Death of a label legend, 84

Death of a label legend, 84


norman lebrecht

June 23, 2019

We have been informed of the death this weekend of Jack Renner, winner of 11 Grammys for his classical recordings.

Co-founder of the Telarc label, he engineered America first digital recording in 1978, featuring Lorin Maazel and the Cleveland Orchestra. It was also the world’s first digital recording of a symphony orchestra.

…’It was in 1977 that Telarc was founded, and things started going in the direction that we find ourselves today. Back then, as you may recall, Doug Sax was leading the direct-to-disc revolution. Sheffield Labs was going great guns; it was obvious that was what audiophiles wanted. So we decided we’d do them one better and make a direct-to-disc recording with a major orchestra. We approached Lorin Maazel at the Cleveland Orchestra, and he said, “Well, I’m an adventuresome person, let’s do it.” The LP was the rather cleverly titled Direct from Cleveland and it was a three-way collaboration between us and Bruce Maier, the founder of Discwasher, and Glen Glancy, who owned a record company in California at the time….’

Read on here.



  • For clarity, the recording you are referencing, Norman, is not digital, but direct to disc. No magnetic tape at all, just the microphones fed direct to the cutting lathe. Telarc did indeed make the first digital recording of an orchestra, but I am certain it was either “The Firebird” with Shaw and Atlanta, or the “1812” with Kunzel and Cincinnati. The Maazel / Cleveland “Pictures at an Exhibition” followed soon after. And it’s still a stunning, over the top performance. Maazel also called Renner in to engineer his “Turandot” at the Vienna Opera for CBS. A great engineer, Jack Renner. He and his partner Robert Woods set a very high bar in the digital era, and all the other labels had to follow. A final foot note: as I understand it, Jack and Bob played a significant role in the gradual elimination of the RIAA “curve” standardized on vinyl records. I think they just ignored it in the interest of better sound. A story worth investigating.

    • Pete says:

      The first digital recording of a major orchestra was Firebird Suite and Polovetsian Dances, with Shaw/Atlanta, for Telarc. It still sounds terrific.

  • David Hyslop says:

    Worked with Jack during my St. Louis Symphony years. He was a big talent and fine person.

  • I was indeed privileged to have Jack Renner to record my debut album (LP!) on Telarc 5025 (“Music of Karol Szymanowski”), followed by Telarc 5033 (Sonatas by Bela Bartok and Karol Szymanowski). RIP.

  • Charles Turner says:

    Wonderful man. With his experiences with orchestras and conductors, he could have written a popular book. In the early days, before his recording of the Cleveland Winds (his first?) he recorded a session (in Detroit) for vinyl (the 2 1/2 in. tape) and for digital. At that time, the conductor preferred the vinyl.

  • Tamino says:

    “Doug Sax was leading the direct-to-disc revolution…“

    No revolution. A small renaissance at best.

  • Stan Goodall ex Decca says:

    I met Jack when he visited our London sessions and also he was very kind to us when we recorded in Cleveland.
    sadly missed.