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30 Years of Chandos - An Interview with Brian and Ralph Couzens
 

Chairman and Founder of Chandos, Brian Couzens, and Managing Director, Brian's son Ralph Couzens were interviewed by Rob Barnett at the Chandos offices in Colchester on 15 December 2008.
 
The occasion: the thirtieth anniversary of the founding of the independent family-run company Chandos Records in 1979.


Brian Couzens, Sir Charles Mackerras, Ralph Couzens
 

RC: Ralph Couzens
BC: Brian Couzens
RB: Rob Barnett

RB First of all congratulations on the coming 30 year anniversary of Chandos. I have been trying to remember exactly when Chandos started in 1979. When was it?
 
BC It was in November that the first LPs came out.
 
RB Do I recall some connection with RCA in those early days?
 
BC Yes we did recordings for them and for other companies. We were a mobile recording unit and drove around the country recording for major labels.
 
RC RCA was our biggest client but we also recorded for EMI, Contour and others.
 
RB Am I right in recalling that you recorded Norman del Mar and the RPO in Elgarís Enigma for Polydor - always thought it was superb Ė terribly underrated too.
 
BC Yes we did. That was at Guildford Cathedral.
 
RC It was on Pickwick and now DG, I think.
 
RB I thought a lot of Del Mar - his choice of repertoire and the spirit he brought to his music-making.
 
BC It was about that time (first half of the 1970s - before Chandos) we also made a nursery rhymes record. It sold a million and a half which gave us the money to get some decent equipment.
 
RB Enthusiasts like me tend to forget that this is a business. It wouldn't exist without making a return on investment.
 
RC It's very hard today - I can tell you that much.
 
RB From the point of view of enthusiasts Chandos is a shining example to the industry. The company is held in great affection. Thatís all very well but surely what matters is whether the discs sell. How have sales been affected over last 5 or 6 years? Have figures tended to drop? Thatís what I would have expected.
 
RC They have dropped worldwide and we are not alone in that. All labels have the same problems. Major labels have their own agenda - mostly cross-over material and great name artists. They have big marketing budgets and big sales. That's what they work on. The core classical stuff tends to be left with the smaller independents like us, Hyperion, Bis, Harmonia Mundi and so forth. But the retail side has been dropping as retail classical record stores disappear. There's not enough money to be made out of it. So it's more and more difficult.
 
BC Chandos got into downloads in the early days and that seems to be growing. We were one of the first small independent to start a downloading operation.
 
RC Yes thatís been very successful especially in the USA through I-Tunes. It certainly helped us. Recently we had more download sales than CD sales in the USA and that's helped balance the books. The CD is not dead but most of our client group is in the older age bracket - they tend to like their CDs and don't know much about computers and downloading. So there's still a market for us and there are still people who like classical music. They want our product and we have to find ways of getting it to them. If we can do it through downloading or selling CDs direct by mail order then that's what will we do. If the shops are not there then we have no alternative. We know there is a public and always will be for classical recordings.
 
RC The enthusiasts and collectors are out there but itís a matter of finding a shop to get the product to them. Those shops are closing everywhere. Even so the CD looks set to be with us for a while. People are still looking for a successor medium but nothing of the CDís convenience, universality and draw has appeared as yet. There's SACD of course and there the big benefit is surround-sound but it's tough enough getting and placing two speakers leave alone five. CD is for a mass market and SACD has turned out to be a niche market. The younger generation is coming through but they're primarily looking for downloads. Yet a significant part of our market centres on the older population - plus 45 onwards.
 
RC SACD is a superior product Ė a superior medium. Itís a more expensive product for us to produce and for the public to buy. The big benefit is surround sound - quality speakers, well positioned in a good room. Itís not going to be a mass market, SACD will always be niche but niche alone is not enough to keep record labels in enough funds to record the products that our customers expect of us.
 
RB Ė As for downloads I must say that I prefer the compact disc. I like the artefact as well as the experience of the recording.
 
RB - I am in that age group 55-60 but thereís no longer term future in that group. What about the younger generations? Are they coming through and in sufficient numbers?
 
