Decca Records, established in 1929 by Edward Lewis, is a British record label that played a significant role in the development of classical music recording. Its initial foray into the classical genre was modest, especially compared to established labels like HMV and Columbia. However, Decca soon distinguished itself through technological innovations and a commitment to high-quality recordings.
In the realm of classical music, Decca's early efforts included the 1929 recording of Delius's "Sea Drift," part of the Delius Festival that year. Although this early attempt was not a commercial success, it set the stage for future endeavors. Decca's significant breakthrough in classical music recordings came with the introduction of the full frequency range recording (ffrr) technique and the early adoption of stereo recording. These technical advancements were pivotal in enhancing the quality and fidelity of recordings, offering listeners an experience that was closer to live performances.
The recruitment of John Culshaw in 1946 to Decca's London office marked a new era in the recording of opera and classical music. Culshaw revolutionized the process, aiming to create a "theatre of the mind" experience for listeners. He pioneered techniques such as moving singers around in the studio to mimic stage movement, using sound effects, and recording in long continuous takes. This approach transformed the experience of listening to opera recordings, making it more dynamic and immersive.
One of Decca's most notable achievements in the classical genre was the recording of Wagner's "Der Ring des Nibelungen," conducted by Georg Solti. This project, which began in 1958, was both a massive artistic and commercial success. It highlighted Decca's capabilities in sound engineering and innovative recording techniques. Solti's association with Decca was prolific and highly acclaimed, earning numerous awards, including 31 Grammy awards.
Decca's commitment to classical music also extended to new music and contemporary composers between 1973 and 1980, under its Headline imprint. This period saw recorded premieres of works by notable composers like Peter Maxwell Davies and Harrison Birtwistle, showcasing Decca's willingness to explore and promote modern classical compositions.
Through the years, Decca has maintained a robust catalog of classical recordings, featuring performances by renowned artists and orchestras. Its contributions to the field have made it a key player in the classical music recording industry, renowned for its quality recordings and innovative approaches to capturing the essence of classical music.