Sony Classical is the successor to the Columbia and CBS Masterworks labels, assuming its new identity after the purchase of CBS Records by Sony Corporation. The company and its catalogue are over a century old, though their modern history dates from their acquisition in 1938 by the Columbia Broadcasting System. Under the innovative direction of Goddard Lieberson, who headed the label's Artists and Repertoire division, Columbia Records quickly became an industry leader both in the depth and breadth of its catalogue and in technological innovation, from the advent of long-playing records to the dawn of the digital age.
As the label's flagship line, Columbia Masterworks developed a stellar roster of musicians that included Isaac Stern, Pablo Casals, Glenn Gould and Vladimir Horowitz, as well as Leonard Bernstein, Eugene Ormandy, George Szell and Bruno Walter. Lieberson was also a pioneer in the recording of Broadway musicals, winning Masterworks its first gold record for the original cast recording of South Pacific, and making commercial history with the best-selling original cast recording of My Fair Lady.
In 1980, Columbia Masterworks was renamed CBS Masterworks. With its acquisition by Sony and a strong corporate commitment to classical music, the company became a powerful international presence. It was renamed Sony Classical in 1990. In addition to the prestigious legacy it inherited, Sony Classical developed and nurtured a remarkable roster of artists that has included Marcelo Alvarez, Emanuel Ax, Joshua Bell, Yefim Bronfman, Placido Domingo, Tan Dun, Jane Eaglen, Susan Graham, Hilary Hahn, Ying Huang, Juilliard String Quartet, Angelika Kirchschlager, Evgeny Kissin, Salvatore Licitra, Yo-Yo Ma, Wynton Marsalis, Edgar Meyer, Midori, Murray Perahia, Itzhak Perlman, Esa-Pekka Salonen and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Bo Skovhus, Tan Dun and both conductor-composer John Williams and John Williams, guitarist.
In addition to its presence on Broadway - including the Grammy-winning original cast recordings of The Producers and Hairspray - Sony Classical also broadened its scope to include score film soundtrack recordings. The original soundtrack recording from the Oscar-winning blockbuster Titanic became the best-selling score soundtrack in history after its 1997 release, and the label's catalogue includes the Oscar-winning scores from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, The Red Violin and Shakespeare in Love.
In 2005, Sony Classical merged with BMG Classics to form Sony BMG Masterworks, with Gilbert Hetherwick as its President.
Further Reading: Sony
In 1959 Sonny Rollins decided he needed a break in order to grow as a musician and left the New York music scene. After two years of practising every day on the Williamsburg Bridge, accompanied only by the cry of seagulls and trains rolling by, he returned with this terrific album.