Are classical records having a Covid boom?

Are classical records having a Covid boom?


norman lebrecht

October 20, 2020

In today’s Telegraph, Ivan Hewitt reports a 63 percent inclease in classical downloads and 23 percent in CD sales. Admittely just from one specialist outlet, but the labels confirm revewed interest and they are pumping out new product.

DG, Decca and Sony are getting busy once again, along with smaller labels such as Hyperion.

Without live performance, new records are once again providing a lifeline for music lovers.

Read on here.



  • Gustavo says:

    Sounds more like preparing for cultural and economic separatism post Brexit (that British project).

    Sinfonia da Requiem

    Isn’t it a sad world we live in?

  • Good thing but there’s a thing I don’t understand it’s why there are so few LP in 180g presented by Decca and DG. For exemple I’am waiting for several years a surrender of the box of the Ashkenazy Prokofiev concertos by Decca. They did that for Rachmaninov the result is marvelous. And there are several Mahler or Sibelius symphonies who were not presented in 180g. Or the LP are sold more than 80 dollars or euro! The bigs orchestras like the BPO or the RCO must make an effort!

    • Luca says:

      I hope LPs are better than they were before the blessed CD came along. I have spent 30 happy years without clicky, warped vinyls which had to be dusted regularly, not to speak of concern about the state of the stylus, which one can no longer have checked anywhere.

      • When I’am talking about vinyl I’am not talking about the first editions of the 60’s 70’s early 80’s I’am talking about vinyls of 180g with a better sound quality news sold with blister. Decca and especially Warner (the Previn -Tchaikovsky collection!) have done a fantastic job for that but it’s not enough. And personly I hear the cds and the vynils.

      • Robert Roy says:

        Quite agree, Luca! I kept some of the full price Lps I bought in the 70’s & 80’s for sentimental reasons. The truth is that they were rubbish and I’m talking about full price DG, EMI and DECCA issues! Thin, miss centred and bendy! No wonder the CD was welcomed with open arms. Had these companies been producing the 180g discs in those days then perhaps we wouldn’t have been ripped off buying the same recordings again on cd.

      • Michael Fine says:

        When lp’s are made from digital masters which I produce, the cutting engineer has to roll of the low end and compress the dynamics to fit the limitations of vinyl. I don’t know a single professional producer or engineer who has anything good to say about the medium. When the CD arrived, it was good riddance to noisy lps which deteriorated with each use.

        • Steven J de Mena says:

          Bravo Michael. Agree 100%

          • And I. I am old enough to remember with dismay the LP production procedure, getting 3 test pressings of each BIS production, then having to listen to them, keeping book in the score of every click, pop and recurring noise every turn like a train, comparing the 3 pressings. If noises unique, no problem, just a bad pressing. If identical, then a matrix fault, and production redone, new 3 records, old faults rectified, new ones in their place. etc etc, and we even had access to Direct Metal Mastering. Dynamics were limited, whatever efforts the composer, musician and recording engineer (me) had put down compromised. No wonder that BIS was the first label to fully abandon LPs. Also, there cannot even theoretically be any advantage in releasing an original digital recording on LPs, just, again theoretically, analogue recordings – and who is recording analogue these days, where you have to edit with the old faithful pair of scissors? No, thanks for CDs (when correctly recorded and mastered) and, before all, SACDs.
            Robert von Bahr, BIS Records

        • Fraser says:

          Yes Trevor Horn says CD is the best way to listen and didn’t rate Vinyl on a BBC interview.

        • Julian Faigan says:

          totally agree – the current interest in lps has me baffled…

    • Concertgoer says:

      The Prokofiev cycle isn’t quite as good (as the impeccable VA/AP Rachmaninoff), being marred by a real dull dog of a Second and a sad audible splice before the coda of the Third’s finale, which is then incongruously rushed. That’s probably why.

      • ok interisting. The fact is that there’s so few painists who recorded the 5 concertos especially the 4th and the 5th.

        • Prokofiev fan says:

          VA/AP in the Fourth and Fifth are the best of all, imho! But actually there are several cycles:

