In 1897 the Gramophone Company began trading in London, intending to establish a European market for the gramophone and its flat disc records which Emile Berliner had invented and patented in the USA some ten years earlier. Initially the Company's catalogue consisted mainly of songs by music hall artists, brass band recordings and other popular material, but in 1902 a rising young opera star, Enrico Caruso, recorded ten arias in a hotel room in Milan, and thereby helped to establish the gramophone as a serious medium for classical music. The Gramophone Company flourished, selling both classical and popular recordings throughout the whole of Europe as well as Australia, India and other parts of the old British Empire.
In November 1931 EMI opened the world's first purpose-built recording studio complex in North London at 3 Abbey Road, which remains to this day the centre of EMI's recording and post-production work. Throughout the 1930s the record business gradually picked up, with classical artists like violinist Yehudi Menuhin and tenor Beniamino Gigli giving significant support to EMI's recovery. After a further major setback caused by the Second World War, the Company revived its classical catalogue with major new stars like Herbert von Karajan and Maria Callas, and hired a number of talented producers, including George Martin, to strengthen the pop recording programme.
In recent years EMI has further strengthened its position in the world record market by acquiring a number of other important record companies, including Chrysalis and Virgin, as well as developing its own roster of outstanding acts. Today EMI is unrivalled both for the richness of its past heritage and for the strength of its current catalogue featuring many of the world's most successful pop and classical artists.
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