Cedille Records Celebrates Twenty Years

Chicago, Nov. 29, 2009.  Cedille Records, the Grammy Award-winning, internationally distributed classical record label born two decades ago in a student apartment on Chicago's South Side, embarks this month on its 20th anniversary year.

Cedille (pronounced say-DEE) made its debut in November, 1989, with its first CD release, a program of solo piano pieces performed by Chicago-based Soviet émigré pianist Dmitry Paperno. With that initial, small-scale project, Cedille founder James Ginsburg, then 24, launched the first Chicago-based classical record company since the heyday of Mercury Records in the 1950s and 60s.

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.

A point of pride for the label is that its regular music downloads are 256 kbps MP3 files, twice the industry standard for sound quality. What's more, in the coming year, Cedille plans to offer premium-priced CD-quality digital downloads in the lossless FLAC format via its Web site (http://www.cedillerecords.org).  In addition, Cedille recently launched a "free-download-of-the-week" feature on its Web site and released a 20th anniversary sampler CD available free to purchasers of physical Cedille CDs in the U.S. and Canada.

"I'm still pinching myself," Ginsburg says, as 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.

Ginsburg, who left law school in 1992 to tend to the record label full time, comes from a family of prominent attorneys and legal scholars.  His mother, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, is an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. His father, Martin D. Ginsburg, is a noted tax law authority and professor at Georgetown University Law Center. His sister, Jane C. Ginsburg, is a law professor at Columbia University, specializing in intellectual property rights.

From the outset, Ginsburg says his goal was to showcase Chicago's finest musicians in fresh and imaginative programs on audiophile-quality recordings.  The native New Yorker saw in Chicago an abundance of stellar musicians who were ignored by East Coast, West Coast, and European record labels. With the right recording projects, Ginsburg believed he could advance their careers and serve the listening public in equal measure. Cedille would concentrate on attractive, off-the-beaten-path repertoire overlooked by the major labels. Mainstream classical works would show up rarely--and only in the context of innovative programs by artists who have enlightening and compelling interpretations.

Cedille remains Chicago's only free-standing classical label. (The Chicago Symphony Orchestra has its own in-house recording operation.) Could Cedille have gotten off the ground today? Ginsburg has his doubts, mainly because of the difficulty of securing an effective wholesale distributor to sell to retail outlets.  Physical CDs are still a vital part of the classical record business, even as digital downloads have gained in popularity, Ginsburg says. "There are only a few good independent distributors, and they're not likely nowadays to bother with a fledgling classical label with only a couple of discs in its catalog."

Nathan J. Silverman, PR

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John J. Puccio

John J. Puccio

About the Author

Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on The Big John and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor.

Today, I'm retired from teaching and use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.

Mission Statement

It is the goal of Classical Candor to promote the enjoyment of classical music. Other forms of music come and go--minuets, waltzes, ragtime, blues, jazz, bebop, country-western, rock-'n'-roll, heavy metal, rap, and the rest--but classical music has been around for hundreds of years and will continue to be around for hundreds more. It's no accident that every major city in the world has one or more symphony orchestras.

When I was young, I heard it said that only intellectuals could appreciate classical music, that it required dedicated concentration to appreciate. Nonsense. I'm no intellectual, and I've always loved classical music. Anyone who's ever seen and enjoyed Disney's Fantasia or a Looney Tunes cartoon playing Rossini's William Tell Overture or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 can attest to the power and joy of classical music, and that's just about everybody.

So, if Classical Candor can expand one's awareness of classical music and bring more joy to one's life, more power to it. It's done its job.

Contact Information

Readers with polite, courteous, helpful letters may send them to pucciojj@gmail.com.

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa