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When the music stopped

Classical recording did more than just capture musical sound forever—it gave rise to a whole culture of appreciation based on common ownership of records and CDs. That culture is dying as major labels slash recordings and the internet returns music, once more, to the ether

By Norman Lebrecht   March 2007

The history of symphonic recording began in a Berlin box room nine months before the first world war and ended nine decades later, without fanfare or lamentation at either end. The start can be dated more precisely than the end. On 10th November 1913, the celebrated Hungarian conductor Arthur Nikisch took 40 musicians from the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra into a studio operated by the German offshoot of the London-based Gramophone Company, known as Deutsche Grammophon (DG). Arranged around the Edison horn, the musicians performed Beethoven’s 5th, the first credible recording of a complete symphony. Nikisch, a master of the ironically…

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