Founder of Lyrita Richard Itter has died
Tuesday, March 4, 2014
Born April 5, 1928; died March 1, 2014
Richard Itter founded Lyrita Recorded Edition as a mail-order subscription label in 1959 (with the first LPs issued the following year) and over the next 32 years created a superb catalogue of largely orchestral British music.
Disenchanted with the quality of many LPs, Itter – who’d made his money in the brick industry – launched his label (which, despite numerous variants, is pronounced Lirr-itter) with a focus on high-quality performances in high-quality sound. The latter was achieved almost immediately by securing the services of producers and engineers from Decca (most significantly the legendary engineer Kenneth Wilkinson).
Composers who benefitted from Lyrita’s focus included Alwyn, Arnold, Bliss, George Lloyd, Cyril Scott and John Foulds, and many composers were also secured to perform their own music. Composer-conductors included Alwyn, Arnold, Bliss, Lennox Berkeley and Walton, and among pianists Lyrita recorded were Franz Reizenstein, Malcolm Williamson and York Bowen. Itter didn’t scrimp on orchestras either with the London Philharmonic making a large number of discs for the label.
The label, which was distributed on LP by Nimbus until the late 1990s, and then by Harold Moores Records, went into a period of limbo until Itter could be persuaded to embrace CD. Nimbus regained distribution and the label focused on reissuing much of its catalogue on CD, as well as making a few new recordings. At the time of the label’s resurgence on CD, Itter commented that ‘I have been privileged to work with the most wonderful orchestras, conductors, soloists and instrumentalists [who] all became deeply involved in this marvellous neglected, forgotten or unknown music and breathed vibrant new life into it. With this new agreement many of you will be able to discover this for yourselves’.
Among the musicians who recorded for the label were Sir Adrian Boult (whose disc of music by EJ Moeran won Gramophone’s Historic Reissue Award in 2007), Charles Groves, Vernon Handley, David Atherton, Nicholas Braithwaite, Villem Tausky, Norman Del Mar, Colin Davis, Peter Katin, Andrew Davis, Barry Wordworth, Myer Fredman, Yfrah Neaman, John Georgiadis, John McCabe, Eric Parkin and, with remarkable foresight, Yo-Yo Ma (who made his first recording, Finzi’s Cello Concerto, for the label).
To ensure the label’s continuing existence, Itter created and endowed the Lyrita Recorded Edition Trust in 2012 which has has owned and operated the Lyrita label through its relationship with Wyastone Estate (owners of Nimbus). Two recordings await release.