Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Ray Minshull

I only just noticed that the classical record producer Ray Minshull died earlier this year. Minshull was chosen to take over as head of Artists & Repertoire at Decca/London after John Culshaw left in 1967, and he remained in that job until his retirement in 1994 (a few years after that, Decca, which had already been bought out by PolyGram, was folded into Universal music and no longer really exists as a company with its own identity). He produced hundreds of recordings including the Karajan/Freni/Pavarotti La Boheme, which was once cited as the biggest-selling opera recording ever.

To many fans of classical recording, Decca was the ultimate classical record company -- though they probably made more money off Mantovani or the Rolling Stones -- and their opera recordings, like the Solti Ring, were unique experiences. Minshull himself may not have been the best choice to run things after Culshaw left, though Culshaw put the best face on it in his autobiography. He tended to favor very middle-of-the-road approaches both in performance and sound. But so did all big-label classical recording producers in the '70s through the '90s. That's one of the things that may have eventually killed off the big label, big star approach to classical recording: the proliferation of big-label recordings that had different names on the cover but basically sounded the same.

No comments: