WestminsterFew record labels from the dawn of the LP era are recalled with more admiration and affection than Westminster Records. Created in 1949 by New York businessman and music lover James Grayson, Mischa Naida, owner of New York's Westminster Record Shop, and conductor Henry Swoboda, its first records released in April 1950 established Westminster as a pioneering source for recordings exploring new and exciting corners of the LP repertoire.
Though many of Westminster's early records were made in Switzerland, it was its connection with Vienna that made Westminster one of the leading "major minor" labels during the 1950s. With the help of Vienna's Dr. Heinrich Haerdl, Westminster's James Grayson brought new artists before the record-buying public, including pianists Jörg Demus, Paul Badura-Skoda, Nadia Reisenberg, Reine Gianoli and Edith Farnadi, violinists Peter Rybar, Jean Fournier and Walter Barylli, the Vienna Konzerthaus Quartet and the distinguished conductor Hermann Scherchen.
Outside Vienna, Westminster was also at work in London, recording the Amadeus Quartet and the London Baroque Ensemble under Karl Haas, and in New York recording Beethoven Sonatas with pianist Kurt Applebaum and harpichordist Fernando Valenti performing the sonatas of Domenico Scarlatti at Columbia's 30th Street Studios.
Westminster grew rapidly during the 1950s. Through a partnership with Britain's Nixa Records, the label brought Hermann Scherchen to London in September 1953, recording music by Berlioz, Tchaikovsky and the first complete and scholarly informed version of Handel's Messiah with the London Symphony Orchestra.
Through financial setbacks and changes in ownership, Westminster continued to preserve a series of exciting and distinguished performances until the label ceased regular operation in 1965. Heard on LP in Natural Balance sound, they can be heard again today with even greater fidelity on these new CDs from Universal Music.