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ICA Classics… unlocking the archives


  • ICA Classics… unlocking the archives

The objective of ICA's audio label is to unlock the broadcast archives held around the world by the major radio stations and follows on from its famous predecessor BBC Legends established in the late 1990s. So for the past few years, ICA Classics has re-enforced it's connection with the BBC in London but also with the WDR in Cologne, SWR in Stuttgart as well as a whole host of national and private archives, the most important being the British Library and Music Preserved in York. At least several more archives will be added in early 2014 and in every case, the broadcasts will be released for the first time.


Some of the great broadcasts made by the BBC are not in their archives. So when a broadcast is not found at the BBC, there is always a chance that the British Library or Music Preserved, in addition to some important private collectors, will provide an alternative source. For example, the great German conductor, Rudolf Kempe, stood in for an ailing Bruno Walter in 1957 and took over the BBC Symphony Orchestra's concert consisting of Mahler's Symphony No.4. This very rare recording - Kempe never recorded it commercially - will be released in November but it was not sourced from the BBC's own archive or from the British Library or even from private collectors and even though it was listed with Music Preserved, it was not to be found there. Instead it was located by chance in a small archive quite close to the Thames embankment in London! 

Charles Munch signing autographs

Similarly, the British Library had the tape of the Emil Gilels recital at Abbotsholme School, a very rare broadcast. ICA Classics released the CD in September 2013. If the recording is not directly accessed from the original broadcaster, then the sound has to be of the highest standard given the age of the recording. After that, it is the painstaking professional job of the mastering engineers, Paul Baily, Tony Faulkner and Peter Reynolds in the UK, Dirk Franken with WDR Cologne and Andreas Priemer with SWR Stuttgart to restore the recording to it’s full glory. ICA Classics is proud of releasing these great recordings of the past with some of the greatest artists of the 20th Century but also of returning these performances to their respective archives for re-broadcasting and for posterity.

Charles Munch rehearses with the Boston Symphony Orchestra

On the visual side, ICA Classics enjoys an exclusive partnership with the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Boston public broadcaster WGBH for the release of audiovisual material on DVD, meaning these valuable performances featuring Charles Munch, Eric Leinsdorf, William Steinberg and Klaus Tennstedt are made available on DVD for the first time.

This material represents some of the earliest televised concerts with the Boston Symphony and is of exceptional musical interest and historic importance, in each case being expertly restored using state-of-the-art techniques.

Television broadcasting of the Boston Symphony Orchestra from Symphony Hall began in 1949 with an NBC radio and television special and continued on a more regular basis in 1955, when a BSO concert from Kresge Auditorium at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology was telecast over WGBH Channel 2 in Boston.

From 1957 through 1979, more than 175 Boston Symphony Orchestra concerts were produced in conjunction with WGBH-TV for distribution to public television stations. Originally recorded on two-inch videotape and 16mm kinescopes, a collection of more than 100 of these programs now resides jointly in the Boston Symphony Orchestra archives and at WGBH, and are considered to be among the most comprehensive collections of archived symphony film and video in the country. Until now, with few exceptions, these programs have remained virtually inaccessible to researchers and enthusiasts because of the fragile condition and deterioration of the original materials. The partnership between the BSO, WGBH, and ICA Classics has ensured the preservation of many of the BSO historic videos, though additional funding is still needed to preserve the complete collection.