Jonas Kaufmann declares war on Decca

Jonas Kaufmann declares war on Decca


norman lebrecht

July 28, 2015

The tenor, annoyed about a spoiler remix put out by his former label, is telling fans on his Facebook page to wait for the new one on Sony. Summer storm in a hair-dryer? No, he feels caught between forces beyond his power.

Here’s the message:

Kaufmann Sony


Dear Friends,

Please do not let yourselves be deceived by the Decca release “Jonas Kaufmann – The Age of Puccini”. This compilation contains only 3 Puccini Arias – my recordings of “Che Gelida Manina” and “E lucevan le stelle” from 2007 and a scene from “La Rondine”, did I recorded with Renée Fleming in 2008 for the album Verismo. The remaining 18 tracks are Essentially my old recording “Verismo Arias” from 2010. THEREFORE familiar recordings- in new packaging. I was not Consulted in its making, this thing done without my knowledge and approval.
The “real” album Puccini Which I recorded with Antonio Pappano in Rome in Autumn last year is titled “Nessun dorma” and will be released on Sony in the middle of September. It Exclusively contains arias and scenes from Puccini’s operas Including Highlights from “Manon Lescaut”, “La Boheme”, “Tosca”, “La Fanciulla del West” and “Turandot”.
Jonas Kaufmann

Kaufmann Sony


  • Margot says:

    Decca is a company in desperation. They are rudderless and without direction. There is no senior management to speak of and they lurch from one concept to the next without any sense or logic, only desperation. It is sad to see how a once great label has fallen so far, so quickly. Universal Music’s ownership of the labels, DG as well, has specked disaster for them, as there is no knowledge, no vision and no intelligence at the top.

    I don’t think that Sony nor Jonas Kaufmann should be too concerned by any of this. The way that Decca and DG are moving, it won’t be long before their recordings are all up for sale. Among many professionals and two music journalists that I know, most are surprised that Universal’s classical labels still even exist, as outsiders are amazed by the lack of management that heads the division. Does anybody in that company actually like classical music?

    • Anon says:

      Margot, I’m not convinced. What label is there that has a better or more seriously classical group of artists than those at Universal? Barenboim, Argerich, Trifonov, Sokolov, Uchida, Bartoli, Netrebko, Florez, Terfel, Jansen, Batiashvili, Kavakos, Dudamel, Chailly, Nezet-Seguin the list goes on. Would a label not serious about classical music sign a mandolin player or a harpsichordist, or release award-winning world premiere opera discoveries?

      • Luk says:

        You can have the most beautiful roster of artists, but it depends on how you use them.

      • tian says:

        we live in an age where people want to see the big and powerful fall and fail… we have plenty here on this forum

        • Jiri says:

          The fact that Decca, or DG for that matter, have many great names on their list of artists doesn’t mean much. What matters, as mentioned in one of the replies, is how does the label manage and develop that talent. I’m sorry to say, but I too don’t have the respect that I once had for the once iconic Universal Classic labels of DG and Decca. They appear erratic and all over the place and I too have heard many complaints from friends and musician colleagues that they have no solid leadership, no knowledgeable staff at the top. They surely once did, but I’ve been told that anybody with intelligence and an in-depth knowledge of the repertoire and catalogue were purged long ago. Now they seem to be paying the price for short-term thinking that has not really gained them anything, except derision.

      • another anon says:

        But this label also has Lisiecki, Wang, Ott, just to stick with pianists…. this is hardly serious fare; DG is trying to make a buck on glamour and sex appeal, as usual.

        • Anon says:

          Lisiecki, if I may, is a serious pianist, and IMO very fine. I see no evidence of anyone trying to sell him on “sex appeal”.
          Sticking with pianists, might I mention Trifonov, Grosvenor, Argerich, Freire, Uchida, Sokolov across Universal?

  • Peter says:

    Wasn’t it Decca who declared war first?

  • Jon H says:

    Reissuing is all Decca really does anymore. Many highlights over the years, but also many missed opportunities – depending on your taste – but Decca’s best recordings involved names like Wilkinson, Cornall, Culshaw, Dunkerley, Eadon, Mallinson, Minshull, and Pellowe. Something of that freshness is sometimes heard in a latest Chandos release (not to mention BIS, etc.) – but most things today are two-dimensional, and musically lacking something. And whatever people think of Solti, there aren’t many older conductors who can get up there and create that kind of energy.

  • Alvaro says:

    KIDS!! KIDS!! How many times have I told you not to fight over the 100-150 who will get to buy these CD’s….

    Ok, ok, I’ll give each of you your allowance in advance. How much is 5% of 15% of 15 X 100??

    Maybe enough for the bus??

  • Chris Fish says:

    I’m a freelance musician involved in the recording industry. Decca has new management and in particular has new impetus with their new MD Rebecca Allen. Live and let live I say and watch Decca find its feet under this new management. I’m so sick of the couch potato nay Sayers.

    • Record Industry Survivor says:

      The major labels change their MD’s every 3 years or so, with little or no positive effect. There’s no point in changing the skipper on the Titanic, as it won’t obliterate the fact that it’s got a HUGE hole in it — one that can’t be fixed.

