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Special Reports

MA 30 The Innovators: James Ginsburg

December 6, 2016 | By Richard S. Ginell

President, Cedille Chicago

At the time James Ginsburg started Cedille Records in 1989, there had not been a significant Chicago-based classical record label since the heyday of Mercury Living Presence in the 1950s. But unlike Mercury, Cedille, which went non-profit in 1994 under the operating foundation Cedille Chicago, has remained home-grown and Chicago-centric.

Ginsburg trained to be a lawyer (it’s the family profession—his mother is U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg) but dropped out of law school in order to run Cedille full-time. He hasn’t looked back since. He remains committed to giving Chicago artists a platform upon which to record programs of their own choosing, often with repertoire bypassed by the majors. As a non-profit that functions on corporate, foundation, and individual support, the label can take risks in repertoire where commercial companies do not.

Occasionally Cedille records basic repertoire, but usually in tandem with rarer pieces like Rachel Barton Pine’s coupling of the Brahms and Joachim Hungarian violin concertos or Jennifer Koh’s new disc of Tchaikovsky’s complete music for violin and orchestra. Following the example of long-gone independents like Folkways and New World, Cedille never allows its recordings to go out of print; its CDs are distributed by Naxos.

Along with Pine and Koh, Cedille has given other musicians international visibility with projects like the Pacifica Quartet’s complete Shostakovich Quartet cycle (which included couplings by the composer’s Soviet contemporaries) and Eighth Blackbird’s imaginative compilations of new music. Cedille has also provided exposure to Chicago’s “other” noted orchestra, the Grant Park Orchestra and its enterprising Music Director Carlos Kalmar.

“Chicago musicians have a platform that few musicians in other cities can equal,” says Henry Fogel, Dean of the Chicago College of Performing Arts and former CEO of the League of American Orchestras. “To me, this is innovation.”


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