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Deutsche Grammophon: 111 years of Classical Excellence

img  Tobias

It is therefore certainly no misplaced pride when Chris Roberts, head of the Classical and Jazz division of Deutsche Grammophon’s parent company Universal, claims that still today the outfit is the world’s biggest classical label on the planet: “Since its 100th anniversary eleven years ago, it has continued to thrive in an especially challenging global environment for recorded music”, Roberts said, “For me, in nearly two decades of leading the worldwide classical-music business for Universal, it has been a huge but rewarding challenge to help guide this great label into the future. Deutsche Grammophon continues to flourish because it has never lost sight of its underlying philosophy: Support the artist with the means to make great music and deliver this great music to the public in a beautiful package with creative ideas.”

To mark the occasion, Deutsche Grammophon has set up a special celebratory website. Visitors will be able to follow the history of the “Gesellschaft” from its beginnings as a startup by Joseph and Emil Berliner, who arguably invented the Grammophon in the first place until its meteoric rise in the 60s, 70s and 80s, when their artist roster expanded with some of the most renowned names of the scene – and until its consolidation in the new millennium as one of the few classical companies capable of catering to its core audience while making use of contemporary technology to win over new generations of listeners.

Countless of these artists have now sent greetings to the label to express their appreciation. “My first contact with Deutsche Grammophon was a Christmas present I received 18 years ago: Beethoven’s ‘Pastoral’ Symphony, with Leonard Bernstein conducting the Vienna Philharmonic”, Polish Pianist Rafał Blechacz remembers, “I already had a pretty big classical collection when I was a first-year music student, and I soon realized that the recordings I chose and enjoyed listening to most often had a yellow cartouche. That logo told me to expect the highest artistic quality, to expect excitement and emotion from the music on those yellow-labelled records.” Veteran composer and conductor Pierre Boulez has equally fond memories to share: “Ever since my recording of Parsifal in 1970, Deutsche Grammophon has played a central role in the preservation, promotion and distribution of my interpretations. The disc has played an indispensable role in documenting music spanning the whole of our century. It prolongs the moment of real listening in a concert, or even replaces it, if conditions do not favour a direct encounter with the music. Deutsche Grammophon has played, and continues to play, a fundamental role in the dissemination of 20th-century works, and encourages this repeated link between live performances and recordings, which is so important in gaining familiarity with important compositions of the recent past and present. Without this precious assistance, our culture would be much impoverished.”

111 years are a long time and accordingly, Deutsche Grammophon have made use of the opportunity to revisit some of their most treasured moments. Needless to say, there will be a competition with 111 prizes. But then there will also be an elegantly packaged Box set with 111 complete masterworks on a total of 55 CDs. A smaller sampler will feature 111 tracks by 111 artists on 6 discs. Alternatively, the more visually-inclined will be able to enjoy 11 classical movies on a 13 DVD set. And as if that were not enough, the book “State of the Art” will recount the story of the label’s 111 years. As has increasingly been the case with Deutsche Grammophon over the past few years, packaging and design (ever-important factors for the survival of physical formats) have once again become more important – nurturing the dream of 111 more successful years to come.

Homepage: 111 years of Deutsche Grammophon

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