RC Oh yes Ė but primarily through the download. When we started our website we were selling CDs only. We then had a database of regular customers who wanted to know what was new on Chandos. We would send them email letters and keep them up to date. It was a few thousand people. When we launched our download site and did a similar thing we had a whole new list of names that hadnít been dealing with us before. A lot of them were younger and a lot of them were female.
 
BC .... and you kept flirting with them.
 
RC You just have to do everything you can to get sales. Ö. We were astonished at the size of the list and it proved there was a whole new market out there for us. So yes the new generation is coming through on downloads with a positive knock on effect on CDís. Yes, believe it or not, some of the download customers buy CDís as well!
 
RB Enough of them?
 
RC Absolutely! The exciting thing about downloads is that you can buy something straightaway. You have the whole catalogue available to the customer immediately. A huge wealth of music is available on tap all the time. Thereís no need to scour the countryside trying find it. In the retail market itís a vicious circle that just keeps shrinking and shrinking. The shops canít stock enough and so people move to mail order. Thereís an enormous hump of business at Christmas though - look at Amazon. And yes we benefit from the Christmas season as well. We monitor sales going through and the shift this last month (December) has been away from downloads to CDs because people want physical things as gifts. We are now selling more CDs than downloads because you donít give away downloads. You give away a product - something you can actually handle. There still life in the CD.
 
RB You have a very active bulletin board. But who at Chandos listens to all the wild-eyed people like me. If you took on all we want you to record Chandos wouldnít last long. Even so, you do manage an enormous amount of rare material and it keeps coming .....
 
RC Well we want these ideas to keep coming. A lot are really wacky and very personal to certain people and wonít have worldwide appeal. Occasionally, though, something pops out of those that fit into our programme. It generally works if we are doing a whole series on one particular composer. Someone might come up with something you have not heard of or missed in your research... and you think that piece would fit very well then weíll do it. Hearing from the public and the classical fraternity is very important to us.
 
RB You must ride your own hobby horses sometimes?
 
RC Oh yes, of course we do. Alas Richard Hickox has gone now but we had just started with him a complete cycle of Holst orchestral works which was going to culminate in The Planets Ö yet again, but one has to do it. We were doing the whole RVW with Richard and in the past have done Walton and most of Elgar and Delius and Stanford and so it goes on. We do like to do things in a complete way especially British music which is what we have made our name on Ö and also our sound, of course. Our ethos is - if we are going to do it we will do it properly. We donít like dabbling. Especially with people like Malcolm Arnold thereís a lot of good music and also some not so good but you do it because itís part of the series. Malcolm Arnold, poor old chap Ė went a bit wayward ... towards the end, didnít he? If you do a complete series you do it warts and all.
 
RB You certainly proved that with Bax.
 
RC Yes and we did 19 volumes of Percy Grainger. He did some things so many different ways Ė same tune but different instrumentation. There must be six different versions of Londonderry Air for a start. ĎElastic orchestrasí he called it.
 
RB Over the 30 years what do you take most pride in among Chandosís achievements?
 
BC Favourite all-time disc? Ö Well, we take pride in our sound quality. Itís always rated 4 or 5 stars. From our earliest days Ralph and I created a sound which has run through for ever and ever.
 
RC Pride? Well, certain projects sum us up - the whole Bax thing from day 1 with Jack Thomson and the Ulster Orchestra. That was what made the mark for us with The Gramophone Award for Bax Symphony 4. But the real star was the Britten War Requiem we did with Richard. That was a double Gramophone Award winner. It summed us up: Britten with great sound, the whole production values and the performance, of course. It was a real mark of what we do.
 
RC We have always supported British artists and composers whilst not neglecting the foreign ones. Our French pianist Jean-Efflam Bavouzet has just completed his Debussy cycle. Itís getting rave reviews which help our exposure in his homeland France. We have recorded artists from many countries and composers of course, one even from Japan. We try to mix and match it around but we have become known as a British company doing British music. We also tend to specialise in the bigger ensembles, orchestral, choral and opera. We are in that field and like that sound. You can create something special with the big things.
 
RB Ö theyíre also the most expensive.
 
RC Ö and thatís why these days itís even more important to find sponsors and partners and grant bodies.
 
