Recording of the Week Channel Classics
Two weeks ago I spent a fantastic day in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, at the 20th anniversary celebrations of the record label Channel Classics. They had hired the main concert venue in the city and had numerous events going on in the afternoon (such as a master-class with violinist Rachel Podger on Bach’s unaccompanied Sonatas and Partitas, and a musical lecture by pianist Dejan Lazic on his piano arrangement of the Brahms Violin Concerto), and a big gala concert in the evening featuring performances from an incredible number of major musicians. I also had a chance to meet and chat with Jared Sacks (the man behind the label) and understand a bit more about how he produces such a stream of superb recordings.
Whilst the major labels in general are continuing to scale back their new recordings, independent labels like Channel Classics seem to be busier and busier, and I was keen to find out their recipe for success. I think in Channel’s case there are really two key ingredients to their success. The first is their founder, director, producer and recording engineer Jared Sacks whose ears and mind are behind everything that the label does; the second is the musicians they record, and specifically the very close relationship between them and the label.
Jared grew up in Boston Massachusetts, and worked as a professional horn player for 15 years before deciding to start Channel Classics in 1990 (incidentally named after the street where he lived in Amsterdam - Kanaalstraat). He has always had a talent for spotting future stars early in their careers and a number of major artists have really benefited from the support and help which Jared and Channel Classics has offered them. This philosophy of working very closely with a select group of great musicians is one of the key elements to the success of the label, and the catalogue boasts artists of true international repute, with people like Rachel Podger, Florilegium and Johannette Zomer all leaders in their fields. The label has also attracted big names away from major labels with conductor Ivan Fischer and his Budapest Festival Orchestra producing a seemingly endless stream of critically acclaimed recordings for the label.
Channel Classics now releases virtually everything in Hybrid SACD format. I know that not all readers will be aware of the benefits of SACD and if you’re happy with normal CDs then fine (as all Hybrid SACDs also work on normal CD players), but the ‘best possible natural sound’ is a cornerstone in Channel’s philosophy and SACD is a definite improvement on CD so I thought I should at least mention it here. SACD players are still manufactured, and if you choose to invest in one (and preferably also the extra speakers), you will enjoy a noticeably better sound.
Looking at Channel’s future release schedule I’ve spotted a number of mouth-watering discs due out later in the year. Of particular note are a recording of Beethoven 4 and 6 with Ivan Fischer and his Budapest Festival Orchestra (I’ve heard a bit of it and it sounds remarkable) and a long overdue recording of the Bach Violin Concertos from Rachel Podger. Much to look forward to then, as well as much to celebrate over the past twenty years. We’ve just started a special offer on the label where we’re offering 25% off, so there has never been a better time to explore the riches of the Channel Classics catalogue.
Happy birthday Channel Classics!
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