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Decca Records' legendary producer Christopher Raeburn

and sound engineer James Lock have died

 

© Press release, 21 February 2009

 

Two of the towering giants of the classical recording world have died within a week of each other. Christopher Raeburn and Jimmy Lock worked for The Decca Record Company (both as full-time employees and as freelancers) for a combined total of just under 100 years.

Both Raeburn and Lock played crucial roles in some of the greatest recordings ever made, none of which have ever left the catalogue and are still considered benchmarks by which all others following are judged.

They were instrumental in forming what became the celebrated ‘Decca Sound’ which among its many qualities was a striving to capture the unique sound of an orchestra by recording them in their own concert hall rather than in a recording studio.

Among the many recordings they worked on together are Joan Sutherland & Luciano Pavarotti’s La Fille du Regiment; Herbert von Karajan’s Madama Butterfly with Pavarotti & Mirella Freni; Sutherland’s second Lucia di Lammermoor and the culmination of Solti’s series of Strauss opera recordings the multi-award winning Die Frau ohne Schatten.

Christopher Roberts, President Classics & Jazz, Universal Music Group International commented:

“Christopher and James’ legacies are incalculable as both worked for decades on hundreds of recordings that will always be listened to and enjoyed by millions of people. Their work for Decca will live on, as will the work they did for so many musicians and musical organisations all of whom found their guidance and support invaluable. Everyone at Decca is committed to producing great recordings for future generations and in so doing will honour their memory and contribution to the company. Our thoughts and condolences go out to both families at this time.”

 
  Christopher Raeburn

Christopher Raeburn first joined The Decca Record Company in 1954 and after a period researching in Vienna rejoined the company full-time in 1958, where he remained until 1991 after which he continued to work as a freelance producer.

The list of artists and recordings that Christopher worked on are too numerous to list and include collaborations with most of the great musicians of the post-war era. Being initially based in Vienna, Christopher worked on all the recordings Decca was then making with the Vienna Philharmonic, including the first ever studio recording of Wagner’s Ring Cycle with Sir Georg Solti. He developed close relationships with many artists, not least Pavarotti, Sutherland, András Schiff, Kyung Wha Chung, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Marilyn Horne and Radu Lupu. Christopher was also the producer of the original Three Tenors concert, the best selling classical CD of all time with sales of over 13 million albums and videos worldwide.

Christopher was also celebrated during his lifetime for the help and support he gave young musicians, often out of the public eye. Among those he’s most associated with are Cecilia Bartoli and Angelika Kirchschlager. His bond with Bartoli was particularly close and he played a vital role in developing both her performing and recording career. As Christopher produced almost all of her recordings it’s particularly fitting that the last recording he made was Bartoli’s Maria disc that was an homage to Maria Malibran, a singer Christopher introduced to Bartoli.

Mirella Freni spoke yesterday for many musicians:

"I have been fortunate to know Christopher Raeburn as one of the finest recording producers in classical music and, more, to have counted him as a personal friend. I doubt there has been anyone with a better set of ears, a more total dedication to music and the gift to speak so constructively and honestly with artists."

Christopher was deeply valued as a friend by many who treasured his loyalty, generosity of spirit, vast knowledge and range of enthusiasms that included fine art, the theatre and collecting antiques. He wore his considerable knowledge of these areas lightly and never made anyone feel inadequate in the face of his always superior knowledge.

Among the many awards he received during his lifetime he particularly treasured being the first non-conductor to receive the Vienna Philharmonic’s Schalk Medallion.

 
  James Lock

James Lock, known to everyone as Jimmy, worked for Decca from 1963 – 1999, initially as a recording engineer and then subsequently as Chief Engineer, Manager and Executive Sound Consultant. In his long and extraordinary career James worked with nearly every internationally famous singer, conductor and musical organization from Thomas Beecham onwards.

Among the hundreds of great recordings James worked on are: Solti’s Carmen, Die Frau ohne Schatten, Lohengrin, Otello, Rosenkavalier; Karajan’s Boris Godunov, La Bohème (with Pavarotti and Freni); Crespin’s Les Nuits d’Eté, Sutherland’s Norma, Les Contes d’Hoffman (with Domingo) Turandot (with Pavarotti) and Pavarotti’s very first recording.

Like Christopher, Lock was devoted to the artists he worked with and such devotion was returned by those artists who valued and trusted his judgment entirely. Not only was James armed with his unique ability to combine the musical and the technical, but his infectious warm friendly charm guided many a fearful artist through the recording process.

Joan Sutherland spoke for many artists when she said:

"He was brilliant, able to capture our sound as if we were on stage giving a live performance".

Decades of staff at Decca saw James as a mentor who was endlessly generous with his time and through his example and infectious enthusiasm for the recording world set standards that they could only strive to match. Among the many who regarded James as a close friend, Valerie Solti has written on Gramophone’s website of how:

“He was loved and admired by all the artists who worked with him, he was a magician, a genius who had the talent and passion to reproduce musical performance with total integrity.”

As well as his work for Decca, James was in demand around the world advising numerous venues on acoustics, such as the new opera house in Valencia and the renovations of Orchestra Hall in Chicago and Severance Hall in Cleveland. He was equally successful as a consultant responsible for the sound systems for live performances in the open-air, not least for those given by the Three Tenors, Menotti’s Spoleto Festival and international tours by La Scala. For many years James was Pavarotti’s personal engineer and sound consultant for all of his stadium concerts. The technical demands of ensuring great sound in a huge range of stadiums and venues around the world didn’t faze James’ peerless skills and expertise where he aimed to transform a stadium PA rig into a gigantic Hi-Fi system, thus providing the audience with the armchair listening experience that the discerning Decca Records music lovers had come to expect.

Click here for an interview with James Lock: The Work, the Performance and then the Sound. Jimmy Lock remembered.


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