English label founder has died

 

Arthur Richard Itter, founder of Lyrita Recorded Edition, has died near his home in Burnham, aged 85.

He launched Lyrita in 1959 when UK recording was dominated by HMV and Decca, both with an international outlook. Richard sensed that those labels were neglecting mid-century British composers. Lyrita produced modern British music performed by British musicians.

Among its first composers were John Ireland and Gerald Finzi whose music often had its first recordings under Richard’s care. The label grew through the 1970s with premieres of symphonic works and concertos by Bax, Moeran, Alwyn, Bridge, Holst, Hurlstone, Rawsthorne, Rubbra and Sterndale Bennett.

Although keenly interested in music and in recording technology Richard was happy to remain in the background. His decision to hire Decca to provide all recording, manufacturing and distribution services was practical, and significantly gave him access to Ken Wilkinson, one of the most celebrated recording engineers of the time. Richard nurtured long relationships with the London orchestras, particularly the LPO.

The Lyrita label was virtually dormant in the decade 1995-2005 until a license agreement was signed with Wyastone Estate Ltd, the owners of Nimbus Records. Under this agreement every Lyrita title was reissued in time to celebrate Richard’s 80th birthday.

‘From the 1960s to the 1990s, those with a taste for obscure English classical composers, or for the obscure works of the well-known ones, needed only one port of call: Lyrita Records. For aficionados of the English canon the re-issue of this material is one of the great events in our musical history. It is like coming across long-buried treasure, and represents perhaps the finest exhibition our music has ever had,’ wrote Simon Heffer in the Telegraph.

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  • I first came across these recordings on the Musical Heritage Society records released in conjunction with Lyrita. I have always devoured all the information on my recording jackets and soon realized that many of my favorite MHS records were from Lyrita. This wonderful British music I first heard there inspired a lifelong and still continuing love of the composers mentioned and more.

  • Richard Itter. One of the great unsung musical heroes of our time. He opened my eyes to some truly wonderful music, some of it great music, that probably otherwise would have disappeared entirely. A very shy man, I never really got to know him over the the twenty or thirty years I worked with him. A man of enormous integrity and the very highest of standards who let nothing slip past him – as for instance one occasion when he made us re-record something at a later session after I had allowed my sense of humour to get the better of me and made the percussion play much too loudly. He listened minutely to every recording we made and insisted on the highest of both musical and technical standards. His faith and belief in British composers was matched by a faith in British performers that created a wonderful opportunity for those of us lucky enough to work for him. The legacy he leaves is an extraordinary and catholic overview of British music which will be a resource for a long time. And as a result of his work I have on a very few occasions been able to persuade managements elsewhere to programme some of these pieces – most recently Charles Villers Stanford’s Irish Rhapsody No.4, a truly fine piece, with the Adelaide Youth Orchestra. These school age students had never even heard of the composer yet they adored the piece. We are all the richer for his contribution to our musical lives.

  • Lyrita’s recordings are a treasure. Yo Yo Ma’s best recording is on Lyrita, a stunning Finzi Cello Concerto under Vernon Handley. The Clarinet Concerto with John Denman and Handley on the “flip side” is equally special. Lyrita introduced me to Daniel Jones, Grace Williams, Alun Hoddinott and other British/UK composers whose music I enjoy to this day. Thank you Mr Itter.

  • My introduction to Bax and Bridge (and indeed some others) was through Lyrita’s recordings. I would never have performed Bax’ Violin Concerto and 3rd Sonata, or Bridge’s Violin Sonata if it were not for Itter, whose label awakened in me a lifelong interest in that composer. A treasure all of Lyrita’s recordings were, and a treasure they remain.

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