EMI Classics have a new international head of artists and repertoire. He is Andrew Cornall, a former Decca producer who, when Universal all but abolished the label, took a dead-end job in 2004 with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, an orchestra that appeared to be nearing the end of its days.
Cornall’s impact was transformatory. He spotted and hired a Russian conductor in his 20s, and stood well back as Vasily Petrenko applied charm and art to repair damaged morale and restore playing standards. With Petrenko up front and Cornall in the office as head of artistic policy and ensembles, the RLPO became the figurehead of Liverpool’s year as City of Culture and rejuvenated its audience faster than any other British band.
Those credentials make Cornall on paper a great choice for EMI, and EMI a good career move for the former studio man. Barely was the press release in my inbox, though, than the cavils followed. Cornall, said ex-colleagues, is not ‘international’. His taste are British and his first inclination is artistic rather than commercial – which might prejudice a long stay at a label owned by an increasingly desperate hedge fund, Terra not very Firma.
The word around the business is that EMI will be sold before the year is out, probably in pieces, genre by genre and territory by territory, to its principal competitors in order to avoid a monopolies investigation. Joining EMI in the last days of its pomp and ever-more straitened circumstances might not be the best move, say the doubters.
Myself, I think Cornall will do well at EMI and Petrenko even better. For how long? Let’s see.