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There goes another one

Telarc, the first label to issue a digital release, has ceased production.

The founder, Robert Woods, will leave this month, along with the chief recording engineer, Michael Bishop. Half the workforce has been laid off – that’s 26 jobs – and the backlist becomes heritage. More details here.

Telarc had first call, as local patriots, on the superb Cleveland Orchestra and the quality of its sound was an audiophile’s delight. The label won 40 Grammys over the years and produced 800 recordings across several genres.

My guess is that its all-time bestseller was Wagner’s Ring Without Words, an improvement in certain respects on the original in a concept created by the conductor Lorin Maazel. Of late, the label blazed a trail for Paavo J√§rvi and his Cincinnati band. It has yet another version of the Gorecki third symphony coming up from Atlanta.

A sound philosophy, though, is not enough to save a label. Telarc, for all its merits, never took much risk by way of extending repertoire when the going was easy. I am really sad to see its purist values fall by the wayside and I fear that executives in the major labels will be encouraged by its fall to cut corners and compromise standards still further.  

Telarc’s values, however, endure as a permanent record. Its disappearance suggests that, in times of technological and financial upheaval, only by using creative imagination as a driving force can a musical enterprise be saved from extinction.

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  1. James Glicker says:

    This is terrible news for the industry, and a tragic double-whammy right after the Decca announcement. When I started Passionato one of the first independents I approached was Telarc; I knew Bob from my days at BMG Classics. Telarc were pioneers in high quality sound, and I wanted their collection in our original raft of lossless recordings.
    Thank God that some of the remaining independents remain strong (at least in terms of artistic output). Hyperion, Harmonia Mundi, ECM, and Avie, among many others, are producing recordings that I would have been proud to release at RCA.

  2. What does Norman say to this, I wonder?
    NL to FK: He says thank you for the information, which does not greatly change the situation.
    Telarc is ceasing classical production and laying off half the staff, full stop. Some members of its former team will try independently to continue a small schedule of releases on a new label, provided they can fund them. I wish them every success, as I do all small labels in these very challenging times.

  3. Elaine Martone says:

    We have won 61 Grammys. And we have over 1462 releases, not including our SACDs.
    We have repeatedly pushed the boundaries of the technology and of risk-taking. And we have some of the finest people at Telarc that you can find in any organization.
    NL to Elaine: Thanks for the update. I took my stats off the Telarc website. That’s where they need to be corrected.

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