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Blog » NMC's Anne Rushton

21 Mar  

NMC Recordings, a label whose mission is to bring music by British composers to the widest possible audience, will this month celebrate its 30th birthday. To mark the occasion, we talk with its Executive Director, Anne Rushton, about the label's past present and future.
 

Anna Rushton, NMC

How did NMC Recordings come to be formed? 

Imogen Holst and Colin Matthews (composer, founder and Executive Producer of NMC) set up the Holst Foundation, shortly before Imogen's death in 1984. Imogen had made it clear that the future role should not be to subsidise her father's music in the way that most other composer trusts function. Instead she hoped that it would be able to support the work of living composers and the idea that this might be done via recordings, enabling new work to reach wider audiences, had been mooted. Roll on a few years when The Holst Foundation supported a concert at the Aldeburgh Festival, featuring the Philharmonia conducted by Oliver Knussen. There was an audience of 800 but as the concert wasn't broadcast the Foundation realised that their, not inconsiderable, financial support wasn't having as much impact as it might - and the idea of recordings was revived. NMC's first release, under the auspices of the Society for the Promotion of New Music, of Jonathan Harvey's Bhakti, was in April 1989. 

Why was there such a pressing need for NMC?

There's a perennial challenge for composers in having their work heard. This isn't just for promotional or financial reasons, not that there's anything wrong with those. For most it strikes to the very essence of why they compose; to communicate their creative ideas to those who will listen. And with the inherent limitations (financial and logistical) of putting on new music concerts, recording is the ideal way to ensure that work gets heard, and heard again. Back in the late 80's there were labels which featured occasional contemporary releases, but the representation of living British composers in the record catalogues was very poor: extraordinary to think that, back then, Harrison Birtwistle had only one major recording available (Secret Theatre, now reissued on NMC D148), while Jonathan Harvey had reached the age of 50 without a single significant disc until we released Bhakti. NMC's mission was to redress that underrepresentation and in the process we've become the dedicated home for the work of composers from the British Isles, across a range of styles, chosen and maintained in the catalogue in the face of commercial considerations. 

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