Today, the Florida Orchestra has a brand new major label recording on iTunes and other online sites, just a download away from a potentially vast audience.
For a symphony orchestra, nothing tops a successful recording in getting its name out beyond its local audience. The orchestra is hoping to make an impact with the release of works by Frederick Delius, an English composer with Florida ties, on a CD for Naxos, one of the world's largest classical record labels.
"That Naxos was excited to start recording with us is a statement about the caliber of the orchestra," president Michael Pastreich said. "As a CEO, it is sometimes hard for me to quantify our artistic standards. Now we have a strong indicator how our artistic product continues to grow."
Two works by Delius are on the disc: Appalachia and Sea Drift, both featuring the orchestra, the Master Chorale of Tampa Bay and baritone Leon Williams, with then music director Stefan Sanderling conducting. They were recorded during two concerts in a Delius festival in January at Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg.
In the past, the orchestra has self-produced albums, and it was recorded in 1997 by the small Azica label in Leonard Bernstein's Symphonic Dances from West Side Story and other works during Jahja Ling's tenure as music director. But the Delius CD is bound to be its most high-profile recording.
This year is the 150th anniversary of Delius' birth, and the British music press is likely to pay attention to the recording of Appalachia and Sea Drift, which have not been paired on the same recording in more than 30 years. Appalachia in particular should be of interest, because it has not been recorded much, and it vividly reflects the influence that African-American slave songs had on the composer, who found his musical voice when he was sent by his father to work on an orange plantation below Jacksonville in 1884.
After the Delius festival, the Cleveland-based producer, Thomas Moore, spliced together the best music from the two concerts plus a "patch" session into a master version.
It was then edited with input from Sanderling and James K. Bass, artistic director of the Master Chorale.
Sanderling had final approval over the recording from the orchestra's standpoint. "He was absolutely the one person in the world we trusted with a decision like that," Pastreich said. In July, Sanderling announced that he was departing as music director some two years sooner than planned.
Naxos is a rare success story in the troubled recording business, and especially the classical music side of it. Founded in 1987 by entrepreneur Klaus Heymann and headquartered in Hong Kong, the company releases about 300 classical recordings a year and has a catalog of more than 7,000 titles. It has 19 Grammy Awards. In the United States, the label has featured several regional orchestras in numerous recordings, including those in Baltimore, Buffalo, N.Y., Denver and Nashville, Tenn., where the company has a distribution center.
Classical recordings tend to sell in quantities of hundreds and thousands, not the millions of a hit pop recording. The orchestra hopes to make a little money by selling discs at concerts for $20 apiece. The CD is being sold for less by online retailers. For instance, it's $7.99 to download the album on iTunes.
Bass thinks the Delius recording could be significant for arts in the Tampa Bay area, especially if it draws positive reviews and even a Grammy nomination.
"The Florida Orchestra has had some significant performances in the past, but we haven't had the national exposure because we don't record," he said. "If you don't record, you don't have a chance to make a national impact, you just don't. So now we have an opportunity, perhaps, to get people to look at what we're doing here. You can't put a dollar amount on that and what it might parlay into future projects for the Florida Orchestra and Master Chorale."
John Fleming can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8716.