LSO goes on attack in war of cheap CDs

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The Independent Culture

Britain's most successful orchestra has set up its own record label in a pioneering move designed to capitalise on its best live performances. The London Symphony Orchestra is about to launch the first two CDs in its series, called LSO Live, and hopes to record up to half-a-dozen of its concerts a year.

Britain's most successful orchestra has set up its own record label in a pioneering move designed to capitalise on its best live performances. The London Symphony Orchestra is about to launch the first two CDs in its series, called LSO Live, and hopes to record up to half-a-dozen of its concerts a year.

The move comes as major record labels have severely cut back their numbers of new recordings. The sector has also been hit by cut-price recordings of the classics from Eastern Europe bought in bulk by shops such as Woolworths.

A special deal has been made with the notoriously difficult Musicians' Union to allow the LSO venture to go ahead, whereby the musicians are not paid extra for the recordings because they require no additional time. Instead, they get to share in the profits.

This combined with cut-price marketing, through the orchestra's own magazine, Living Music, and the LSO website, mean the CDs will be available for only £4.99. Clive Gillinson, the orchestra's managing director, said: "We wanted to create a legacy of the most important work we do with the greatest artists. And it's an investment in their own future by the performers."

Strict Musicians' Union rules would have prevented such a project in the past. "But the union is much more flexible and aware of how entrepreneurial everybody has to be now. It has been very supportive," Mr Gillinson said. "Taking the CDs from performances means nobody is having to give additional time - it's time already committed."

The London Symphony Orchestra, under its principal conductor Sir Colin Davis, has developed a worldwide reputation for excellence and attracted soloists, including the violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter, to work with it. It also recorded the music for the Star Wars films.

But despite its claim to be "the most recorded orchestra in the world" with companies including Sony, Philips and Deutsche Grammophon, many of its acclaimed performances will never be caught for the archives as the main record labels are no longer recording new versions of many of the greatest symphonic works.

"Sir Colin Davis has never recorded the Elgar or Vaughan Williams symphonies or those of Walton or Bruckner," Mr Gillinson said. "The recording companies have to be careful - they have several conductors and they can't record all the pieces several times over. So someone like Sir Colin, who has so much to say, may never be recorded."

The orchestra is confident that this means the project will not impinge on the work of the other labels.

The first two releases were recorded at the LSO's home at the Barbican Centre in London in September and October in front of sell-out houses. They feature Dvorak's Symphony No 8 and Symphony No 9, "From the New World".

Future recordings will include performances from the orchestra's planned series of works by the French composer Hector Berlioz over the next year. Sir Colin Davis was recently honoured by the French for his services to French culture through championing Berlioz.

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