Mark Levinson Leaves Cello, Forms New Company

High-end audio legend Mark Levinson has departed Cello Film and Music Systems, the company he founded 15 years ago, and has formed a new business, Red Rose Music. The new company will break all performance barriers with both affordable and cost-no-object audio equipment, Levinson stated last week, and is already registered as a new business with the state of New York.

The Red Rose sales staff is concentrating on completing a backlog of home-theater and high-resolution music-system installations, and a new line of products is in development, Levinson said. He is particularly proud of the quality of the creative custom installation work being done by Red Rose, including special speaker systems designed for such diverse applications as a formal library room, a "party" system with natural sound at disco levels, and a theater system for a major filmmaker.

A prototype loudspeaker that Levinson hopes to market under the Red Rose banner offers "an unprecedented sense of ease and naturalism," he said. "This design is unbelievably easy to drive. You can hear everything the musicians are doing. It's much more like real music, with air and space. We are going to give the world something really special: six-figure performance for $10,000---something that will melt the hearts of music lovers everywhere."

Levinson first attained fame in audio circles back in the early 1970s with advanced electronics designs marketed by Mark Levinson Audio Systems, which later became part of Madrigal---a company that still manufactures ultra-high-quality audio equipment bearing the Mark Levinson name. Cello, his next venture, is another name synonymous with "the best at any price."

A musician and recording engineer noted for his extremely transparent recordings, Levinson has recently been involved with the Stradivarius Society, a philanthropical organization whose members buy rare (and very expensive) violins and loan them out to young musicians who show exceptional promise. The Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibited a collection of these rare violins a few years ago, from which Geoff Fushi, a society member, produced a beautiful and richly designed book on great violins in history. Levinson spent two days recording Elmar Olivera performing on 28 of these instruments, a CD of which will be included with the book.

"Other violinists turned down this opportunity," Levinson mentioned. "They told Geoff it was just too hard. Elmar just poured himself into the project with no fear, no ego, no complaints. He was easy to work with and set the standards for pace, commitment, and total focus for the rest of us to live up to. His wife arrived the first day, concerned about the sonic quality of the recordings. When we gave her the Stax headphones, she got tears in her eyes and hugged Elmar, saying it was the first time she had heard his sound on a recording."

Levinson's goals for his new enterprise are both lofty and mundane. Among them are truly affordable high-performance audio products, a new retail space, and a dynamic website. Farther down the road are more recordings, and philanthropical projects to raise substantial funds for battered women's and children's relief.

For Levinson, everything's coming up . . . well, roses. "Life couldn't be better," he remarked from his home on Long Island. Early in September, he married actress Kim Cattrall in a small private ceremony in East Hampton---an affair attended by his daughter, Amber; his mother, Maria; and the family's assorted dogs and cats. "Our big boy cat Giacomo decided to boycott the wedding," he laughed. "We still don't know why."

A toll-free number for Red Rose Music, 877-RRMUSIC, should be active soon.

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