Bad label news: Warner relaunch with wealthy agent’s wife

Bad label news: Warner relaunch with wealthy agent’s wife


norman lebrecht

July 23, 2014

We are following with considerable sympathy the attempt by Warner Classics to replace EMI Classics – which it took over – at the heart of a diminished recording industry. That sympathy has been slightly dented by the arrival of the first batch of midsummer releases.

It contains a set of Bach cello suites, always cause for excitement.

Every cellist regards recording the set as a lifetime summit. Mstislav Rostropovich was so daunted by Bach he almost left it too late. Many brilliant young cellists are breathlessly awaiting their date with destiny.

So who’s Warner’s launch set played by?

nina kotova

Nina Kotova.

Ring a bell? She’s the Russian former model who is married to Barrett Wissman, co-owner of IMG Artists and a self-confessed fraudster.

Nina has previously appeared – once or twice – on Philips and Sony Classics.

The Warner recording was made at Purchase College, in upstate New York. No recording dates are given. The producer and recording engineer is Adam Abeshouse. His website proclaims that he ‘founded the Classical Recording Foundation to meet the growing need for artists not supported by major labels to record music about which they are passionate.’

We assume, for want of further information, that this is one of those projects. (UPDATE: It is not. We have been told by Mr Abeshouse:  ‘This was NOT a Classical Recording Foundation Recording.   I was hired to produce and engineer this recording on a freelance basis, without any affiliation.’ Apologies for the confusion.) f

We have listened to the first two suites. The playing is not bad. No more, no less. If I were a cellist represented by IMG, I’d be spitting tacks.

Will it do much good to Warner Classics? Depends on the deal.


wissman kotova



  • sdReader says:

    What is the connection between Barrett Wissman and Warner Classics?

    • sdReader says:

      Maybe I’m missing something, but all I’m getting here is that the IMG guy has favored his wife, an IMG artist, over other artists in that agency.

      How does this translate to a Warner disc? Surely Warner chose her.

      Could someone explain?

  • Darren says:

    One cannot help but wonder whether they have thought this through properly and whether this is really the ‘best’ they could come up with….

  • Nick says:

    I assume there is one cellist on IMG Artists books who is not spitting tacks – one Nina Kotova! She is listed as their artist managed out of their Hannover office.

    I have not heard the recording nor know anything about any tie-up between Warners and the Classical Recording Foundation. But the Abeshouse connection does make it seem somewhat obvious. His website adds this –

    “By providing subsidies to record labels for projects and artists of merit, the Classical Recording Foundation helps to ensure that there is a legacy of exciting new recordings by noteworthy artists of all ages and career stages . . .

    “The Classical Recording Foundation does not benefit from record sales or royalties, and depends entirely on support from generous individuals and corporations, as well as merit-based grants from public and private sources.”

    If the two are connected, need one spend time wondering which individual/s provided the philanthropic support?

    • sdReader says:

      … so it’s a vanity project, and Norman is disappointed that Warner would stoop to this way of working.

      Ho capito.

  • Musicmuse says:

    Clearly, the “Classical Recording Foundation” is a fancy name for an independent producer’s own business, through which vanity projects can be realized, and the source of funds remains veiled (althouth quite thinly in this case!). Most likely, the artists pay for their own projects and retain ownership of their master tapes — which they can then license to whomever might be willing to release it. So, Warner got a free ride here.

  • Hugh Canning says:

    A lot of the niche labels – including highly respected one such as Hyperion and Onyx – promote artists who have funded or part-funded their discs. That doesn’t mean they will take anyone’s recordings just for the money. It’s not as if record companies have never done this before. A lot of mystery record deals can only be explained by personal relationships of this kind. At least Peter Gelb doesn’t hire his wife, the very good conductor, Kerilyn Wilson, at the Met.

  • Musicmuse says:

    No, Gelb doesn’t hire his wife to conduct at the Met, but have you noticed that Keri-Lynn Wilson conducts almost everywhere else? And do we all believe that Gelb had nothing to do with that?

  • Musicmuse says:

    There is no 6-foot tall fashion model who plays the cello better than Nina Kotova!

  • Save the MET says:

    Here are a couple of Keri-Lyn Wilson’s review from people who do not worry about Mr. Gelb. The one time I saw her, you could have put a metronome on the conductor’s desk.

    “The most disappointing element was the poor performance of the Orchestre Métropolitain and guest conductor Keri-Lynn Wilson in the pit. Montreal’s “second orchestra”, whose principal conductor is the peripatetic wunderkind Yannick Nézet-Séguin, has given many exciting performances under his baton, but it was clear from the outset on Saturday night that the orchestra was in a great deal of trouble. The playing was timid, slow-paced (terribly so in the “Overture”) and lacked zest, power and drive. It sounded like only half of the 65 musicians were pulling their weight. The dramatic pulse and sustaining rhythms so important in Wagner were absent.”

    “Keri-Lynn Wilson’s total number of ideas for the night instead was, sadly, 0. And considering that, give or take, because Opera Chic doesn’t have the score readily available in her Munich hotel room, Traviata’s score must run about 500 pages long, 0/500 is pretty bad.”

  • sergei says:

    Don’t know her Bach, but have an 2002 Delos CD by her, playing old horses by Bloch and Bruch, plus her own cello concerto on first recording. A half hour virtuoso romantic piece I like, beautiful played.

  • Pete Simonds says:

    well, they must have paid for these good reviews! [redacted: defamation]

    and read the review that just came out in WAZ which is glorious….

    to each his own opinion!