RB Is that your task or does someone else do that?
 
RC Easier if itís done by the artists. The grant bodies want to hear from the artists. They favour artistic people rather than the business world. If an artist say ďCan I have some funding, please?Ē, theyíre more likely to say yes to them than if I went there.
Might be something to do with me of course!
 
BC Donít forget our famous series of opera from Peter Moores - Opera in English. Thereís about 90 volumes of that series now. A remarkable achievement.
 
RC Yes, it has been popular in recent years and well received especially those we have done with Sir Charles Mackerras. Today the Daily Telegraph voted our Salomť as DT Disc Of The Year.
 
BC We won a Grammy for Hansel and Gretel and in November this year I had an honorary doctorate from Anglia-Ruskin University in recognition of my contributions to music. When I started I was an arranger and orchestrator. I worked with Ron Goodwin for ten years on films such as 633 Squadron and Where Eagles Dare and so on. I did all the orchestration. I had a good feeling for music and about what sound is all about. I took Ralph out of school at 16 to become a sound engineer. We worked together very well.
 
RB That was in your contractor days - did you like being the contractor.
 
RC Well, we had always been a recording unit. We knew that end of the business; we booked the musicians and contracted them. And that of course continued when Chandos was formed. From 1978-9 onwards we had to employ other people to do the graphic designer and distribution. That was a new thing for us Ė a very steep learning curve and a very big change.
 
RC Yes - nowadays I donít know anyone else who does their own recording work. Everyone uses other people. Perhaps Signum or BIS Ė they have their own producer. In the old days Decca and EMI had their own people. As far as independents are concerned we must be only one that has its own recording team.
 
RB What about your own classical music interests Ö.
 
BC Well Ö music. Music generally. I used to play trombone in dance bands. Then I arranged music for the BBC - light music. Then I did some recordings for EMI. It was all light music - dance music.† After that I moved into the classical world.
 
RB How about the transition into film music?
 
BC Someone recommended me to Ron Goodwin. He was getting into a state with the amount of work he was getting. He simply couldn't handle it all. He gave me a chance to orchestrate a film score and he was very happy with the results. For ten years I worked for him. I ended up living in his house. He was writing in one room and I was busy arranging his sketches for orchestra. Ken Hare was in another room copying the parts from my full scores. I didn't see much of home life during that time. It's all done by computer now.
 
RC I like stuff that has some kind of musical substance to it. Melodic mostly. It must have a good tune - and tonal. Consequently I do like a bit of jazz, classical of course, some pop music but it has to have something that means something. There's a lot of rubbish around.
 
BC Screech and rumble stuff!
 
RC There's a lot of mathematical music out there that does nothing for me.
 
RB I should have worked that out from your catalogue ... very little later Schoenberg for instance.
 
RC† No. We are more on the romantic side.
 
RB Which concerts do you attend? Do you have time to go to concerts?
 
RC Yes, Mostly connected with our artists. We try to support them when we can if they are in London doing something. I attend quite a few Prom concerts. They're quite a lot of fun.
 
RB How many Chandos recording sessions do you now choose to attend?
 
BC I'm semi-retired now so only a couple really.
 
RC Well. Take the BBC Phil recordings. I used to go and produce them all. But I don't do any of them now. They're all done by Brian Pidgeon in Manchester. When I moved up into this position I had to get rid of something. I couldn't do everything. Now, I tend the bigger things only - all the operas and big orchestral things. I also take on one or two chamber projects where artists insist on me in person. Jean-Efflam Bavouzet likes me to produce his Debussy. Kathy Stott wants me for all her sessions. I have a very good in house assistant to me, Jon Cooper and an outside producer to do the early music stuff for the Chaconne label.
 
RB Why the name 'Chandos. Is it Chandos or Shandos?
 
BC Itís Chandos. The idea for the name came from the BBC. They had a Chandos Club. There was also a Lord Chandos. Anyway the BBC gave us permission to use the name. You have to check out the name as we did to make sure it doesn't mean anything rude in the different countries across the world ... and it doesn't!
 
RC Lord Chandos was the first sponsor of the arts. He funded Handel's Chandos anthems. But the real reason was because Brian spent a lot of time at the BBC and they had a Chandos Club at the time and he was working as arranger for their light music orchestral programs.
 
