophon with, for example, Marin Alsop on Naxos or Richard Hickox on Chandos); and (3) their strange reluctance to do any promotion or publicity whatsoever on behalf of their classical releases.

Hopefully, some of the artists involved will land on Deutsche Grammophon, go to established independents, or even start their own labels. I especially hope that Sakari Oramo can continue recording the music of John Foulds with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra.

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Post by Ralph » Fri Jun 02, 2006 3:12 pm

Thanks for the information.
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Post by Corlyss_D » Fri Jun 02, 2006 3:40 pm

I'd be more upset about their demise if Warner had been reissuing the original Nonesuch recordings, the progeny of Teresa Sterne. But since they haven't, and there's no sign they will, I won't miss 'em.
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Post by Lance » Fri Jun 02, 2006 3:52 pm

This is the most shocking news I've heard about a major label in the industry of late. I'm glad I have many of their recordings already. Especially recently, I've noticed some superb new releases. What a tragedy. There was no outward indication the company was experiencing financial difficulty. This means their historical Cetra or Fonit-Cetra label may also be vanishing in the winds.
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Post by Haydnseek » Fri Jun 02, 2006 3:59 pm

This may mean no new Warner Classics releases but Rhino's mission is to reissue so the back catalog may become more available than ever.
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Post by Modernistfan » Fri Jun 02, 2006 4:06 pm

Yes, I also have most, if not all, of the Warner Classics recordings I wanted. (I ordered a lot of the Apex and the Elatus reissue lines from Europe as they mostly did not come into the United States at retail.) I also wonder about the Fonit Cetra reissues (Warner Fonit). Also, I wonder what is going to happen to that huge Evgeny Svetlanov reissue series about which I posted some time ago.


This is becoming more and more a niche market, and I am afraid that even top artists will have even less and less visibility to the general public. This is where the majors really came in (think Horowitz, Heifetz, Rubinstein, Toscanini, and so on). Marc-Andre Hamelin may be one of the best piano players of this or any other age, but few people are aware of him, and a lot of people are not going to shell out $21.99 (the current retail price for Hyperion at the few retail outlets that actually still carry it) to try to hear him.

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Post by ch1525 » Fri Jun 02, 2006 4:11 pm

This is terrible news.

I just picked up the Mozart Piano Concerto box set with Barenboim and the English Chamber Orchestra recently. They were putting out some good stuff, too.

Maybe Barenboim will start his own label! Barenboim Classical he should call it.

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Post by Corlyss_D » Fri Jun 02, 2006 6:58 pm

ch1525 wrote:I just picked up the Mozart Piano Concerto box set with Barenboim and the English Chamber Orchestra recently.
I hope it was what you wanted and not an impulse buy.
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Post by Mark Antony Owen » Fri Jun 02, 2006 7:16 pm

Interesting that this news comes ... what, a month after Warner's online dowload 'shop' opens its virtual doors. The plan is to make the entire Warner back catalogue available as downloads. Great news, I hear you cry. Not once you realise that the chosen format is WMA, and that this - like MP3 and virtually every other digitally compressed format, barring Sony's ATRAC - can't play back music gaplessly! So, expect any work where movements should flow one into the other to have annoying little gaps.

If the classical world is going to go download-centric, this damned gapless issue has GOT to be fixed. :x
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Post by ch1525 » Fri Jun 02, 2006 7:25 pm

Corlyss_D wrote:
ch1525 wrote:I just picked up the Mozart Piano Concerto box set with Barenboim and the English Chamber Orchestra recently.
I hope it was what you wanted and not an impulse buy.
Well, I got it really cheap on eBay. I guess it was an impulse buy, though. I actually like Danny. I think he's a pretty swell all-around musician.

I also have the Uchida/Tate and Brendel/Marriner sets of the Mozart PCs.

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Post by Ralph » Fri Jun 02, 2006 7:28 pm

Corlyss_D wrote:
ch1525 wrote:I just picked up the Mozart Piano Concerto box set with Barenboim and the English Chamber Orchestra recently.
I hope it was what you wanted and not an impulse buy.
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Post by Wallingford » Sat Jun 03, 2006 3:47 pm

Hoo-boy.....Warner Classics being absorbed into Rhino. THOSE guys have a lotta boning up to do in THAT area; for nearly 30 years they've primarily done classy "Best-Of" anthologies of any & every artist near & dear to baby boomers.

Maybe one of US should apply?
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Post by Corlyss_D » Sat Jun 03, 2006 4:01 pm

ch1525 wrote:
Corlyss_D wrote:
ch1525 wrote:I just picked up the Mozart Piano Concerto box set with Barenboim and the English Chamber Orchestra recently.
I hope it was what you wanted and not an impulse buy.
Well, I got it really cheap on eBay. I guess it was an impulse buy, though. I actually like Danny. I think he's a pretty swell all-around musician.
Okay. If you like him. I'm not that fond of him. I think he's very unimaginative. But just my opinion.
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Post by RebLem » Sat Jun 03, 2006 5:27 pm

Corlyss_D wrote:
ch1525 wrote:
Corlyss_D wrote:
ch1525 wrote:I just picked up the Mozart Piano Concerto box set with Barenboim and the English Chamber Orchestra recently.
I hope it was what you wanted and not an impulse buy.
Well, I got it really cheap on eBay. I guess it was an impulse buy, though. I actually like Danny. I think he's a pretty swell all-around musician.
Okay. If you like him. I'm not that fond of him. I think he's very unimaginative. But just my opinion.
Take note, 'cause this doesn't happen often, but I disagree with Ralph and agree with Corlyss on this one. I have never been particularly enamored of Barenboim's pianism, and he has only become a really good conductor in fairly recent years. His set of the Beethoven piano concerti with Kemperer is a great case in point. Poor Otto tried to keep a beat going, and Danny kept stretching and mutilating it; it must have been pure torture for Klemperer.
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Post by Lance » Sat Jun 03, 2006 10:52 pm

