Discover the story of Decca Records in our special five-part series

9 December 2019, 17:36 | Updated: 23 December 2019, 16:33

Join Darren Henley for a special series celebrating the 90th birthday of Decca
Join Darren Henley for a special series celebrating the 90th birthday of Decca. Picture: Decca

By Sian Moore

This year marks the 90th birthday of the prestigious record label Decca, and we celebrate with a special series exploring its fascinating history and incredible roster of artists.

Decca Records turned 90 this year, and to celebrate we’re presenting a five-night exploration of the history and artists behind the iconic label.

Formed in 1929 by businessman Edward Lewis, Decca is a label with a roster of classical artists as impressive as they come – with the likes of tenor Luciano Pavarotti, conductor Herbert von Karajan, contralto Kathleen Ferrier and sopranos Dame Joan Sutherland and Renée Fleming on the books.

Starting on Boxing Day, and presented over five nights by Darren Henley, former Managing Director of Classic FM and current Chief Executive of Arts Council England, The Story of Decca will take us through the rich back-catalogue of recorded classical music the label holds.

We’ll also discover the captivating stories about the artists, executives, and the incredible recording techniques that made the label the worldwide success it is today – see details below.

Read more: Renée Fleming names the six greatest soprano arias of all time >

Episode 1: Thursday 26 December, 8-10pm

The first episode will feature a selection of recordings with a royal theme – including performances from John Rutter, Dame Kiri Te Kanawa and Sheku Kanneh-Mason, the cellist who performed at the Royal Wedding in 2018.

Episode 2: Friday 27 December, 8-10pm

Darren Henley continues our five-night celebration of the 90th birthday of Decca Records with an exploration of the incredible breadth of artists on the label.

Among others, we’ll hear three Italian artists who couldn’t be more different in their output or approach to music making: the contemporary minimalist Ludovico Einaudi, the enigmatic and adventurous mezzo-soprano Cecilia Bartoli, and the tenor Andrea Bocelli who, to date, has sold a staggering 90 million albums worldwide.

Episode 3: Saturday 28 December, 8-10pm

The third episode of Darren Henley’s celebration of Decca focuses on film, with the likes of Hans Zimmer and Dario Marianelli in the spotlight.

Darren also explores how pianist-turned-conductor, Vladimir Ashkenazy, essentially became Decca’s house pianist, recording swathes of repertoire over a remarkable 50 years with the label.

Episode 4: Sunday 29 December, 8-10pm

Episode 4 of The Story of Decca looks at the great conductors featured on the label over the past 90 years, from Sir Georg Solti to Riccardo Chailly and Sir Neville Mariner.

Episode 5: Monday 30 December, 8-10pm

In the final part of our five-night survey of the illustrious history of Decca Records, Darren Henley devotes two hours to profiling the brightest young classical music talent represented by the label.

The programme opens with Scottish violinist and fierce music education advocate, Nicola Benedetti, before featuring music from one of Decca’s most recent debutants: the young pianist Isata Kanneh-Mason, whose debut album Romance achieved both popular and critical acclaim.

Also highlighted is another pianist, Benjamin Grosvenor, who in 2011 became the youngest artist ever to sign to Decca and the first British pianist to join the label in over 60 years.

Since taking on the role of Chief Executive of Arts Council England in 2015, Darren Henley has also continued his career as an author.

He is the co-editor of the recently-released book Decca: The Supreme Record Company, which tells the story of Decca Records from 1929 to 2019.

And having begun his career as a radio newsreader over 25 years ago, Darren is also no stranger to the radio mic.

The Story of Decca presented by Darren Henley starts at 8pm on Thursday 26 December.