Warner Music Group (WMG) has announced the first step in its plans for the labels formerly known as EMI and Virgin Classics, which formed part of the package it bought from Universal for $762m (c £500m) this year.
In a statement, WMG said artists and titles that were formerly released under the EMI Classics brand will appear bearing the Warner Classics logo.
That process began on 1 July with new recordings including a Verdi album from the orchestra and choir of the Academy of St Cecilia under Sir Antonio Pappano and a disc of Rachmaninov from the Berlin Philharmonic conducted by Sir Simon Rattle.
The Virgin Classics brand will be replaced by that of the French label Erato. More significantly, it is understood that Alain Lanceron, a long-time EMI executive who shaped Virgin Classics into a successful platform for early and Romantic music and young talent, will stay on under the new structure.
It is also understood that all major artists have agreed to stay with WMG, an exception being pianist Leif Ove Andsnes, who moved to Sony when his contract expired.
There was no mention of any plans for other imprints bought by WMG when it expanded into classical in the 1990s, including German early music brand Das Alte Werk and Teldec.
The restructuring was necessary because WMG’s acquisition did not include the EMI Classics and Virgin Classics brands, which were retained by Universal although it has no current plans to use them.
The statement did conclude: ‘This move marks the next exciting chapter and new momentum for these renowned artists and legendary catalogues within WMG, where there is ‒ and will continue to be ‒ a deep focus on classical repertoire. More plans will be announced soon.’
It is understood that Len Blavatnik, the owner of WMG, is prepared to commit serious funds to new classical signings and releases from his acquisition.
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