The Berlin Philharmonic is launching its own recording label with the release on 23 May of a sumptuously packaged set of the Schumann symphonies conducted by the orchestra’s principal conductor, Sir Simon Rattle.
The two CDs in the inaugural Berliner Philharmoniker Recordings box ‒ which will be available only through the orchestra and other online outlets and retail at €49.90 ‒ is accompanied by a Blu-ray disc offering higher-quality audio and an access code enabling download ‘studio master’ quality versions. An additional code gives seven days’ free access to the Digital Concert Hall relays of orchestra performances.
A vinyl version will be released in August and to follow will be a Schubert symphony cycle conducted by Harnoncourt, a yet-to-be-completed Sibelius symphony cycle with Sir Simon and a DVD of Peter Sellars’ production of Bach’s St John Passion. The label hopes to release DVDs of its annual opera performances at Baden-Baden.
The label launch had been widely expected since the end of the BPO’s historic contracts with Deutsche Grammophon and follows its release of DVDs of The Magic Flute and education project Rhythm Is It.
A spokesman said the orchestra had made the move because commercial labels were turning away from symphonic repertoire in favour of works featuring star instrumental and vocal soloists. That sentiment was echoed by Sir Simon: ‘The Schumann symphonies have never been considered one of the sure-fire big sellers of all music, but for us Berliner Philharmoniker, this music is closer to our hearts than almost any other.’
Olaf Maninger, media board member and principal cellist, said: ‘We now have the ability to control the selection of our repertoire, the product features and marketing.
‘Here, we can realise a technical and editorial standard which meets the highest of demands.’
Tobias Moeller, the label’s head of communications and marketing, said the orchestra was ‘optimistic’ about making a profit, to be shared between players and conductors, but this was ‘a flexible target’.
The recordings of concerts will be made by the orchestra’s in-house media division, Berlin Phil Media, which is responsible for the Digital Concert Hall.