An expensive luxury, or the essence of artistic freedom? Philip Clark on the inside story of the BPO's inhouse label
In the July issue of Gramophone, published earlier this week, David Threasher gives a general thumbs up to Simon Rattle’s new cycle of Schumann symphonies with the Berlin Philharmonic. But beyond the usual reviewers’ obsessions to be scratched is another itch – the Berlin Philharmonic too, following a trend established by the London Symphony Orchestra, the London Philharmonic and Chicago SO, have decided to release music on their own record label. Given the history of the orchestra and its association with DG during the Karajan and Abbado eras, and more recently with Rattle and EMI Classics, this shift takes some getting used to – on anyone’s list of improbable twentieth-first century new realities it’s right up there alongside popes who retire and British people who win Wimbledon.
A few weeks ago I was in Berlin and decided to find out more. Berliner Philharmoniker Media has a suite of offices on Potsdamer Platz through which, as Tobias Möller, the Berlin Phil Media’s director of communication, tells me the Berlin Wall once sliced through the city. And as our conversation progresses, it becomes clear that a wall of separation has been erected between the major record labels and the orchestra’s aspiration to document their work on record.
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