Comment: the lawyer who launched a concert series

Turning a labour of love into a global brand, lawyer Ian Rosenblatt’s recital series has supported the careers of many renowned performers

In 1999 I was having breakfast in a café with my cousin, also a lawyer. We have met for breakfast three times a week for 25 years and our major topic of conversation then, and now, remains singers and opera.

That morning we were discussing the tenor José Cura, who had just released an album of Puccini arias conducted by Plácido Domingo. Over coffee my cousin told me that a sponsor at Cura’s London debut, where Domingo was due to conduct, had pulled out. At that point my law firm had just turned 10 years old and I was about to turn 40.

I convinced myself that both my firm and I needed a birthday present. I obtained the number of the organiser of the concert, Helga Schmidt (currently the intendant and artistic director of Valencia’s Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía), and spent most of the evening trying to get hold of her. When I finally did, she confirmed that they needed a sponsor. I agreed, paid some money, invited 150 clients and friends, and had the time of my life – despite Cura conducting himself whilst singing because Domingo had also pulled out.

Until then I had no idea how concerts were organised. I was new to the involvement of agents and managers; the schedules of singers with international careers who have diaries booked three or five years ahead was completely alien to me. I certainly had no idea of the economics of concert promoting.

But after that first concert, I knew I wanted to begin a regular event that would bring great voices to London, in a format that allowed the performers to demonstrate the beautiful art of singing in an intimate recital setting.

The inaugural Rosenblatt Recital took place in December 2000 with the tenor Giuseppe Sabbatini and was followed in January 2001 with the London concert debut of the then unknown Juan Diego Flórez.

Over the past 13 years we have presented between eight and 10 recitals a year, featuring singers and pianists, predominantly at St John’s Smith Square. We have also presented a number of one-offs at the Royal Festival Hall, The Queen Elizabeth Hall, Cadogan Hall and the Royal Albert Hall, where singers were accompanied with a full orchestra.

Our mission has always been to present the greatest singers we can find. Often they are unknown to London audiences and sometimes it is not only their London debut, but also their professional debut. A number of singers who were unknown when they gave their Rosenblatt Recital have gone on to become major stars; these include Lawrence Brownlee, Vittorio Grigolo, Joseph Calleja, Ambrogio Maestri, Ailish Tynan, Nicole Cabell, and the great soprano Ailyn Pérez and her husband, the wonderful tenor Stephen Costello.

In September last year we were invited to move the recitals to Wigmore Hall and we’ve had a very successful first season there. So far we’ve seen a 20 per cent rise in the total audience figures, and a 28 per cent increase in average attendance per recital. We’ve already planned the next two seasons. The move to Wigmore Hall coincided with an invitation from Sky to film four concerts for broadcast, between 15 July and 5 August, on Sky Arts. This was thrilling and not only have the performances themselves been filmed, but Sky has made them into full-blown programmes presented by Suzy Klein and featuring interviews with the singers.

Creating a legacy is also important; all the Rosenblatt Recitals are now recorded and photographed for archive purposes. Initially, I had no idea if I was ever going to release these recordings as albums – or even if there would be a market for them. This season, however, we announced a partnership with Opus Arte to release six discs a year. The first three discs have just been released, featuring Ailyn Pérez, Anthony Michaels-Moore and Lawrence Brownlee, all of which have received excellent critical approval.

And my personal involvement in music has continued to expand: I’ve recently acquired a neighbourhood music shop, Les Aldrich in Muswell Hill, London, in a bid to play my part in reviving sales on the high street. The shop will have a presence at the Branscombe festival selling CDs – including, of course, the Rosenblatt Recitals on Opus Arte discs.

Ian Rosenblatt is a senior partner at Rosenblatt Solicitors. The Rosenblatt Recitals 2013-14 season at Wigmore Hall begins on 16 September.