5 Questions to James Ginsburg (Cedille Records)

Did you know that September is Classical Music month? It was introduced by Bill Clinton 22 years ago and, as we were talking with our friends at Naxos, we decided to revive it a bit.

But instead of focusing on performers, composers or conductors, we decided to focus on labels and their owners/presidents. As a result, we will publish an interview and offer a giveaway every week in September. We begin with James Ginsburg, president of Cedille Records.

Could you introduce your label to our readers? When was it founded? What was the impetus?

Founded in 1989, Cedille Records is Chicago’s classical record label. We’re not-for-profit with a mission of documenting the work of Chicago’s finest classical musicians and using the recordings to promote their careers and reputations. The impetus for starting the label was that I heard all these wonderful Chicago performers on live radio broadcasts and concerts but when I looked for their recordings, there were none to be found. So I decided to do something about it.

How much of your catalog focuses on new music?

About half of our catalog features new music.

Below: Third Coast Percussion’s Steve Reich, 2016 label debut

What are the qualities your look for in artists  (composers, performers, conductors) you decide to feature?

In addition to exemplary artistry, we look for artists with really interesting programming ideas. These often feature new music and/or combining well-known and less well-known repertoire in unique ways.

What is your biggest challenge as a classical label in the early 21st century and how do you approach it?

The shifting consumption pattern of listeners from purchasing to streaming is a major challenge right now. The key is having artists willing to engage with us on social media to promote their music and get people to stream it as well as buy it.

I heard all these wonderful Chicago performers … but when I looked for their recordings, there were none to be found. So I decided to do something about it.

James Ginsburg

What’s next for the label? What are you excited about (a release, a new technology, etc.)?

2016 has been a great year for new music releases for Cedille, including the label debut of Third Coast Percussion (playing Steve Reich), a spectacular new album by Eighth Blackbird (Hand Eye), deeply personal projects by the Cavatina Duo (Sephardic Journey) and Lincoln Trio (Trios from Our Homelands), and a truly unique collaboration between Chicago’s Fifth House Ensemble and the Israeli folk band Baladino (Nedudim).

This fall we are excited about the release of violinist Jennifer Koh‘s Complete Tchaikovsky Violin and Orchestra music (Jennifer won the top prize at the 1994 Tchaikovsky Competition at the age of 17), the label debut of the amazing young Dover Quartet (an all-Mozart tribute to their mentors at Curtis: the Guarneri Quartet), and an album devoted to music by Chicago composer Mischa Zupko.