Label news: Decca signs up Montreal. Er, why?

Label news: Decca signs up Montreal. Er, why?


norman lebrecht

March 20, 2015

At a time when all labels have shed their longterm deals with orchestra, Decca has popped up with a five-year partnership in Montreal. Yes, we understand he sentimental attachment to the so-called golden years when every score that Charles Dutoit beat was released on CD.

But the deal starting losing money in the early 1990s and Kent Nagano, Dutoit’s successor, does not sell records.

So, why?

Press release below.



Montreal, Thursday, March 19, 2015 – The Orchestre symphonique de Montréal is pleased to announce a five-year partnership agreement with Decca Classics, a prestigious label on which the Orchestra recorded about 80 albums from the beginning of the 1980s to the early 2000s. The OSM wished to share this happy development on the occasion its 2015-2016 season launch.


“We at the OSM are delighted to reunite with our historic partner and look forward to the special artistic projects which will result of this collaboration,” stated Kent Nagano, music director.


“We’re very happy to be re-signing with the prestigious international record label Decca, with whom we were highly active in the recording market for over 20 years. Even though the industry has undergone upheavals and the OSM itself has diversified the ways in which it supplies its music to audiences, our desire is to continue to make recordings that enable the Orchestra to maintain its international celebrity has never faded,” stated Madeleine Careau, chief executive officer.


“It gives me great pleasure to see the return of the OSM to Decca, its recording home for so many years. Now in its magnificent new hall it is sounding back to its very best under the enterprising musical direction of Kent Nagano. The projects we have agreed, starting with L’Aiglon, add several world-premiere recordings to the catalogue, while maintaining the tradition of Francophone music that was so important during the Dutoit years. So all in all, this is a logical way to continue a much-cherished partnership,” commented Paul Moseley, Managing Director of Decca.


The relationship with Decca started in 1980 when the OSM signed an exclusive contract with the label. The OSM recordings, under the Decca label, won about 40 national and international prizes, including two Grammy Awards. The OSM is therefore particularly proud of returning to the label.


LAiglon: Son of Napoleon, a work by Honegger and Ibert, presented in a grand North American premiere on March 17, 19 and 21, 2015 at Maison symphonique de Montréal, is the first project in the new partnership. The second project, inspired by Halloween, with works by Ives, (Hallowe’en), Dukas, (The Sorcerer’s Apprentice), Dvořák, (The Noon Witch), Balakirev, (Tamara), Saint-Saëns, (Danse macabre), and Mussorgsky, (Night on Bald Mountain), was being announced today in the framework of the launch of the 2015-2016 OSM season.




  • Alex says:

    There’s bo such thing as a free lunch. If Money doesnt come from CD sales it must come from other sources: private donor, government grant….pick & choose. The last thing Universal needs is a lemon. Plus, you know how these contracts are: “five years….” But by the third the thing goes cold. We’ll see.

  • Halldor says:

    Whatever. I’m not going to grumble about a major label recording Honegger and Ibert.

  • Andy says:

    In the 1980s and 1990s, Decca recorded the orchestra. The orchestra was paid a princely sum, and Decca owns those recordings.

    Now, there’s a Live Recording Agreement sanctioned by the American Federation of Musicians that allows orchestras to record their own concerts for commercial release. Musicians are paid a fraction of the fees (10%) that companies like Decca used to pay, and the orchestras own the recordings, which they are at liberty to license to recording companies for distribution (just as the Montreal Symphony licensed their in-house recording of Mahler to Sony Classical a couple of years ago).

    The press release is slippery and silent on the precise nature of the new deal.

    And so the question that Montreal reporters should ask Decca and the Montreal Symphony is this: “Is the five year contract a licensing deal, wherein Decca will license Montreal’s in-house live recordings for commercial distribution and sale, or will Decca record the orchestra and own the actual recordings as was the case in the 1980s and 1990s?”

    Big difference, especially to the pocketbooks of the musicians, and Decca’s expenditures.

    • erich says:

      It absolutely astounds me how [redacted] Nagano seems to fool most of the people most of the time…….

    • SDReader says:

      … and in the OSM’s expenditures!

      Thanks for explaining that this is a vanity project. Times have changed.

      • V.Lind says:

        Nice to see an Orchestra with the financial health to keep its recordings circulating. And by choosing works so wisely, they may well spark interest. Sounds a good experiment, and as if there is decent management at the helm of the OSM.

  • music montreal says:

    No one in the recording industry makes the money they used to, not the orchestras or labels. Maybe the soloists do. This way of recording – take live shows and do a patch session – is commonplace (LSO live was amongst the first), and offers a much more viable alternative than the old sound recording labour agreements – as lucrative as that was for the orchestra musicians, it’s not very practical economically anymore. Combine that with not having to rent a church in the suburbs (in the case of old OSM recordings) now that the OS has a legit good hall, and not having to pay for separate recording sessions (other than patches) and this is a positive way to stay relevant in the fading/faded recording industry.
    Of course if such a deal
    were announced with a conductor whom Norman actually liked, this story would have taken a different spin altogether!

  • erich says:

    it staggers me how this mediocrity manages to fool most of the people most of the time………

  • MacroV says:

    It doesn’t seem likely that Decca would resume the building of a big OSM discography as it did in the Dutoit era. If they’re just licensing the occasional recording, it doesn’t seem like a big deal. OTOH, the OSM is still a magnificent orchestra, so if you’re in the business of recording orchestral music, seem a good partner.