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Rare Soviet classical recordings headed west

More than 300,000 titles of rare classical music recordings that have been archived in Moscow during the past six decades are being released in the West for the first time.

The recordings, which are being restored and remastered, are being made available through a joint venture between the USSU Arts Group in Los Angeles and the Russian State Television & Radio Co.

(Ostankino, formerly Gostelradio).

The deal was announced yesterday in Los Angeles.

“These are some incredible musical and cultural treasures,” said Tristan Del, chairman of the USSU Arts Group. USSU stands for United States-Soviet Union.

According to Sid Sharp, USSU president, the music–with few exceptions–has never been licensed for exploitation outside the former Soviet Union.

While a preponderance of the titles are by Russian artists, such touring Americans as Paul Robeson (singing Russian as well as American songs) and Pete Seeger are included, as well as Artur Rubinstein, Yehudi Menuhin and Luciano Pavarotti.

The archival material includes both audio and video recordings of all the Tchaikovsky competitions.

The collection also includes heretofore unheard chamber-music pairings, including Mstislav Rostropovich (now conductor of the National Symphony in Washington, D.C.), Sviatoslav Richter, David Oistrach and Leonid Kogan.

Other highlights include: Composer Dmitri Shostakovich playing his own piano music; Benjamin Britten’s Cello Symphony premiere; and a “Boheme” conducted by Herbert von Karajan.

The tapes are being cataloged, remastered and copied onto digital audio tape in Moscow. The first U.S. releases should be available by early next year.

An effort will be made to pay all appropriate royalties, representatives of the venture said. Under the Soviet government, foreign copyrights weren’t honored.

“It is the full intention of USSU to make fair and equitable arrangements with the living artists and estates of artists in the area of rights and royalties,” Sharp said.

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