111 Years of the Legendary Classical Recording Company
More than a century ago, russian bass feodor chaliapin became the first contracted singer to record his music for a company. Afraid the recording might curse him and cause him to lose his voice forever, he would reportedly cross himself and stand bare-chested in front of the pickup horn before he bellowed out his melodious thunder. And who was there to capture that noise but the newly birthed and now ubiquitous yellow seal, the recording label that defines classical music, Deutsche Grammophon.
The name Deutsche Grammophon alone strikes a cord of esteem in the recording industry. It rings of high quality, lasting talent, and international scope. But beyond its brand status as a majestic culture distributor, the world’s oldest recording company tells the enduring story of unceasing innovation during more than a century of war, capitalism, and the Internet. As a testament to its forceful mark on culture, Rizzoli is releasing a detailed written and visual journey of the company, Deutsche Grammophon: State of the Art: 1898 - Present. Celebrating Over a Century of Musical Excellence.
Appropriately, four distinguished, European arts journalists authored the book, which offers rare photos, exclusive interviews, and, yes, two grand mixes that easily trump the average playlist. The contributors have artfully arranged old and new artist portraits, timelessly designed album covers, landmark promotional flyers, and the creamiest of 20th century marketing blueprints. As well, for the reader, the quartet of francophone writers, Rémy Louis, Thierry Soveaux, Olivier Boruchowitch, and Yannick Coupannec, have drummed up a concise and anecdotal trajectory of Deutsche Grammophon, free from any café condescension.
Will the label anchor down with classical re-releases or sail on with fresh faces during these times of market saturation and the diminution of young listeners? President Michael Lang says, “I do not see our foray into the digital world as anything different from what Deutsche Grammophon has always done… I am confident that fine art—in any medium—will and must continue to hold a place in our cultural society.” And who doesn’t love an original recording of Richard Strauss, or a young Leonard Bernstein? Based on the artists currently promoting State of the Art, the company boasts one obvious weapon: raw, classical talent may always look to the yellow seal for immortalization.