RB How many CDs have you issued?
 
RC In total over 2000 for Chandos. But there have been some deletions so running currently at just about 1600. If you include ones we did for other labels before Chandos it's about 3000 overall.
 
RB What is Chandos's attitude to deletion policy. Is it scientific?
 
RC Not scientific. Of course accountancy comes into it - financial matters. There comes a point where it is non-viable to keep a disc in the catalogue if it's only going to sell ten units a year. With those sort of things we tend to delete them and try to repackage them to bring them out at mid-price or in a different compilation. This gets them out again because at the end of day even though the product is not selling any more it still has intrinsic value. You spend lot of time and effort doing it in the first place. So what's the point of leaving it on the shelf. Then again all our titles - regardless of CD sales - are available for download even if deleted. It's one of the big advantages of download. They're all available all the time with no worries about whether they are making money for you or not.
 
RB What marks out the classical recording world from the pop world?
 
RC It's a totally different way of working. Classical is recorded on location in a hall somewhere. Pop is all done in studios. Classical recordings - even more so now - tend to be done in a very live environment with very little editing. With pop it's in-studio and all multi-tracked and manufactured. Marketing-wise they have huge budgets in pop music. You throw tons of money at your ten bands and one of them might make it big. With classical it's a completely different kettle of fish. If we take something on we have to have faith in it in the first place. We can't throw money at lots of things and hope one of them makes it. A lot of thinking goes into whether we take something on. We support everything equally. Budgets are a lot less in classical as far as marketing is concerned.
 
RB I thought Chandos did a great recording achieving sensational presence in the Franz Schmidt Book of the Seven Seals. It was live with an audience.
 
RC Yes, Another one of those types of project coming up soon. We're releasing Bernstein's Mass with Kristian Jšrvi. Bernstein wrote it with surround-sound in mind. It has taped voices in the score. He wanted those taped voices to come out of four different speakers as part of the performance. He was thinking about quadrophonic when he wrote it. Quad was being experimented with when Bernstein wrote the Mass. This will be on SACD and the four voice lines will come out each from its own speaker.
 
RB Which recording project has given you the most delight ... never mind pride?
 
BC I would say the War Requiem with Richard.
 
RC One of the projects I really like - and listen to it to this day - is Richard Strauss's Alpine Symphony which we recorded in Dundee back in 1987 with Jšrvi. Iíll always remember because it was in the winter: January or February. It was a terrible winter and we got stuck up in Dundee. It was a 22 hour drive home.
 
BC We also did the Four Last Songs there with Felicity Lott.
 
RC There was a lot of press interest at the time locally in Dundee because the Strauss uses an enormous orchestra: off-stage brass horns and everything else. We had players coming in from all over Scotland. We had the whole massive horn section line-up outside in the snow for a photo by the local press. Quite a lot of fun but the performance - even after all that - was stunning
 
RC Ö and yes thatís typical Jšrvi. Very little rehearsal and everything depending on musicians being glued to him on the day. Inspirational - you never know what he is going to do because he changes his mind like the wind. Like Gergiev its all pure inspirational stuff - pure spontaneity but you get great exciting performances with very little editing.
 
RC Other example of delightful recordings? There are so many. When you have to pick one out of 3000 itís just so hard.
 
RB Do you interact with the reviewing world?
 
RC We have a press officer do that. Itís up to him to do all the interaction, apart from Gramophone launches and dinners, annual awards and that sort of thing. They have their job; we have ours. We do interact when they get something factually wrong, then we put out a message via Paul (Chandos press officer) to sort that out. The whole thing about music is that it is totally subjective. They will have an opinion and we have an opinion.
 
BC Some give 2 stars and some give 5 stars for the same recording.
 
RC Perfect example this month is Mackerrasís Salomť in English. The Gramophone reviewer John Steane - big vocal expert Ė praises the recording but says itís spoilt by only one thing, the voice of the lead singer, Susan Bullock. He found little satisfaction in her voice. He says that her voice was not rich or silvery. On the other hand we get Record of Month in DT - glorious ratings. The Gramophone guy is being honest and you canít fault him for that or do anything about it.
 
