Chandos Records is today one of the leading independent classical music labels – not just in Britain, but internationally – and that is the finest tribute that can be paid to its founder, Brian Couzens, who died this morning following a short illness.
The Colchester-based record label was founded in 1979, and as it grew, Couzen’s instincts in both the musical and business dimensions of running a label proved to be inspired (and boldly followed). This is no better illustrated than when, back in 1986, he was visited by two representatives of the Oslo Philharmonic who asked whether he’d be interested in recording them: he took away a cassette of their recent performance of Tchaikovsky’s Fifth symphony, and promptly set about working with them. The conductor was the then far from household name Mariss Jansons. Other conductors whose extensive recordings for Chandos remain leading choices in the catalogue include Neeme Järvi and Richard Hickox, while artists including Lydia Mordkovitch, Louis Lortie, the Borodin Trio and Raphael Wallfisch were all nurtured by Chandos to the enrichment of listeners then and now.
From the perspective of the industry’s development, Brian’s instincts made Chandos an ‘early adopter’ of digital recording techniques and one of the first independents to sign up to CD, way back in 1983. This Chandos spirit is continued today under the leadership of Brian’s son Ralph by the label’s embracing of downloading as a way of delivering the highest quality sound files to the widest possible audiences, and by the support of some of today’s most impressive artists, including such musicians as conductors Edward Gardner, Sir Andrew Davis and Gianandrea Noseda, pianist Jean-Efflam Bavouzet and violinists James Ehnes and Jennifer Pike.