Brian Couzens

Record company executive

Born January 17, 1933;

Died April 17, 2015

Brian Couzens, who has died aged 82, was the founder of Chandos, one of Britain's most prosperous independent record labels, which championed three of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra's most famous conductors, Sir Alexander Gibson, Neeme Jarvi, and Bryden Thomson in successful succession.

Established in 1979, just when traditional analogue recording technique was about to give way to digital with the development of the small-format CD disc, Chandos under Couzens's inspired leadership was perfectly placed to make the most of its musical, technical, and marketing opportunities.

Gibson's cycle of the seven Sibelius symphonies, works for which he had the highest esteem, got the important Scottish side of the enterprise underway and is still widely regarded as one of the best Sibelius sets available.

Gibson's parallel activity on behalf of Elgar proved no less impressive, and no less popular. These and other performances, including the first digital recording ever made of Holst's Planets suite, helped to establish Chandos as a company to reckon with, its reputation steadily growing as one of Britain's major musical assets.

When Gibson retired in the 1980s, to be succeed by the Estonian-born Neeme Jarvi, the process continued. Jarvi, an exhilarating conductor of the RSNO, was an obsessive recording enthusiast who reputedly phoned Couzens almost nightly with ideas about future repertoire.

After quitting Soviet Russia to start a new life in the West, Jarvi had been punished by the Soviet regime by having his name stripped from all the recordings he had previously made.

He leapt at the chance he was given to sustain the RSNO's link with Chandos, thereby revitalising his career, and Couzens did his utmost to keep him happy, letting him record whatever he wanted, including a complete Prokofiev symphony cycle. He was permitted, moreover, to record at the Caird Hall, Dundee, which was the Scottish auditorium he favoured, even though it meant costly journeys for the orchestra.

Then, when Jarvi suddenly moved on, he was succeeded by the ailing Ayrshire-born Bryden Thomson, who died too soon to establish a productive recording career with the RSNO, but had already worked effectively with Chandos during his period with the Ulster Orchestra, recording music by Bax and Harty.

Couzens's knowledge of what his conductors did well, and of what seemed to him to be major gaps in the catalogue, was consistently beneficial, resulting in a brilliantly expanding and successful record company. With Richard Hickox after Thomson's death he made almost 300 recordings including a complete edition of William Walton's orchestral and vocal works, an idea which had been sternly rejected by EMI but which now formed the basis of anyone's Walton collection.

Even the name of the Chandos company was something Couzens sensationally celebrated with a recording of Handel's great Chandos anthems.

Born and educated in Essex, though operating frequently in Scotland, Brian Couzens served initially in his grandfather's department store before working as a freelance producer for the BBC. He also operated as a composer and arranger, orchestrating Ron Goodwin's music for more than 30 films and gaining experience on Friday Night is Music Night.

He was married to Ilse Hauguth, who predeceased him ten years ago. In 2006 he married his second wife Deborah Frogel. He is survived by his daughter Isabella, who works for Chandos, and by three sons, one of whom, Ralph, is now the company's managing director.