Sunday, December 23, 2012

M.C. and a H.N.Y.

What, are you telling me Simon Rattle didn't spend many years as the front man for a successful Midlands band?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

American Record Guide's all-time favourites

In the November/December issue of American Record Guide, Donald Vroon marks 25 years as editor of said publication by getting some of the reviewers to submit their personal top 25s. "Many of our writers did it under protest, while others simply ignored my request". There are, in a nice piece of symmetry, 25 lists (49 reviewers are named in the current issue). The lists make interesting reading - assuming you are interested in reading lists of CDs.*
Vroon remarks that "Most of us have at least 3000 CDs; that seems about the minimum among our writers and readers. How can anyone choose 25 out of that 3000?". I've never accurately counted my collection, but 3000 is a reasonable guesstimate. Yay! I'm one of them now! But I have no idea what I'd put on any putative top 25 I might produce. I'm sure it would be quite dissimilar to most of those in ARG. There are a few lists in which few or none of the entries were recorded after the sixties or seventies, which I suppose reflects the ages of the reviewers in question; then again, Mark Lehman restricts his list to still-living composers, which makes it very much an outlier.
You'll have to get the issue yourself if you want to look at the lists, but as luck would have it I appear to have compiled all the information into one mega-list and gleaned some information therefrom.
There were 629 entries in all (25 reviewers times 25 items on a list, plus a few extra for those who didn't actually whittle it down to 25); some entries covered boxes like symphony sets and some were rather vague (one person actually gave "Schubert: Lieder (Fischer-Dieskau)" as one of his choices). But we can conclude things like:

Composers mentioned most often:
Bach 32
Schubert 32
Mahler 30 (though 9 of those came from one reviewer, Gil French)
Mozart 29
Beethoven 27
Strauss 22
Brahms 19
Wagner 18
Haydn 14
Verdi 14
Bruckner 13
Handel 13

In the 25 lists, a small number of recordings appeared multiple times. Solti's Ring appeared on 7 lists, and three other records appeared on 5: Klemperer's Brahms German Requiem, Britten conducting his own War Requiem, and Callas in Tosca. Glenn Gould's Goldbergs appeared once in the 1955 version and twice in the 1981 version, while two more reviewers put the two recordings together as one entry. The Karajan/Schwarzkopf Rosenkavalier appeared 4 times.

Now, of course, I'm looking hungrily at my collection and wondering how I can reduce it to 25. Because apparently I don't have enough stuff to do already.

* This sentence is my brief tribute to Mr Vroon. It seems like the sort of thing he might write.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Ideal Christmas present

Superb new album featuring the music of little-known Italian Baroque composer Agostino Steffani, including the beautiful aria "Mio bel cavallo che attraversa il campo".

Monday, December 3, 2012

Everybody cut...

Puritanism, as H.L. Mencken put it, is "the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy", and they appear to be out in force in Mali, according to the Washington Post. Frowning upon music has long been a favourite pastime of our moral superiors but this usually extends only as far as particular genres. It takes a truly dedicated fundamentalist to go the whole way and try to eliminate all music. But I suppose it does make sense: if you just ban opera, then sneaky composers are going to produce works that sound exactly like operas but are technically sacred oratorios. So you can't trust musicians, and it's best to ban everything, with no exceptions, even the life of the mother. (Oops! wrong debate!) Because - well, as Schubert's friend Franz von Schober put it in An die Musik:
Oft hat ein Seufzer, deiner Harf' entflossen,
Ein süßer, heiliger Akkord von dir

Den Himmel beßrer Zeiten mir erschlossen
which Wikipedia translates as
How often has a sigh escaping from your harp,
A sweet, sacred chord of yours
Opened up for me the heaven of better times
And we can't have musicians opening up heaven, can we?