RB Do you get pressure from artists to react to 'bad' reviews?
 
RC Very rarely actually. They are in the same position as we are. It's their product as well as ours. They also get reviewed at concerts and they have to put up with whatever press has to say. Thatís the way it is. The only pressure I get is where reviews arenít being published at all. For example in Germany only the review of volume 1 of the Bavouzet Debussy cycle has been published Ö and there are four.
 
RB But Debussyís a hard sell in Germany anyway.
 
RC Well, up to a point Ö though easier to sell Debussy in Germany than RVW.
 
RB Yes, so more pressure that reviews happen rather than what is said in the review.
 
RB Do you have a target number of releases per month?
 
RC We run at six now. We used to do 12 or 14 a month. But we downsized in 2005. We were at the building two doors up the road from here in Commerce Way. We used to be a company that did everything: our own sales, own distribution, own warehouse, own art department and three studios. At that time we employed 50 people. Now we are down to 14. Now, anything we can do outside more efficiently we will do outside. Our distribution is now done for us by Select at Redhill. We externalised our art department though luckily the same people are now working for us from home on a contractor basis so we keep consistency of Chandos style. We reduced the studios down to one so consequently our output had to reduce to six with a fallow month in December.
 
BC Ö and repackages in July.
 
RC Yes, we found that for some strange reason if we stop for a month or so people think we have disappeared. So we do a lot of repackaging. Recently did a lot of Jšrviís Prokofiev and thatís going really well so we will do more of that next year.
 
RB How often do you meet for business strategy purposes?
 
RC As a board we tend to meet only twice a year. Thereís only three of us: Brian, me and Sue Revill, our finance director. Artist & Repertoire meetings take place more often.
 
RB There have been two grievous losses over the last year: Handley and Hickox. In the future is there any figure you see taking on the mantles carried by these very fine musicians at Chandos.
 
RC Yes, Edward Gardner. Heís Music Director of the ENO. Not specifically for British music but he is a new talent we will take on. One to watch, I think. Heís definitely going to go places. Heís a conductor - but a violinist I am looking at is Jennifer Pike Ė previous young musician of the year and current BBC Young Generation Artist. We also have plans for some British projects to be conducted by Sir Andrew Davis.
 
RB I am intrigued that you license out to Brilliant Classics in quite a big way in recent years.
 
RC Well, not in a big way. Not done any for a while, actually. It was a way of getting some exposure for product that had completely done nothing for us recently. We werenít actually promoting it for licensing. They came to us saying that they needed one symphony. They get one symphony from one company and one from another and assemble their collections in that way. So we gave them one symphony as we thought that canít harm our complete sets of this or that. A lot of it was one-offs. We havenít done much of that for a while actually.
 
RB Yes there was Borodin, Rachmaninov songs, Glazunov symphonies.
 
RC Yes, Polyansky did not record all the Glazunov; nor did Neeme. Of the ones available to Brilliant not everyone had recorded all of them and Brilliant were going round trying to find ways of completing the set.
 
RB Yes they seem to have gone to Sanctuary-ASV to fill in with the Glazunov symphony Polyansky had not recorded: No. 3. But itís fascinating that you steer clear of doing those massive and really cheapĖper-CD sets you see from EMI and some of the other majors these days. Can you see any aspect of Chandos doing that in future or will it always be at armís length?
 
RC We have always believed that whatever we do has value. It is not only because what we do has cost us a certain amount of money but the music itself has value. That seems to be forgotten in most of the industry now. We like to hang on to that value which is significant to do something with. If you keep knocking product down to ridiculous budget price levels youíve got no margins left whatsoever and it becomes valueless. And so thereís no point in doing anything with it. You might as well throw it away. Itís like all these discs you see on front of magazines and DVDs on the front of papers. Itís getting harder and harder in this environment for the record industry to survive: the costs are going up all the time and thereís a struggle to find sponsors and grants to make the recordings. Yet the end result of what we produce is being forced to be devalued not only by retail but by the general view that music should be for free. And I think that's wrong. Thatís the reason the Brilliant stuff is at arms length. We donít want Chandosís name to be associated with that activity. We will license material out but only where thereís no competition with product we are selling internally ourselves.
 
