Choose artist...

Top 10 for Sep

San Francisco Conservatory of Music adds a record label to its portfolio / San Francisco Chronicle

Bookmark and Share

San Francisco Chronicle's Joshua Kosman writes….The San Francisco Conservatory of Music has acquired the classical record label Pentatone Music, in a move designed to make it easier for the school’s students and affiliated artists to create and release high-quality digital recordings.

The deal, announced Monday, May 9, marks the Conservatory’s second high-profile corporate acquisition in less than two years. In October 2020, the school reached a financial arrangement to take over the management firm Opus 3 Artists.

The new three-way partnership, according to Conservatory President David H. Stull, should lower the production costs for a variety of recording projects that would otherwise struggle to turn a profit.

“We know that classical labels are having a hard time financially, because of their overhead,” he told The Chronicle. “But we have top talent available, and with our recording facilities we have the ability to produce recordings that wouldn’t get done if they had to go through the standard matrix.

“Suddenly artists have a platform to workshop new musical projects. Our students have the opportunity to work for a major label or management company. The synergies become real.”

Like the earlier deal, the acquisition of Pentatone, which is based in Baarn, Netherlands, was made possible by a gift from an anonymous donor. Stull would not divulge the size of the gift, nor would he comment on whether the donor was the same one who had supported the acquisition of Opus 3.

The inaugural recording to emerge from the partnership will be a performance by the National Brass Ensemble, conducted by San Francisco Opera Music Director Eun Sun Kim. Included in the release will be the premiere of a piece by San Francisco composer Jonathan Bingham, one of the inaugural winners of the Emerging Black Composers Project, a joint initiative by the Conservatory and the San Francisco Symphony.

Pentatone, founded in 2001, is known for the technical sophistication and artistic ambition of its releases. They include recordings by such international figures as pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard, tenors Ian Bostridge and Piotr Beczala, cellist Alisa Weilerstein, and conductor Marek Janowski.

The label has released Grammy-winning recordings of John Corigliano’s opera “The Ghosts of Versailles,” and “The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs,” a San Francisco Opera co-commission by Bay Area composer Mason Bates. Like Opus 3, Pentatone will continue to operate as an independent company.

“The team at Pentatone is excited for the potential that comes with a profound partnership with SFCM and the constituent companies of its larger organization,” Managing Director Sean Hickey said in a written statement.

Stull said that the Conservatory’s three-way arrangement represented the major component of an organizational model that would continue to grow and develop over the coming years.

“We in the musical world need to continue to rethink how our economic structures function,” he said. “We’re not immune to the economic realities that other kinds of business face.

“It’s not the music that’s the problem — everybody loves the music. It’s the structures that contain it that have become antiquated.”

Photo: Matt Washburn / S.F. Conservatory of Music

SEE San Francisco Chronicle PAGE