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The BSO, Kissin Recording That Never Was

Posted by Geoff Edgers  April 13, 2008 06:29 PM

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Only a little over a year ago, EMI Classics announced it had signed Russian pianist Evgeny Kissin to a recording contract. Trouble is, a couple months later there was more news involving EMI. A private equity firm took over the company.

How does this impact you, o loyal Boston music lover?

Perhaps, the other night, you wondered why the Boston Symphony Orchestra played a program that, as Globe critic Jeremy Eichler described it, provided a "nagging feeling of déjà vu." As Eichler wrote, "the orchestra played every note of this music just last season, and in fact, this week's final two concerts feature the exact same pairing of works that Bernard Haitink conducted last April and May in Symphony Hall. This is hard to justify, at least on artistic grounds."

Turns out there is an explanation. When the season was planned, the Kissin dates were meant to be recorded for an EMI release. But on April 1, the company sent the BSO a letter explaining that due to the takeover, it will not be recording the performances.

At that point, the BSO felt it couldn't change the program.

"All four concerts were sold out," says Mark Volpe, the BSO's managing director. "Obviously conductors get sick, artists get sick, but if you have a healthy pianist and you’ve advertised this, you can’t go back. That wouldn’t be right.”

Volpe said he wasn't surprised by the EMI pullout. Once the private equity guys took over, he said, the rules changed. A recording needs to make a profit and that's not likely for a Kissin release.

To that end, Volpe revealed that the BSO is likely to put out its first self-release of the James Levine-era later this summer or in the fall. (The BSO isn't counting "Neruda Songs" as a regular release.) The organization plans to use the same model as with its self-released Pops recordings.

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About Exhibitionist Geoff Edgers covers arts news for The Boston Globe..
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