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 Recording of the Week  Brilliant Classics

One label that is really benefiting from the current economic downturn is the Dutch label Brilliant Classics. They are renowned for licensing and reissuing many important recordings from other labels, as well as a number of previously unreleased recordings from the former Soviet Union. From the perspective of labels like EMI and DG, licensing their recordings to Brilliant is easy money for virtually no work, while from a music lover’s perspective it means there are some fantastic recordings available at very cheap prices. Not infrequently Brilliant Classics are even making recordings available that would otherwise be deleted, so while a few people still argue that they’re cheapening the value of classical music, it is hard not to celebrate the work that they do.

Rostropovich and Oistrakh
Rostropovich and Oistrakh

Brilliant Classics began life as a pharmacy CD label in The Netherlands thirteen years ago. The CDs were initially exclusive to the chain whose 600 outlets were frequented by a clientele not known for venturing into record shops. Starting with Vivaldi's Four Seasons and Bach's Brandenburg Concertos, Brilliant kept the range small but brought out new CDs every two weeks which encouraged customers to keep pace with the collection. It was a fantastic idea – marketing classical music to a new audience and by all accounts selling in quite phenomenal numbers.

Once established, the label soon embraced the traditional record shop outlets as well and now, with a catalogue of about 800 titles, releases some of the best value sets on the market. They licence recordings from majors and independents, and also record over 50 hours of repertoire a year themselves (primarily from fairly unknown Dutch artists, but sometimes including a few real gems). They have also become particularly known for their Complete Editions (firstly Mozart and Bach and more recently Beethoven, Haydn, Brahms, Rachmaninov, etc.) and their Historic Russian Archive Edition that now numbers twenty titles and contains many outstanding recordings from the archives of the Soviet broadcasting company, including virtually every great Russian musician of the twentieth century.

I thought they were particularly worth a mention this week as they have had some really strong releases recently and we’ve also just started a 20% off special offer on the label which makes them even more outstanding value than usual.


Browse Brilliant Classics Special Offer: