As the saying goes: what’s in a name?
And the same goes for music, say many experts when talking about the fleeting art of music. That a name can stand for sound is proved by the success story of the global player CBS in two respects. Firstly, a cigar manufacturer by the name of William S. Paley rescued the recently founded broadcasting company by buying up the financially stricken network and expanding it to create the Columbia Broadcasting System. Secondly, the company’s directors were not merely satisfied with being on the air but had the insight to record what they transmitted, thereby making Columbia the largest and most influential recording company in the USA.
Less well known, but all the more commendable, is that the Columbia label was one of the first “majors” to get involved with rock music at the end of the Sixties. But in the field of classical music too the flagship company Columbia made recordings such as had never been heard before, revolutionary musical feats even. Among these are the recordings of the little-known symphonies by Gustav Mahler with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra under Leonard Bernstein, and the groundbreaking, sensational and wonderfully inspiring recording of Bach’s works for keyboard with Glenn Gould, the most genial musician of the century. Further keyboard maestros who recorded for the label include the then young piano virtuoso Vladimir Horowitz, who set down for posterity his transparent and often frightening technical prowess, and Rudolf Serkin, whose highly inspirational and effortless technique was heard at the Marlboro Festival year for year.
Despite intensive digital exploitation, it is rather surprising that this excellent catalogue is seldom to be found on the analogue shelves. With a selection of superb recordings from the CBS repertoire, Speakers Corner now makes a significant contribution to change this situation.