See LATE EXTRA below
The sad news has just reached me of the deaths, within days of each other, of the last two stalwarts of the Decca golden age – Jimmy Lock, the chief sound engineer, and Christopher Raeburn, the label’s driving-force producer.
Jimmy was in the throes of selling his north London house and moving to work in a Portuguese studio when he was found dead by a visiting estate agent. He had joined the label in 1963 and advanced the famous Decca Sound into digital and beyond. Sir Georg Solti, I seem to recall, had great respect for his ears and great affection for his character.
Christopher joined Decca in 1954 and, as I related here, was conscripted almost immediately into John Culshaw’s Ring project in Vienna, the first studio recording of the Wagner cycle. He could have succeeded Culshaw as head of the label by chose not to compete with the shadowy Ray Minshull. From 1975 he was Decca’s director of opera productions. His greatest discovery was Cecilia Bartoli but he also worked happily over the years with Luciano Pavarotti, Joan Sutherland, Renee Fleming, Angela Gheorghiu and other Decca properties. Unusually for a Decca man, he was notably fond of female company. He stopped taking phone calls early this month, dying discreetly of lung cancer.
Why are you reading of their deaths here? Because no-one at Decca has put out a press release on the passing of these company lions. Decca, as I’ve reported, has been eviscerated by corporate paper-shifters at its Universal owners and no longer functions coherently.
Decca, sad to say, is deader than Jimmy and Chris, whose work will live on. The label has lost its classical core, its educational drive, most of its staff and the last relics of its soul. Hard-copy evidence of the Decca Sound and the Decca style will outlast the label’s bonus-seeking executioners.
LATE EXTRA: BBC Radio 3 have responded to this blog by invting Dame Joan Sutherland and Richard Bonynge to reminisce about Raeburn and Lock on In Tune tonight. If you miss the live tx, you can pick it up later on streaming.