  • tian says:

    kaufmann, get a life, will you?

    • Luk says:

      Why?! I think what he says is perfectly fair. He has a new Puccini recital on release, and Decca JUST advertises a Puccini disc which is basically a remix of arias from other discs. People could easily think he fooled them, with consequences on his image and projected integrity. He was right to remark he has nothing to do with the Decca project.

    • RFW. Mühlbacher says:

      I don’t know who you are, what you are is obvious. Jonas Kaufman has a life that you will never ever have. Pathetic

  • Anonymous says:


    Kaufmann and his management were surely aware that his contract with DECCA allowed them to reissue and repackage recordings. They must also have been aware that DECCA would protect its investment of any recordings of Puccini and similar composers that he had made.

    I’m not sure that this is such a smart PR move…

    • tian says:

      that’s why some artist here needs chill and get a life.

      decca just does his job, nothing wrong here. kaufmann’s new puccini recording on sony would definitely sell well, and it is so pathetic to see some artist so desperate for attention.

      • Holger H. says:

        Nothing wrong? Believe it or not, businesses do not only compete, but they also coexist. Decca clearly plays foul here by raining on their former artist’s parade and they of course do it intentionally. I will avoid Decca of today, since obviously they are uncultured bastards, sorry.

        • Anon says:

          Can I assume that you will then be avoiding all major labels? This is part of the game they all play.
          And it is a necessary part, given how few recordings music lovers actually buy when the record is new. It is essential to carry on selling to break even, these recordings are expensive to make.

          • Holger H. says:

            No, you do not come out with an unapproved CD by the same artist at the same time, fishing in the same small pond (Puccini), that’s not what all do. That’s just foul play.
            Decca’s management is trying to play hard ball, and it will bounce back into their faces.

          • Anon says:

            Yes you do. All major labels do it*, and it is not unexpected. Making these recordings costs a fortune in the first place, and sales must be made to justify investment at this level, not just at first release but ongoing. It’s no different to an airline dropping the price of tickets, perhaps in a newly packaged bundle, when a competitor opens up on the same route; it’s simply trying to sell your product in a more attractive way.

            (*of course we don’t see examples frequently, because not every classical artist sells as well as Kaufmann can, there aren’t very many major artists of his stature, and those that there are don’t move labels so often)

    • Eeufesia says:

      I find the ‘Kaufmann defeats himself’, with the 2 albums running at 1 and 2 on the german charts, quite funny. And good for JK! I presume he will still get royalties from those Decca recordings won’t he? Personally I think Decca’s packaging and marketing of the CDs was much better. This latest one – it doesn’t even look like him!

  • Glenn Amer says:

    Don’t worry Herr Kaufmann, as long as Decca still reissues anything by Mario del Monaco, all is right with the world by me!

  • PDQ.BACH says:

    ‘War on Decca’ ?
    Jonas Kaufmann ?

    Surely that Lilliputian conflagration can be extinguished by the same Swiftian methods employed by Gulliver in putting out the flames consuming the Imperial Palace of Lilliput?

    • Holger H. says:

      Their one-room or garage head quarters can be extinguished quite easily. But their name from old glorious days might be harder to extinguish.

  • Anonymous says:

    Speaks a man who has obviously never been to DECCA’s offices.

    Look, this sort of thing has been going on for decades. It’s the way record companies operate and, to an extent, how they’ve always operated. Saying you’re going to boycott DECCA is just childish.

    What’s surprising is that Kaufmann’s people thought it advisable for him to issue this on his Facebook.

    • Matt says:

      I thought that at first, but I am now thinking that Sony may have encouraged Jonas to make this post so as not to affect their early sales of this new CD release which they will have invested in quite handsomely I suspect. . . .

  • Marilyn says:

    I was glad to hear Herr Kaufmann’s reaction before buying the Puccini album. I will wait for the Nessun Dorma. The tenor has every right to be annoyed.

  • john smith says:

    Glenn A. has a point.. too many greats …Bergonzi, Corelli, etc. who had the voices and the style fortunately still available. I’ll be buying neither the Decca nor the Sony!


    Sony made a major investment in Kaufmann’s releases since he came aboard. Look at the Du bist…super deluxe package (the one with the ??? calendar) a major marketing effort there. I am surprised it is a “personal” statement and on social media at that. The sense lately is that Kaufmann/Sony distrust social media. Certainly proved useful for getting the message out this time. At least 53 publications picked it up after 2 days.

  • Mark Grayson says:

    Talking about biting the hand that feed you. Kaufmann is pure and simple a hypocrite. Isn’t DECCA/LONDON that plucked him from a pool of also-run tenors on the international classical music circuit to catapult him to superstardom? Isn’t DECCA that went out of its way to brainwash a whole generation of operagoers into believing they had heard a great voice when the truth was exactly the opposite? Isn’t DECCA that persuaded the public that a gruff-sounding Teutonic tenor could pull off Italian opera successfully, thus making a mockery of a grand tradition? Or isn’t DECCA that schemed with certain so-called critics to proclaim that you didn’t need to possess an single ounce of Gallic sensitivity and finesse to score a home run with Werther?