Warner Music Adds EMI and Virgin Classics to Its Roster of Classical Labels

By Smith, Charlotte | Gramophone, April 2013 | Go to article overview

Warner Music Adds EMI and Virgin Classics to Its Roster of Classical Labels


Smith, Charlotte, Gramophone


The future of EMI and Virgin Classics is now looking far more secure following Universal's February announcement of a 'definitive agreement' to sell the Parlophone Label Group to the Warner Music Group for the cash sum of 487m[pounds sterling]. Both the European Commission and the US Federal Trade Commission approved Universal's acquisition of EMI in September last year. However, in order to continue to protect a thriving and competitive market, Universal was instructed to dispose of a number of assets, including EMI's Parlophone, Chrysalis, Mute, EMI Classics and Virgin Classics labels--known collectively as the Parlophone Label Group. Significantly, a condition of the sale was that all Parlophone labels remain together rather than being sold individually.

While the focus in both Universal's press releases and in media coverage of the deal has been on Parlophone's substantial pop and rock catalogues--including Blur, Coldplay, Pink Floyd and Kylie Minogue--the deal will see ownership of two of the world's leading classical labels pass to Warner and with them the catalogues of such iconic artists as Maria Callas, Sir Adrian Boult and Sir Simon Rattle. 'Having the Parlophone Label Group become part of our family represents a unique opportunity for us to join with legendary record labels and artists that are highly complementary to our existing organisation from a creative, geographic and strategic standpoint,' said Stephen Cooper, CEO of Warner Music Group.

Warner's history with classical music dates back to the late 1980s when Warner Classics was formed around the French label Erato and the German label Teldec (formerly Telefunken).

Its success in the field was rewarded shortly afterwards when Nikolaus Harnoncourt's set of the Beethoven symphonies with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe was named Gramophone's Recording of the Year in 1992.

The UK is becoming something of a launching pad for conductors appointed to major Norwegian orchestras. Back in February 2011 it was announced that Royal Liverpool Philharmonic chief conductor Vasily Petrenko is to take over as the Oslo Philharmonic's chief conductor from the 2013-14 season. Now, two years later, the English National Opera's music director Edward Gardner has been named chief conductor of the Bergen Philharmonic from 2015, succeeding Andrew Litton, who becomes the orchestra's conductor laureate.

'I have been thrilled with the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra from the first time I worked with them,' said Gardner. …

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