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Pentatone

By Jessica Porter-Langson |

2021 marks the 20th anniversary of classical label Pentatone. From humble beginnings to being awarded ‘Label of the Year,’ let’s take a deep dive into the history of this now staple label.

Pentatone started out in 2001 and was founded by former Philips Classics executives Giel Bessels, Drik van Dijk and Job Maarse. The name, Pentatone, derives its meaning from five (penta) sounds (tone) as the label became synonymous with high-resolution, multichannel surround sound recordings.

In their 20 years of operation, this label located in the Netherlands has achieved many incredible milestones. The very first being their unique ‘triple platinum’ recording of the music of the Dutch crown prince’s wedding ceremony which sold more than 75,0000 copies. In 2003, Pentatone won their first Grammy Award for their recording of Peter and the Wolf curiously narrated by Sophia Loren, Bill Clinton and Mikhail Gorbachev. This participation of world leaders, accompanied by the Russian National Orchestra was a sign of American-Russian reconciliation after decades of animosity.

Shortly after their first Grammy win, the label started one of their longest-lasting collaborations with violinist Julia Fischer. Some of Fischer’s pillar recordings for the label include Russian Violin Concertos, Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto and her recordings of Bach’s Sonatas and Partitas. After her initial contract, she also went on to record the Complete Mozart Violin Concertos in two albums, and works by Schubert for Violin and Piano.

The most valuable recordings we can take away from Pentatone’s catalogue however are their orchestral ventures, where the value of high resolution and surround sound is unparalleled, giving the listener the feeling that the orchestra’s sound is encompassing them. Some standout recordings orchestral recordings include their complete recordings of Beethoven’s Symphonies with the Royal Flemish Philharmonic under the baton of Philippe Herreweghe, as well as the complete symphonies of Bruckner under Marek Janowski and the complete symphonies of Tchaikovsky under Mikahil Pletnev. One pinnacle of Pentatone’s catalogue is their complete recordings of Wagner’s 10 mature operas, which totals a whopping 32 hours of music, released physically on 32 discs. These recordings solidified the labels standing in the world of hi-resolution recording, capturing a whole generation of the most important figures in Wagnerian music in the best quality possible.

Pentatone continues to be one of the worlds best sources for classical recordings, their innovative roster of artists and composers, as well as their formidable recording practice saw them be awarded Label of the Year in 2019 by Gramophone Magazine, and again in 2020 by the International Classical Music Awards. Although only 20 years young, this label has a list of achievements that will surely only continue to grow.

To celebrate their 20th anniversary, Pentatone released four special mini-series of releases, diving in tho their extraordinary catalogue and presenting to you real gems of the labels. Take a deep dive and discover Pentatone with: - Spritz: Celebrating Concerto Music - Frizzante: Celebrating Vocal Music - Limoncello: Celebrating Chamber Music - Spätburgunder: Celebrating Orchestral Music

Or discover some of Qobuz’s favourites with our Pentatone Playlist