John Shaw

John Shaw


• 1924 2003


John Culshaw, like his renowned rival Walter Legge of EMI, was one of the legends of record producing who was known for his technical mastery as well as his management and diplomatic skills (the latter were not considered Legge's forte) despite his lack of formal music education. He joined Decca in 1946, rising to the position of senior producer in 1956, which coincided with the rise of stereo recordings. There, he became particularly well known for his Strauss and opera recordings, including the now-legendary Till Eulenspiegels with Fritz Reiner and the first commercial and uncut recording of Wagner's entire Ring cycle under Georg Solti, then only beginning his own rise to fame. Solti and Culshaw began this project with what they themselves called a pilot test, a recording of the third act of Die Walküre that was so successful that they were allowed to undertake the whole cycle, which was started in 1958 and completed in 1966. The Vienna Philharmonic recognized him in 1959 with the prestigious Nicholai Medal and in 1967, Culshaw and Solti received a Grammy for the complete Ring recording. Culshaw was one of the first classical producers to consider a recording as something that could go beyond a simulation of what the listener might hear in the symphony hall or opera house and becoming an art form of its own. Some of the "special effects" in that Ring cycle recording, though still controversial, have yet to be matched, even with advances in technology. He also persuaded Benjamin Britten to reconsider his suspicion of records and the recording process and Britten conducted some of the most powerful recordings of his own works for Decca. In 1967, Culshaw left Decca to become the music director for the BBC, where he championed opera and even persuaded Britten write an opera, Owen Wingrave, for television. He retired from full-time work in 1975, though he remained active as a freelance producer and writer.