THE MAN WHO FIRST PREDICTED THE STREAMING OF MUSIC BACK IN 1967

THE PRODUCER OF THE SOLTI RING: ‘THE GREATEST CLASSICAL RECORDING OF ALL TIME’

AND BRITTEN’S WAR REQUIEM

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OUT MAY 31st ON DECCA CLASSICS

Decca Classics is proud to announce the forthcoming release of John Culshaw: The Art of the Producer, a unique collection of rare recordings from 1948-1955 commemorating the centenary of perhaps the most influential British recording producer of the 20th century

John Culshaw masterminded two of the greatest classical recordings of all time: Wagner’s Ring Cycle conducted by Sir Georg Solti (recorded 1958-1965), and Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem conducted by the composer (recorded in 1963).

Decades before the launch of iTunes and Spotify, Culshaw predicted the birth of music streaming as far back as 1967: “The listener will be able to command a performance to take place by dialling some code through which a computer will channel the performance to him”. Following his premature death in 1980 The Times said of him: “He stood in that great tradition of propagandists from Henry Wood to Leonard Bernstein, who seek to bring their love and knowledge of music to the widest audience.”

This new 12-CD set rewinds to the very start of Culshaw’s career as a Decca producer in 1948 including Copland playing Copland; the first ever studio recording of Barber’s Adagio for Strings; excerpts from the 1951 & 1953 Bayreuth recordings; a long-lost tape of Clifford Curzon; and the first international release of Georg Solti’s 1954 Brahms’ German Requiem, recorded by Culshaw for Capitol Records. All the recordings have been newly transferred at 24 bit 192 kHz from original sources, shining new light on such beloved classics as Kathleen Ferrier’s immortal rendition of Blow the Wind Southerly, which Culshaw produced in 1949 in only his fourth outing as a producer.

John Culshaw was born in Southport, Lancashire on May 28th 1924. Without any formal musical training he found a route into the record industry via editorial work writing analytical notes and artist biographies. Culshaw originally joined Decca in November 1946 and was very nearly fired on his first day ! Reporting to a Mr Attwood, Decca’s Publicity Manager at the Brixton Road offices, Culshaw was tasked with updating artist biographies. First up was Vera Lynn, but she was so incensed by Culshaw’s impertinence at cold calling that she complained directly to Edward Lewis, Decca’s managing director. Culshaw survived, but for all his ability with the written word – it had been articles and interviews for The Gramophone that led to the magazine’s editor Cecil Pollard introducing Culshaw to Decca – the recording studio was where his ambition lay. “I loved the atmosphere of the studios and the new experience of very close proximity to music-making”, he wrote in his posthumously published autobiography Putting the Record Straight (1981).

The final CD of the set allows us to hear Culshaw in his own words, narrating a 1960 audio-documentary about the recording of Solti’s Tristan und Isolde and a BBC Radio 3 talk on Götterdämmerung recorded shortly before his premature death in April 1980.

The accompanying booklet includes a 6,500-word essay by today’s Decca Classics Label Director, Dominic Fyfe, and includes many previously unseen archive photographs of some of the most historic moments in recorded music.

War Requiem remastered (review), https://www.colinscolumn.com/benjamin-brittens-war-requiem-the-composers-sixty-year-old-decca-recording-in-a-new-hd-transfer/.