I am not a great fan of pianist Daniel Barenboim and never have been, often re-listening to the recordings I do have to see what I am missing that many others seem to laud in the pianist. He possesses a great musical mind nonetheless. I hold him in higher esteem as a conductor and then only on occasion. I have his DGG recording of the complete Mendelssohn Songs Without Words, but I was completely untouched by them in comparison to, say, Ilse von Alpenheim [Philips] or Rena Kyriakou [Vox], the latter who I felt had the best handle on this music. Barenboim's Liszt recordings (paraphrases and the like) also contained some great pianism. His Beethoven and Mozart had no affect on me. Where Barenboim seems to come through best for me is in his chamber music recordings with his late wife, cellist Jacqueline du Pré.
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Post by Corlyss_D » Sun Jun 04, 2006 12:06 am

RebLem wrote:Take note, 'cause this doesn't happen often, but I disagree with Ralph and agree with Corlyss on this one.
That's okay. I won't hold it against you. :lol:
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Post by Wallingford » Mon Jun 05, 2006 1:12 pm

I should say, too, since Rhino Records is the CHAMPION for this type of album format:

Why not do what I did, and gather together a 100-track compilation of the LONDON SYMPHONY, led by 100 different maestros, in commemoration of the orchestra's centenary. It's two years too late, of course, so this is just wishful thinking, but if Warner's classical division (it shut down Erato some years ago) was in a state of flux, it would STILL be a nice way of celebrating a musical legacy, just as Rhino did with rock, pop, blues or country artists (comedy artists, too). If ANYONE is the master of cooperative reissue efforts from every label in existence, it's Rhino Records.

(Of course, myself, I have since expanded my own compilation to include 250 tracks by 250 conductors, plus a "bonus" disc.)
If I could tell my mom and dad
That the things we never had
Never mattered we were always ok
Getting ready for Christmas day
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Post by Corlyss_D » Mon Jun 05, 2006 2:01 pm

Wallingford wrote:(it shut down Erato some years ago)
They did? They don't deserve to live for that reason alone!
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Post by Modernistfan » Tue Jul 11, 2006 5:41 pm

Well, I and other commentators may have been just a tad hasty in announcing the death of Warner Classics. The following comment, posted on Jessica Duchen's blog, makes this look more like a corporate reorganization than the demise of Warner Classics. If this can be believed, new recordings will not cease. Cosgrove has been replaced.
Warner Classics Says the Show Will Go On

By Vivien Schweitzer
08 Jun 2006

Responding to reports that Warner Classics is shutting down, the label has issued a statement saying it will "remain a key part of the Warner music family."

Warner Classics is being incorporated into Rhino, Warner's reissue division, but the company says Warner Classics will continue to release new recordings and develop its catalogue, which includes Teldec Classics and Erato Disques.

Prominent musicians who record on the Warner Classics label include pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard, conductor Daniel Barenboim, mezzo Susan Graham, baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky, and violinist Maxim Vengerov.

Rhino has managed Warner Classics in the United States for nearly three years. A statement said, "We do not expect the changes that have taken place in the U.K. to change the support given to the impressive Warner Classics catalogue or the anticipated new releases that are generated by the U.K. repertoire company. We remain committed to classical music and look forward to continuing to pioneer new ways to bring our content to consumers going forward."

Stefan Bown will replace the recently departed Matthew Cosgrove as general manager of Classics, reporting to Rhino U.K. director Nick Stewart.
We shall see what happens, but given that Rhino has handled Warner Classics in the United States for three years, a period in which an increasing number of new recordings and major reissue compilations became available in the United States, this sounds far less dire than what I originally posted.

How do you un-pffft a pffft??

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Post by Brendan » Tue Jul 11, 2006 6:35 pm

Lance wrote:I am not a great fan of pianist Daniel Barenboim and never have been, often re-listening to the recordings I do have to see what I am missing that many others seem to laud in the pianist. He possesses a great musical mind nonetheless. I hold him in higher esteem as a conductor and then only on occasion. I have his DGG recording of the complete Mendelssohn Songs Without Words, but I was completely untouched by them in comparison to, say, Ilse von Alpenheim [Philips] or Rena Kyriakou [Vox], the latter who I felt had the best handle on this music. Barenboim's Liszt recordings (paraphrases and the like) also contained some great pianism. His Beethoven and Mozart had no affect on me. Where Barenboim seems to come through best for me is in his chamber music recordings with his late wife, cellist Jacqueline du Pré.
Actually, I like his Beethoven concertos with Klemperer - often, I suspect, for the influence of Klemperer.

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Post by Gary » Tue Jul 11, 2006 11:41 pm

Oh man, does this mean that they may never reissue Jean-Francois Paillard's recordings of Telemann? :(

All the more reason to revisit these threads:

That recent reissue of Masur's Mendelssohn recordings

http://www.classicalmusicguide.com/phpB ... hp?t=12590

and Katsaris's recordings of Liszt's transcriptions of LvB's symphonies.

http://www.classicalmusicguide.com/view ... 06&start=0
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