ArkivMusic Resurrects Out-of-Print Warner Classics Titles

ArkivMusic.com has just signed a deal with Warner Classics to reissue, on demand, out-of-print recordings from Teldec, Erato, and Warner Classics. The site's first 300 offerings from the Warner USA catalog, available at the end of October, will join the more than 4000 other out-of-print titles from EMI, Sony/BMG, Universal Music Group, and two dozen independent classical music labels now available on demand from ArkivMusic on ArkivCD. An additional 1000 ArkivCD reissue titles should become available by the end of 2007.

To someone who hasn't visited the classical-music department of a major record store since well before Tower Records folded, it's shocking to discover just how many prime classical recordings have fallen out of print. Unavailable until ArkivMusic signed the contract with Warner were: much-lauded Bach recordings by Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Ton Koopman, and John Eliot Gardiner; William Christie's period-instrument Die Zauberflöte and Vivaldi's Orlando Furioso highlights with Marilyn Horne; Yvonne Loriod's definitive Messiaen; Rameau conducted by Raymond Leppard and Nicholas McGegan; recitals by Sumi Jo, Jennifer Larmore, Teresa Berganza, Rudolf Buchbinder, Frederica von Stade, and Cyprien Katsaris; and conducting gems from Daniel Barenboim, Marc Minkowski, Kurt Masur, Zubin Mehta, James Conlon, Armin Jordan, Mstislav Rostropovich, and Kent Nagano.

ArkivMusic has taken a further step forward by finding a way to accompany its ArkivCD reissues of out-of-print titles with copies of CD booklets of all sizes, including opera libretti numbering 200 or more pages. In addition to the new availability of Jennifer Larmore's La Cenerentola (Teldec), such classic recordings as Beverly Sills's Thaïs, Renata Tebaldi's La Gioconda, Sutherland and Pavarotti's I Puritani—can you believe that both that classic and Philip Glass's Satyagraha (slated for a Metropolitan Opera revival next April) are out of print?—Leontyne Price's Ariadne auf Naxos, and Gwyneth Jones's Die ägyptische Helena now come complete with booklets. This is especially important in an era when fewer companies are packaging vocal recordings with librettos and translations. Other out-of-print recordings Arkiv has been waiting to release until it could package the libretti, including Kiri Te Kanawa's Arabella and Capriccio and Georg Solti's Fidelio, Don Carlo, and first Die Zauberflöte, are now making their long-awaited reappearances.

"Our business has been on a steady upward trajectory for the last 5.5 years," explains Eric Feidner, president of ArkivMusic. "Our period of accelerated growth has been continuous as traditional retail space has declined. There's not a single dedicated retailer in [New York City] anymore; the only places to go are Barnes & Noble and Borders, where space for classical music is shrinking."

In August, 10% of ArkivMusic.com's sales were in formerly out-of-print recordings released on ArkivCD. The company is adding 100 new ArkivCD titles each month, and by year's end expects to have a total of 5000 available—still only half the number of titles they already have permission to reissue.

"The exciting news is that we're at the point where we have the ability to put out practically anything not currently available from a major label," says Feidner. "A couple of years ago, that seemed impossible. We can also produce packages that are nicer than the packages that come with most new CDs, because printing nice booklets is too expensive.

"There are lots of resurrected titles we're so excited about that we're spreading the word by sending them to radio-station libraries. We've rescued such lost gems as Claudia Arrau's Debussy, Leif Ove Andsnes's Nielsen and Schumann, [Michael Tilson Thomas's] collections of Ruggles, Piston, and Ives, tons of recordings in the EMI British music series, 49 Mercury Living Presence titles, 566 Decca recordings, even Leontyne Price's Les Nuits d'Eté and Hermit Songs. These are truly lost gems."

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