The changing link between conductors and labels

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Martin Cullingford (Gramophone's editor) writes as follows: Shortly after the death of Claudio Abbado, the Sunday Express asked me to write its main arts feature on the great maestros of the past, and how they differ from today’s. The newspaper ran it over two pages: it’s clearly a subject which fascinates people beyond the pages of Gramophone.

A profession in which the power of personality plays such a vital role necessarily attracts compelling characters. This isn’t to imply they are all as flamboyant as a Beecham or a Bernstein, of course – Abbado is a case in point, Sir Adrian Boult another. But there are many ways to inspire respect and creativity, and in today’s democratic age it’s more often by being open and engaging rather than dictatorial and detached.

But perhaps this wider interest in the profession is also due to the change in relationship between the conductor and the recording industry. A conductor was once the pivotal figure in a label’s roster. Toscanini was possibly the first for whom fame and both broadcast and recording, notably with the NBC Symphony Orchestra, were ....

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