The maestro who’s gambling on the glories of Bach
Conductor John Eliot Gardiner tells Geoffrey Norris why he had to set up his own record label
What is it that urges an eminent musician to spurn the mainstream record industry and set up on his own?
Some orchestras have been doing it for quite a while, bypassing the major companies and releasing competitively priced discs of live performances that regularly lead the market and at the same time help to promote the orchestras’ image. Where the London Symphony Orchestra led the way in that field, Sir John Eliot Gardiner, who already has a formidable backlist of recordings to his credit, is now blazing a trail for the individual artist by launching his own label, Soli Deo Gloria, the first two albums of which have just gone on sale.
For Gardiner, the catalyst came five years ago, when Deutsche Grammophon pulled out of a project to record all the 198 sacred cantatas that he, together with the Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque Soloists, were performing on his millennial Bach Pilgrimage.
The CDs were supposed to be, in every sense, a record of this historic tour, which began in the Bach heartland of Weimar and then criss-crossed Europe presenting the church cantatas on the feast days for which they were composed. In the event, DG issued only a handful of CDs from a potential 50 or more.
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