Our friends at Cedille Records, the Grammy Award-winning, Chicago-based classical record label, are about to embark on their 20th year.   Launched two decades ago in a student apartment on Chicago’s South Side by James Ginsburg, then 24, son of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who is a pretty prominent lawyer in Washington, DC,  Cedille (that’s say-DEE to you) made its debut in November 1989 with its first CD release, a program of solo piano pieces performed by Chicago-based Soviet emigre pianist Dmitry Paperno.

Since then, Cedille’s catalog, which features world-class musicians in and from the Chicago area, has grown and diversified, while attracting critical accolades, an international clientele, and praise from its artists.  Cedille has 115 principal CD titles ranging from solo keyboard works to complete symphonies and operas. These include world-premiere recordings and CD premieres of important compositions, plus the commercial recording debuts of some celebrated artists.

Among the label’s major contributions to the world’s CD catalog are its recordings of Gian Carlo Menotti’s opera “The Medium” (the only available recording of the work at the time of its release) and world-premiere recording of Robert Kurka’s opera “The Good Soldier Schweik,” both with Chicago Opera Theater; the world premiere recording of Easley Blackwood’s Fifth Symphony with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra conducted by James DePreist, paired with his First Symphony performed by the Boston Symphony Orchestra conducted by Charles Munch (originally released on RCA Records); the world-premiere recording of Franz Clement’s 1805 Violin Concerto, paired with Beethoven’s concerto, with violinist Pine and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by José Serebrier; two discs of orchestral music by Chicago composer Leo Sowerby (1895-1968), with Paul Freeman leading the Czech National Symphony Orchestra and Chicago Sinfonietta; the three-disc African Heritage Symphonic Series of orchestral works by black composers, with maestro Freeman and the Chicago Sinfonietta;  the complete Mendelssohn string quartets with the Pacifica Quartet; a disc of David Diamond’s chamber music with the Chicago Chamber Musicians; and “Oppens Plays Carter,” the newest and only fully complete survey of Elliott Carter’s solo piano music, performed by Ursula Oppens, and just nominated for a Grammy Award.

“I’m still pinching myself,” Ginsburg says, surprised as anyone that the entrepreneurial sideline he launched as a first-year law student at the University of Chicago would evolve into a record label of international distinction — and that his life’s work would be as a classical record producer and label impresario rather than a lawyer. Ginsburg, now 44 and president of the label, also continues to produce most of its CDs.

Cedille’s pipeline for the first quarter of 2010 include the recording debut of Baroque Band, Chicago’s new period-instrument ensemble, in works by Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber; the world-premiere recording of Beethoven’s recently discovered Piano Trio in E-flat, Hess 47, with the Beethoven Project Trio, which gave the world-premiere performance earlier this year in Chicago; and “Dances & Dreams: Music from the Balkans,” the label’s second project with the Cavatina Duo (flutist Eugenia Moliner and guitarist Denis Azabagic).

Also scheduled for 2010 are CDs of Russian cello music with cellist Wendy Warner and pianist Irina Nuzova; flute fantasies with Chicago Symphony Orchestra principal flutist Mathieu Dufour and pianist Kuang-Hao Huang; “Capricho Latino,” solo violin works with a Latin flavor with violinist Rachel Barton Pine; duo-piano works by Debussy and Messaien with pianists Ursula Oppens and Jerome Lowenthal; chamber and vocal music by Stacy Garrop; and a song cycle by Stephen Mackey, performed by eighth blackbird and actor/singer Rinde Eckert, with Mackey on electric guitar.

eighth blackbird, which made its commercial recording debut on Cedille, has four CDs on the label including “strange imaginary animals,” winner of the 2008 Grammy Award for Best Chamber Music Performance, all produced for Cedille by multiple Grammy Award-winner Judith Sherman, know for her work with the Kronos Quartet.  “String Poetic,” a recording with violinist Jennifer Koh and pianist Reiko Uchida, also produced by Sherman, was nominated for a 2009 Grammy Award in the chamber music category.  Two of the label’s recordings were nominated earlier for Grammy Awards in the category of Best Engineered Classical Recording: “Violin Concertos by Brahms and Joachim,” with violinist Rachel Barton Pine and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Carlos Kalmar; and “Symphonic Works by Robert Kurka,” with the Grant Park Orchestra, also conducted by Kalmar.

We’re delighted to congratulate Cedille on its terrific milestone and thank them for their longtime support of Sequenza21.  I should also point out the James Ginsburg’s father and sister are also prominent lawyers.  His father, Martin D. Ginsburg, is a noted tax law authority and professor at Georgetown University Law Center and his sister, Jane C. Ginsburg, is a law professor at Columbia University, specializing in intellectual property rights. Just not quite as prominent as Mom.

2 Responses to “Happy 20th Birthday, Cedille (as in “say-dee”) Records”
  1. Daniel says:

    Congrats to a great label! I think, however, that Menotti’s Amahl was first released by RCA in 1952, and later re-released on CD (before 1989, I think)

  2. Sean Hickey says:

    Congrats to a fantastic label.

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