Karina Abramyan: “Melodiya” relies on the records of prominent singers

Record company “Melodiya” received the prestigious International Classical Music Award (ICMA) again. First Deputy General Director of “Melodiya” Karina Abramyan, who is also the CEO of the Russian Union of Composers and the Executive Secretary of the Council of Russian Organization for Intellectual Property (VOIS) told the Culture magazine about the significance of this award and the plans of “Melodiya” in the coming year.

The Culture: This is the fifth time you have received the award from the only existing organization specializing in academic music, ICMA (International Classical Music Awards). A kind of mini-anniversary. What does this award mean to you?

Abramyan: Of course, any reward is pleasant. This is at least the evidence of the work we have done, a clear indicator that our time, effort, and energy were not wasted. This is on the one hand. On the other hand, of course, I am happy that the release of the works of Mieczyslaw Weinberg was so highly honored, but still a little disappointing that our publications on contemporary music (“Bukovina Songs” by Leonid Desyatnikov, a suite by Benjamin Britten performed by Alexander Ramm), were not given due recognition. And for us, the albums released today, recorded by “Melodiya” in the Great Hall of the Conservatory, are of a higher priority.

Perhaps this is our main task now: get nominated and the award for those releases that highlight the real situation on the current domestic scene. Since up until now, we were awarded mainly for archival records.

The Culture: The permanent head of ICMA, Remy Frank, while talking about who and for what particular merits are awarded, said: “For us, only the quality of music and loyalty to ideals matter.” It sounds somewhat vague, don’t you think? What kind of “quality” and “fidelity” can we talk about if we speak about such subtle matter as music, where a lot, if not all, is judged by taste and personal preferences?

Abramyan: Yes, this is really subjective, since each person has his or her own criteria for perceiving music. But we are generally inclined to trust the jury, since it consists of the most prominent representatives of the leading music media from sixteen countries: chief editors, world known reviewers and critics. There are huge discussions and battles there – that’s why you are right that everyone has different tastes. All the more valuable is getting into the long list, and this is the first stage of discussion, and even more so in the short list. All mass media that are members of the jury are authoritative for us. Therefore, we participate in this award.

The Culture: How in your opinion, has the award (ICMA) for its past ten years of existence changed? Whether from an emotional or purely practical point of view?

Abramyan: I don’t see any noticeable progress. The number of publications issuing the final “verdict” is increasing. Remy Frank, as the ideological inspirer of the award, may be contacted more often, but in general everything remains the same.

The Culture: How confident are you about the success of various releases when you present them to the “high assembly”? Do you always know which “horse” to bet on?

Abramyan: Yes, in general, we do not bet on any horse. We just work in accordance with our internal concept of what exactly we are going to publish. Of course, it would be strange to submit all of our releases for the year, don’t you agree? But we try to monitor the situation, to think over what may be of most interest at the moment. For example, we sent an anniversary edition of Maria Yudina’s recordings (by the way, this release was included in the long list), as well as the album “Shostakovich plays Shostakovich”. But, apparently, Weinberg at the moment, shall we say, was of most interest.

The Culture: “Melodiya” has always been a guardian of traditions – certainly with regard to the physical media of audio information. How are things in this area, are discs selling well?

Abramyan: Of course, they noticeably lose to the digital and network format. But I will say this: although CD sales have fallen, so far, thank God, they have not died. Another story is vinyl. The release of classical music on phonograph records does not only cost a lot, but it is also a big risk: people will not buy even the magnificent “Swan Lake” today. That is why we have relied on the release of records of our outstanding pop singers – Anna German, Alexandra Pakhmutova, Muslim Magomaev (a collection of his best songs should go on sale in the coming months). “Melodiya” is trying to be very humane to its audience. A record should not cost like half a plane: but those who care, who value good sound and high-quality artistic decoration, I think they will be able to get a decent thing for a very reasonable price. Vinyl, despite the fact that it has gained a second wind (as many people say today), yet cannot be put on stream. This is, to a certain extent, an exclusive story.

Culture: What are the immediate plans for “Melodiya”, what do you plan to publish in the coming year?

Abramyan: We took a certain adventurous risk. We recorded “Persimphans” with Alena Baeva, the soloist; the production of the disc is in full swing. In the spring, the album of guitarist Artem Dervoed will be released, then we plan to publish a very interesting disc of the duet Polina Osetinskaya and Elena Revich. And, of course, we never forget about archival records. I’ll keep silent about specific names and dates: firstly, we are still working on the restoration of phonograms, and secondly, let this remain a little surprise for all who are not indifferent (smiles).