          Browning/Leinsdorf (Nos. 1 and 2: Dec. 1-8, 1965; No. 3: Nov. 25-27, 1967; No. 4: Nov. 27, 1967; and No. 5: April 25, 1969), Béroff/Masur (all: Jan. 2-7 and Feb. 24-27, 1974), Ashkenazy/Previn (Nos. 1 and 3: Jan. 28-29, 1974; No. 2: Sept. 30 to Oct. 2, 1974; No. 4: April 25, 1975; and No. 5: Dec. 9, 1974), Tacchino/de Froment (No. 1: 1973; Nos. 2 and 3: 1972; and Nos. 4 and 5: 1977), Krainev/Kitaenko (Moscow; Nos. 1 and 2: 1976; No. 3: 1981; and Nos. 4 and 5: 1983), Postnikova/Rozhdestvensky (No. 2: 1983; Nos. 1, 3 and 4: 1985; and No. 5: 1987), Paik/Wit (all: May 13-18, 1991), Krainev/Kitaenko (Frankfurt; Nos. 1 and 3: Jan. 1991; No. 2: Jan. 1992; No. 4: May 1992; and No. 5: May and Aug. 1992), Bronfman/Mehta (Nos. 1, 3 and 5: Oct. 14-25, 1991; and Nos. 2 and 4: July 8-17, 1993), Demidenko/Lazarev (Nos. 2 and 3: Dec. 19-20, 1995; and Nos. 1, 4 and 5: Jan. 2-3, 1998), Toradze/Gergiev (No. 1: July 1997; Nos. 2 and 5: July 1-7, 1995; and Nos. 3 and 4: July 1996), Marshev/Willén (all: July 30 to Aug. 10, 2001), El Bacha/Ōno (all live: Sept. 24-26, 2004), and Bavouzet/Noseda (Nos. 1 and 4: Nov. 5, 2012; No. 2: Aug. 8-9, 2013; No. 3: June 29, 2012; and No. 5: Sept. 11, 2013).

  • mary says:

    63% and 23% increase from what?

    didn’t SD report last year that CD sales from some places were less than 10 per week (or month)? 23% increase from 10 is 12.3, that’s 2.3 more CDs per week (or month).

    • Ramesh Nair says:

      I’ve bought at least 500 GBP worth of classical music downloads from British online classical retailers and just in the last 4 months; mainly 24-bit downloads that give better resolution than the 16-bit physical CDs. ( Streaming gives almost no money to classical artists, since a 2 minute song track gives as much revenue as a 30 minute orchestral work ). Since Covid I’m deliberately seeking out younger artists who might benefit from my outlay, so this includes the Doric Quartet- their Haydn Op. 33 ( just out ) and Op.64 sets, their Schubert D887 and Brett Dean disc, the augmented Quatuor Van Kuijk in Mozart K515-6 also just released, the augmented Klenke Qt in Mozart K593&614, only yesterday the splendid Alexandre Tharaud ‘Versailles’ album, 3 albums with Sabine Devieilhe in baroque repertoire; Ibragimova in the Shost violin concerti; and sundry contemporary classical releases from BIS and Naxos ( who are both supporting this niche market more than Punyversal and the other ‘majors’ ).

      • Doc Martin says:

        Downloads suck, no libretto or book of words, I like a physical copy CDs now 24 bit CDs possible.

        • Julian Faigan says:

          Correct – imagine buying a download of some music you don’t know well, and finding no booklet (with its usually well written essay)… I cannot imagine who would spend money in that way…After buying thousands of lps over the years, I welcomed cds in the 1980s as the answer to a prayer… and I now own many thousands of them and hope to continue buying them into the future…

  • Karl says:

    I was thinking now I have time to get and listen to that 55 CD set of classic Andre Previn that came out a couple of years ago. But it was a limited edition and now the only one is listed at $1200 on Amazon!

  • Firing Back says:

    The title of the article says it all
    ‘Crisis, what crisis? How the classical music industry is defying Covid’

    Is Ivan Hewitt awake? (Or a woke?). There’s a huge crisis, and the classical music industry is falling apart.
    A few little ‘scratch’ initiatives, to which he alludes, do not a thriving industry make.

    Wake up, Ivan. Tell the truth.

  • Giles says:

    This is all well and good (and I’ve certainly bought more CDs than normal since the lockdown started) but presumably there will come a point (February 2021?) where the stocks of already recorded material dry up and all the labels can release will be pianists, song recitals and instrumentalists. That’s going to get pretty boring after a while, I’d suggest, and who knows when the next orchestral or choral recording will be possible?

    Presumably the majors will continue issuing their bumper back-catalogue boxes, which appear very popular (especially the Sony/Columbia/RCA ones) but I fear somewhat for the independents.

  • IP says:

    It’s good! Both for shutdown-crazed music lovers and for the artists. I just wish there weren’t so many “concept albums”. Just counting the Labyrinths is an effort.

  • St. Patrick's Aunt says:

    A cursory glance on PrestoCD shows Carry ons 500+ CDs, of these only a mere 14% have awards, (Penguin, Gramophone etc). And of these barely a quarter were ever picked as Building a Library.

    Kleiber, Rattle etc all score higher even though their outputs are less. Just fancy that.

  • Hugh Jarse says:

    Has anyone had much luck fixing jumping CDs?

    When CDs first came out we were told they would work if they were run over by a steam roller or jam was spread on them.

    In fact they have to be treated just a carefully as old records, if one gets even a small scratch it buggers the laser beam completely. I have tried the old trick of toothpaste, vaseline etc, sometime it works, mostly never.