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Cedille Records

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Cedille Records Turns 20

Chicago, IL, December 01, 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, has embarked 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.

“I’m still pinching myself,” Ginsburg says, 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.

The new-music sextet eighth blackbird, which made its commercial recording debut on Cedille, has four CDs on the label including "strange imaginary animals," winner of the 2008 Grammy Award for Best Chamber Music Performance, all produced for Cedille by multiple Grammy Award-winner Judith Sherman, known for her work with the Kronos Quartet. "String Poetic," a recording with violinist Jennifer Koh and pianist Reiko Uchida, also produced by Sherman, was nominated for a 2009 Grammy Award in the chamber music category. Two of the label’s recordings were nominated earlier for Grammy Awards in the category of Best Engineered Classical Recording: "Violin Concertos by Brahms and Joachim," with violinist Rachel Barton Pine and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Carlos Kalmar; and "Symphonic Works by Robert Kurka," with the Grant Park Orchestra, also conducted by Kalmar.

Among the label’s significant contributions to the world’s CD catalog are its recordings of Gian Carlo Menotti’s opera "The Medium" (the only available recording of the work at the time of its release) and world-premiere recording of Robert Kurka’s opera "The Good Soldier Schweik," both with Chicago Opera Theater; the world premiere recording of Easley Blackwood’s Fifth Symphony with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra conducted by James DePreist, paired with his First Symphony performed by the Boston Symphony Orchestra conducted by Charles Munch (originally released on RCA Records); the world-premiere recording of Franz Clement’s 1805 Violin Concerto, paired with Beethoven’s concerto, with violinist Pine and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by José Serebrier; two discs of orchestral music by Chicago composer Leo Sowerby (1895–1968), with Paul Freeman leading the Czech National Symphony Orchestra and Chicago Sinfonietta; the three-disc African Heritage Symphonic Series of orchestral works by black composers, with maestro Freeman and the Chicago Sinfonietta; the complete Mendelssohn string quartets with the Pacifica Quartet; a disc of David Diamond’s chamber music with the Chicago Chamber Musicians; and "Oppens Plays Carter," the newest and only fully complete survey of Elliott Carter’s solo piano music, performed by Ursula Oppens.

From the outset, Ginsburg says his goal was to showcase Chicago’s finest musicians in fresh and imaginative programs on audiophile-quality recordings. 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.

Ginsburg’s passion for broadcasting the talents of Chicago artists became Cedille’s official mission when the nonprofit Chicago Classical Recording Foundation, which Ginsburg organized in 1993, assumed financial responsibility for the label in January 1994.

Cedille remains Chicago’s only free-standing classical label (the Chicago Symphony Orchestra has its own in-house recording operation).

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. or Canada.

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Cedille Records
Nat Silverman

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