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.