Below you will find a list of independent record labels.
We have provided a brief description of the music and musicians that factor
most heavily into the catalogue of each company, some of which may be quoted
directly from the company's website. In addition, we have given a rating to
each website (based on ease of use, informational content, general appearance,
search-ability) using a five-star system. In addition, if you see the pound sign
(#) this means that you can also purchase CDs directly from the company's website.
General Search Sites
Arkivmusic.com has possibly the easiest and most efficient way to search for
and purchase the recordings you want. The convenient alphabetical lists under
each category make searching for and comparing recordings simple and quick.
Arkivmusic.com has excellently designed website that makes it a snap to navigate
through their large collection of quality recordings.
Amazon.com Classial Power Search
If you're looking for classical music on Amazon.com, this webpage is the place to start.
Searches often yield many unwanted results but the selection is truly enormous, and many
items are accompanied by careful listener reviews. Also, Amazon.com prices on CDs are lower
than those most other retailers.
Boston Records *** (#)
This record label features recital recordings by some of America's most prominent orchestral musicians.
Boston Records has preserved some of the greatest playing of notable musicians in their prime. Their
catalogue features recital recordings with:
-Alfred Genovese; former Principal Oboe, Boston Symphony Orchestra
-Alex Klein; Principal Oboe, Chicago Symphony Orchestra
-Donald Peck; former Principal Flute, Chicago Symphony Orchestra
-Harold Wright; former Principal Clarinet, Boston Symphony Orchestra
-Anthony Ross; Principal Cello, Minnesota Orchestra
-Philadelphia Woodwind Quintet
And this list just barely scratches the surface of their catalogue with fifty-one titles!
Boston Skyline Records ** (#)
An independent record label with a small catalogue, Boston Skyline Records has some real treats among its collection of thirty-five recordings. Most of their CDs feature recordings resurrected from their original LP versions. Great albums include "Harp Music from France and Spain;" Ralph Kirkpatrick's 1958 recordings of the Bach Partitas for Harpsichord, and pianoforte recordings by the esteemed musicologist Charles Rosen. Also, find collected historic recordings of the New York Woodwind Quintet and Marie-Claire Alain's albums of Handel's Organ Concertos. Again, this is just a sampling of some of the great titles available from Boston Skyline Records.
Bridge Records ** (#)
Bridge Records has a truly vast and eclectic catalogue that focuses mainly on chamber music, solo, and recital compilations. The catalogue is very heavy on twentieth century music, but there are also many recordings of earlier repertoire that has been neglected. (A nice example of such an album is the collection of Glazunov's piano works). Bridge also has features a great variety of historical recordings that are true gems: performances from the Marlboro Music Festival and recordings of the Budapest String Quartet. While this is not a star-studded catalogue, there is a modest share of performers with big names and the recording quality is, on the whole, excellent.
Cala Records *** (#)
Cala records has an incredibly unique catalogue, ideas from which have not been duplicated elsewhere. Though there are only seventy complete albums, they have some spectacular ‘series' of albums. Firstly, they have the New York Legends Series, a series of albums that features each of the principal players of the New York Philharmonic on their own recital CD with music chosen exclusively by the performers. The programming is creative and well executed in the hands of some of the world's best orchestral musicians. Cala also has the London Sound Series for each instrument. For instance, the London Cello Sound features chamber music arranged for fourty cellos and executed by cellists from London's best orchestras. (There is a similar album for each instrument.) And even better, Cala sells the scores for these unique arrangements on their very own website. Pretty wild, eh?
Cedille Records ***** (#)
Cedille Records is dedicated to making distinctive classical recordings featuring excellent Chicago-area musicians. Cedille immediately filled an important niche as the only Chicago-based classical label since Mercury Records' Living Presence line in the 1950s. It's catalogue contains many recordings by the Chicago Sinfonietta; the Chicago Baroque Ensemble; and members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, such as oboists Alex Klein and Michael Henoch, clarinetist Larry Combs, and bassoonist William Buchman. You will also find many highly acclaimed recordings by other Chicago-area musicians among their selection of CDs. Cedille's catalogue has approximately seventy titles. (All entries in catalogue have complete track listing with timings and performers.)
Chandos Records ***** (#)
Chandos must be counted among the world's greatest independent classical labels. Their catalogue is very comprehensive, filled with not only all the staple repertoire, but much repertoire that is difficult to fine elsewhere. For example, Chandos has excellent recordings of the complete music of Grainger, Bax, and Alwyn, three British composers whose music is hard to come by on the mainstream labels. They also have the Prokofiev Symphonies (yes, all seven, not just Nos. 1 & 5). Being a British label, Chandos' repertory and performers weigh heavily on those from the British Isles but the is no sacrifice in quality: some of these performances are second to none! Chandos' website is superb and you will surely find exactly what you are looking for using their search. (All entries in the catalogue have complete track listings with timings and performers.) This label definitely deserves serious attention.
Clarinet Classics ***
You guessed it! This label specializes in clarinet recordings… and more clarinet recordings. You will find a tremendous variety of repertoire from Clarinet Classics, a label that features well-known British clarinetists such as Victoria Soames, Colin Bradbury, Janet Hilton, and Roger Heaton performing both repertory standards and rare gems. There are also several albums that showcase music for the clarinet's predecessors, basset horns and 8- and 10- key clarinets. An occasional saxophone disc is thrown in the mix.
Harmonia Mundi *** (#)
Harmonia Mundi is one of the most exciting classical music labels in the USA, if not the most exciting. They cover a tremendous variety of exciting repertoire, from medieval chant and renaissance right up to the most scintillating contemporary music and everything in between. Their albums feature exciting performers, many of whom are up-and-coming stars, while others have regularly impressed critics the world over throughout their distinguished careers. For example, Harmonia Mundi currently has a contract with the Academy of Ancient Music, the world's most acclaimed period instruments music group. In addition, Harmonia Mundi is the U.S. distributor of music for Hyperion Records (England), Channel Classics (Netherlands), LSO Live, and several other noted labels.
Hyperion Records ****
Founded in 1980, Hyperion is an independent British classical label devoted to presenting high-quality recordings of music of all styles and from all periods from the twelfth century to the twentieth. This label has several 'series' of discs that provide comprehensive surveys of whole segments of the repertory. For instance, the 'Romantic Piano Concerto Series' consists of twenty-nine titles and the 'Bach Organ Music Series,' contains every single piece Back wrote for the organ. Hyperion records a spectacular array of repertoire and their extensive catalogue has almost one thousand recordings. Orchestral releases on Hyperion include performances of great British orchestras, such as the BBC Scottish Philharmonic, the English Chamber Orchestra, and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. Their catalogue is enormous and you will surely find many recordings that strike your fancy using their convenient search guides.
Klavier Records **** (#)
Klaiver's music catalogue shows a rather patchy and scattered attempt to showcase a broad range of repertoire. It has some excellent recital albums for clarinet, harp, oboe, piano, harpsichord, cello, and guitar. All told, this is neither a large or comprehensive selection but you will come across some rarely recorded works, many of which receive wonderful performances in the hands of Klavier's musicians and engineers. One area in which Klavier is particularly strong is music for wind ensemble and concert band. The Klavier Wind Recording Project is one of the largest sections of the catalogue and features a huge range of repertory for concert band with clean and crisp performances by the North Texas Wind Symphony and the Cincinnati Wind Symphony.
A New York City-based label with a diverse and growing catalogue.
Qualiton Distributors ** (#)
Ok, so we cheat a bit here with a distibutor and kill many birds with one stone. Qualiton is one of the nation's largest distributors of foreign classical labels. They distribute labels that focus on early music, such as BIS and Accent; labels that have a regional focus and feature performers and composer of a particular nationality, such as NM Classics and Hungarton; labels that focus on historical recordings, such as Archepelago. A few other noted labels that are distributed by Qualiton are Accent (see above), Cedille (see above), Clarinet Classics (see above), CRI, Elan, Elysium, Glissando, and Supraphon. Qualiton's collection of music is completely mind-boggling so you better know what you are looking for--you can only search by label (not by, say, artist or composer). It's best that you have a label and CD number before approaching this site.
EMI Classics / Virgin Classics