RB Did you scrap over which CDs would go into the 30 CD celebration box coming out in January or was it easy?
 
RC No - not easy. It was hard. We had to start off with some criteria. There were personal favourites, of course. What we ended up with were those discs that have made the biggest difference to Chandos - the landmarks. A lot were obvious: those which changed things or had the greatest impact on us.
 
BC We wanted to include the War Requiem but we couldn't as it runs over 1 CD.
 
RC Yes Ė to go in they had to be single discs. We could easily have done a lot more than 30 though. You have to have all the award-winners in. You also have to represent some of the key artists you have worked with over the years. Thatís another criterion. The Gibson Planets went in as it was our very first digital recording. Recorded in 1978 it was a quite unique project for any label let alone us. That was with Alex Gibson and the SNO and was a landmark for us and for the industry. We had the very first digital Planets out in the shops.
 
BC That was a very difficult project Ė our first experience of digital editing.
 
RB Do your bankers affect your artistic choices?

RC The bankers leave us alone. So long as we donít go bankrupt theyíre happy.
 
RB So, closer to home, to what extent does your Finance Director influence your recording decisions.
 
RC Oh, very much so. Sue Revill is our finance director. Sheís a strong voice and sheís musical as well. She has been with us a very long time and is a big supporter of what we do. If she can make something work financially then even if everyone else says we are mad doing it, she will make it happen. She says: we canít afford do it so find another way Ö and we usually do.
 
RB The Foulds World Requiem project Ė was that an example of that financial tension and creativity?
 
RC Yes Ė thatís a great disc, by way. The only way that worked was because it had to be live. No way could it be put on as recording sessions. Extensive funds were put into it from private sponsors through the conductor, Leon Botstein. For that reason the Chandos input was sustainable.
 
RB Are you planning any further connection with Botstein? I mention this because of the miraculous concert series he has been putting on with the American SO - truly unique and adventurous programming: Marx, Suter, way-out Prokofiev and so much more - concert after concert!
 
RC There was some interest in doing more with Leon but heís not based here in the UK - resides in the US. Thereís nothing in the melting pot at the moment but thereís definite potential in that guy so not to say nothing will happen with him Ö You mentioned Joseph Marx Ė well, thereís a new Chandos disc of his orchestral songs with Christine Brewer the BBCSO and Jiri Behlolavek conducting.
 
RB Yes itís definitely on my want list. I hope you might do the Marx Herbstsymphonie. Itís a luxuriant big piece 75-80 minutes with a lavish orchestra to match.
 
RC Yes we know about that. Weíve been shown the score. We looked at it and said whoís paying for that. Six harps in it or something.† Itís enormous but it IS the sort of project Chandos do. Certainly whets the appetite.
 
RB Youíre heavily dependent on the oil industry. Does that affect your commercial decisions? Is the price of raw materials for CDs having its impact?
 
RC Raw materials costs of CDs have not changed that much in last few years to cause any significant impact. Thereís pressure from both sides Ė from industry to keep prices down and from the raw material suppliers to pass on increases. So the industry finds ways to keep prices level because they donít want to lose business. They also realise that downloading is putting a lot of pressure on the CD anyway. Upping prices would be another nail in the coffin.
 
RB Congratulations on the CD reissue of the 1975 RCA LP of the Rubbra masses conducted by Richard Hickox Ė one of his earliest recordings.
 
RC The idea for that came from Adrian Yardley, the composerís son, not from Richard. The rights in the original recording were owned by the producer, Michael Smythe who gave us permission to make the transfer from LP to the CD.
 
RB You couldn't have expected that CD. It came straight out of the blue Ö You mentioned part-completed cycles. What hope is there for completing your sequence of RVW symphonies started by Richard Hickox?
 
RC As far as the VWs are concerned we are looking into obtaining the other two symphonies. They were done for broadcast by Richard with the Bournemouth Symphony with BBC Radio 3. The BBC has them somewhere. We are trying to get them and if we can get them we will issue an RVW symphonies box. We are working on that now.
 
