The live recordings, made in 2000 on Gardiner's Bach Cantata Pilgrimage, were to be released by Gardiner's longtime record company Deutsche Grammophon, until DG severed the conductor's contract.
Gardiner was allowed to keep the recordings, which were made when he toured churches in Europe and New York with his ensembles the Monteverdi Choir and the English Baroque Soloists, playing, over the course of the year, all of the cantatas.
According to the Guardian, Gardiner blames the general decline in releases by classical labels for his canceled project. "I am a victim of the whole downwards slide of the major players in the record business," he told the paper. "They became structurally top-heavy, and the market began to dry up, whether through public lack of interest or the labels' overproduction."
Instead of throwing out the project, Gardiner decided to found his own label, the first classical artist of such stature to do so, according to the Guardian. He raised start-up money through donations from sympathetic patrons.
The first two volumes, which include the monumental cantatas for the feast of St. John the Baptist and the first Sunday of Trinity, as well as the more intimate cantatas from the programs of Bremen and Santiago de Compostela, are being released this month under Gardiner's Soli Deo Gloria label, named for the way Bach signed the end of each cantata.
The series will eventually comprise 51 CDs.
This is not the first time an artist has started his own label when the plug was pulled on a complete series of Bach cantatas. Dutch keyboardist Ton Koopman created the Antoine Marchand label in order to release the last 10 volumes of his Bach cantatas when the Warner Classics label ended the project after only 12 volumes.