The Archivio Storico Ricordi – A Bertelsmann Project
In 1808, Giovanni Ricordi founded a music publisher in Milan that would significantly shape the cultural history of Italy and Europe in the 19th and 20th centuries: Casa Ricordi. It published the works of the “big five” composers of Italian opera - Gioachino Rossini, Gaetano Donizetti, Vincenzo Bellini, Giuseppe Verdi and Giacomo Puccini. From the beginning, all of the company’s documents were meticulously archived. Now the former business archives of the Casa Ricordi publishing company, which was acquired by Bertelsmann in 1994, have become a historical archive: The Archivio Storico Ricordi, one of the world’s foremost privately held music collections, which is now housed in the Biblioteca Nazionale Braidense in Milan.
In 2006, Bertelsmann sold its former music rights business to Universal, but retained the rights to the Ricordi brand and the publisher’s famous archives, which have since operated as an independent legal entity under the name of “Ricordi & C.” based in Milan. All of the revenues generated by Ricordi & C. go to towards making the archive accessible and preserving it for posterity. The Archivio is under the special protection of the Italian Ministry of Culture. As a national heritage, the Archivio Storico Ricordi must remain in Italy.
After having been an integral part of Casa Ricordi for decades and being used primarily for commercial purposes such as the publication of “critical editions,” the archive has recently been undergoing an accelerated transformation into a historical research archive. The idea is to develop the Archivio Storico Ricordi into a best practice case in the field of communicating cultural and historical archive materials in the digital era, both nationally and internationally, and making its unique resources accessible to a wider audience besides the academic community.
The archive’s original scores of numerous operas from the 19th and early 20th century and many other compositions are among the highlights of European music history. Today the name Ricordi primarily stands for 200 years of Italian opera and music history. From Giuseppe Verdi's Aida and Giacomo Puccini’s Madama Butterfly to Luigi Nono’s Prometeo – the Ricordi archive is a true “cathedral of music” (Luciano Berio).
Bertelsmann is aware of the great responsibility that ownership of this unique cultural heritage entails, and continues to uphold the tradition associated with the Ricordi name.
Bertelsmann and Ricordi
Foundation of Casa Ricordi (1808) and Bertelsmann (1835).
From the beginning, there are striking parallels between the two publishing houses: the companies' founders (Giovanni Ricordi, 1785 - 1853) and Carl Bertelsmann (1791 - 1850) were not only contemporaries, but had the same jobs: first printer, then publisher. Both companies share the same values (i.e. partnership, creativity, entrepreneurship) and are heavily influenced by their families. Both experience tremendous expansion in the latter part of the 20th century; it is this international expansion that ultimately leads to the meeting of the two houses.
Ricordi is sold to the Bertelsmann Music Group (BMG). BMG’s strategic activities in the years following the acquisition focus mainly on the lucrative music publishing business and on the high-volume business with recording mediums, which is merged with BMG’s labels (BMG Ariola Italy).
Over the years, Ricordi’s activities are split into the recording and music publishing businesses: The Ricordi label is included in the 2004 merger of the former Bertelsmann Music Group and Sony into SonyBMG.
In 2006, Bertelsmann sells the Ricordi imprint to the Universal Publishing Music Group, a subsidiary of France’s Vivendi Group.
In August 2008, Bertelsmann finally withdraws completely from the music recording business. The Ricordi label remained with Sony. However, all rights to the Ricordi brand and the publisher’s famous archive remained with Bertelsmann.
All revenues of the independent subsidiary Ricordi & C. go towards the development and long-term safeguarding of the archive.
International traveling exhibition "That's Opera!" to mark Ricordi's bicentenary. Prestel - Random House's international art imprint - publishes a richly illustrated catalogue for this occasion.
In February 2011, a project group at Bertelsmann begins developing a sustainable concept for indexing the archival material. Since then, employees at Bertelsmann's Corporate History department in Gütersloh have been working with the Ricordi team in Milan on the continuous restoration and digitization of the archive.
International traveling exhibition "The Enterprise of Opera. Verdi. Boito. Ricordi" to mark Verdi's 200th birthday.