RC As for un-issued Richard Hickox tapes thereís Holst volume 1 in January 09. Then in February thereís vol. 1 of a Goossens series featuring Symphony 2 coupled with the Phantasy Piano Concerto with Howard Shelley and the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. We were in the middle of recording Holst volume 2 with Richard when he died. It was Holstís Choral Symphony. Sadly thereís not enough to issue. Yes, he was doing that with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales in Swansea at the same time as he was preparing live performances of RVWís Riders To the Sea which Edward Gardner took over.
 
RB Do you have any unpublished stuff in the coffers. A colleague was speculating that you might have some un-issued John Ogdon Ö?
 
RC We worked with Ogdon years ago in the Alwyn piano music but that has been out for ages. We donít have anything else in the archive that weíve not been able to issue. Mind you there are lots of things we want to do not Ö but, no, nothing held back in the archive that we want to issue.
 
RB The record industry has been moving away from multiple recordings of the same old works. The day has come where the CD is constantly pushing back the boundaries into the unfamiliar or unknown. Itís pushing the repertoire envelope out further and further and finding new peripheries all the time.
 
RC Itís something that us small independent labels have to do because thereís no point in competing on standard repertoire with the majors. So we have to find interesting works that they are neglecting.
 
RB I notice some CDs (not Chandos) becoming coy about recording locations. Is there any commercial confidentiality in keeping the best new halls and venues to yourself?
 
RC No, not really - we are not shy about putting on where recordings were made. Obviously we have preferences for where we record for acoustic reasons which is paramount in any recording. And we have our favourites and our not so favourites. But thatís life. London is very difficult. Itís tough to find good places because of the traffic noise. For opera we do all our recordings in Blackheath concert halls but for orchestral repertoire our favourite hall is Watford Colosseum - in the London area. Having said that some of our fantastic results - like the War Requiem -†† were done in St Jude-on-the-Hill church but the local council put an injunction on it to limit the number of people that can work there because of noise towards the residents.
 
RB Will there be further instalments in the Chandos Film Music series?
 
RC Yes the Film Music series goes on. Thereís tons of music to do. Itís just a matter of the orchestral performing material. The problem is finding the material. So much of it was scrapped and burned after the film was made.
 
BC Thereís a big film music archive warehouse in LA.
 
RC Yes but thatís mostly USA material. Even when we find material its rarely a complete set of parts. We find sketches, incomplete sections, bits missing so we need put together new complete set of parts.
 
RB (to BC) after all your hard work
 
BC Yes - what happened to your original scores? In fact quite recently we did come across some of your original manuscripts.
 
BC In my hand-writing?
 
RC Yes. I was surprised they were still there. I thought they would have disappeared.
 
RB Speaking of British film music - will you be getting around to doing a Brian Easdale disc: Black Narcissus and A Matter of Life and Death etc? I keep asking about this. Youíll be getting tired of it Ö
 
RC Oh yes, heís on the list. You know Philip Lane? Well heís working very hard trying to get access to scores and necessary permissions. Thereís now a more positive side coming through from the Easdale Canadian connection.
 
RB Werenít you going to issue the York Bowen first two symphonies?
 
RC Well we were going to record them with Handley but we now plan to record them with Rumon Gamba. Heís another strong presence. In fact Gamba's díIndy recording Ė the one we did recently with the Iceland Symphony Orchestra has been nominated for a Grammy. Such are things in Iceland at the moment that the Icelandic PM has made a public statement welcoming the award and praising the recording.
 
RB What about more Bax? Is there any more to come?
 
RC Well there is at least one work we want to do. Thatís the Viola Concerto or Viola Phantasy. Lewis Foreman has also dug up some other Bax rarities to go with it.
 
RB What would you want to say to the record-buying public.
 
RC Only that we will continue to support you with what you want if we can find acceptable recording opportunities. Just look at our Contemporaries of Mozart series in which we have partnered the London Mozart Players and Mathias Bamert. This has done so very well Ė in a decidedly niche market.
 
Rob Barnett
 
Other Chandos 30th anniversary-related articles
Chandos Records 30th Anniversary by Rob Barnett
Chandos Records - Press Release
Chandos Records - A Short History

 


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