The Next Track, Episode #69 — Brian Brandt of Mode Records on John Cage, Morton Feldman, and the Music Business

The Next Track Blue Flat Button2 400pxWe talk with Brian Brandt of Mode Records about releasing recordings of avant garde music, and the difficulties of the music business.

Listen to The Next Track: Episode #69 — Brian Brandt of Mode Records on John Cage, Morton Feldman, and the Music Business.

Find out more, and subscribe to the podcast, at The Next Track website. You can follow The Next Track on Twitter at @NextTrackCast, to keep up to date with new episodes, and new articles from the website.

The Next Track, Episode #66 – Minimalist Pianist R. Andrew Lee

The Next Track Blue Flat Button2 400pxPianist R. Andrew Lee joins us to discuss the minimal, and often very long, works of music he performs and records.

Listen to The Next Track: Episode #66 — Minimalist Pianist R. Andrew Lee.

Find out more, and subscribe to the podcast, at The Next Track website. You can follow The Next Track on Twitter at @NextTrackCast, to keep up to date with new episodes, and new articles from the website.

Coming Soon: Big Box Set of Recordings by Leonard Bernstein

Yes, Christmas is coming. The record labels are starting to announce their big box sets for this year. As the classical music industry seeks to exploit their back catalog, they come up with plenty of ways to do so and, in many cases, to get fans to buy new editions of music they already own.

One such box is the forthcoming Leonard Bernstein Remastered box set from Sony. With 100 CDs, in the now familiar Sony big box format, with original album sleeves and a large hardcover book, this set features works composed by and conducted by the great American musician. (Amazon.com, Amazon UK)

Berstein

I’m a big fan of Lenny’s music, and I already have several big box sets. There’s the 80 CD Sony box set from 2014, entitled Concertos & Orchestral Works. (Amazon.com, Amazon UK) This contains, as it says, concertos and orchestral works (but not symphonies), and the Bernstein Symphony Edition contains the latter.. (Amazon.com, Amazon UK)

There are also two sets on DG, the Bernstein Collection, volume one (Amazon.com, Amazon UK) and volume two (Amazon.com, Amazon UK).

A quick glance at the forthcoming set shows that it contains a mixture of recordings from the two previous Sony box sets. However, if each CD contains only the equivalent of one LP, then this set will have maybe half of his recordings.

If you’re a die-hard Lenny fan, you may want this set for the remasterings. If you don’t have the Sony box sets, it’s a must have, but it’s possible that you may have enough Lenny already in other sets. So, as always, with this back-catalogue exploitation, it depends on how interested you are in having everything.

In any case, it’s good to see that Sony is giving more attention to Leonard Bernstein. The current price for this set is pretty steep, but it should come down by the time of release in November. Note that at the time of this writing there’s no price on Amazon.com, but it shows at about £175 on Amazon UK. If past experience is any judge, the price will drop, and pre-ordering it means you’ll get a nice price even if it drops for just one day. (That’s how I generally buy these box sets; I order months in advance, and sometimes there’s a very big price drop, which Amazon honors.)

An aside: for some reason, the Sony Symphony Edition is selling for ludicrous prices: more than £800 and over $1,400. Anyone want to buy mine?

Bravo Guys AGM – Proper Discord

Dear All,

Here are the minutes from the annual general meeting of the International Association of Bravo Guys.

Membership Survey

The preliminary results of our member survey are in, and we’re happy to report that:

35% of our members shout “bravo” before the applause because they can longer contain their appreciation of the performance

53% are indifferent to the actual concert but are engaged in fierce competition with other local members to be the first to shout “bravo”

13% get really frustrated sitting quietly for the length of a concert
4% have a rare form of Tourettes

1% wrote “echolocation” and gave no further details

Andy Doe riffs on a very funny conversation we had during an episode of The Next Track Podcast, discussing the Bravo Guy, who yells out “Bravo!” at the end of every classical concert, before the music fades away.

Source: Bravo Guys AGM | Proper Discord

Yet Another Release of Glenn Gould’s 1955 Goldberg Variations Album

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You can’t blame Sony Records (formerly Columbia) for “exploiting” their back catalogue, yet they’ve found yet another way to release Glenn Gould’s groundbreaking 1955 Goldberg Variations album. This time, it’s an 8-disc release of the complete recording sessions, with all takes, plus the final edit, the interview he realized with Tim Page, and a vinyl version of the record. (Amazon.com, Amazon UK)

Yes, this is a great recording, but does one really need to hear the outtakes? Sure, it includes a “coffee-table book,” but does one really need “45 sensational, newly discovered photos from the recording sessions?”

This sort of release does work for an artist like Bob Dylan, where outtakes are interesting, but for a classical recording, it makes no sense.

Music Review: Schubert Lieder, by Matthias Goerne

Lieder goerneThe popularity of Schubert’s waxes and wanes. In recent years, we have seen the finalization of a long-term project of Schubert’s Complete Songs, from Hyperion Records, as well as a monumental two-volume study of the work by pianist Graham Johnson, the organizer of the Hyperion series. There was also a complete edition from Naxos, but surprisingly, there are only those two complete sets.

The great Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau is the reigning king of the genre, with his 21-disc set of all the songs for male voice, but there hasn’t been much competition. There are many fine singers, who record a few discs of the songs, but no one has taken on the mantle of this level of completeness.

Enter baritone Matthias Goerne, who has studied with Fischer-Dieskau, and whose Goerne/Schubert Edition on Harmonia Mundi, over 12 CDs, was completed in 2014, and finally released in a box set at the end of last year. (Amazon.com, Amazon UK) I recently picked up this set, and have been spinning it on my CD player for the past week, and it is clear that Goerne is this generation’s Fischer-Dieskau. He has a similarly powerful voice, yet is able to tone it down when necessary. His range is excellent, his diction, obviously, perfect (some non-Germans get criticized for their diction), and the musicality of his phrasing is ideal. As much as I like some of the tenors who sing Schubert lieder – Ian Bostridge, for example – it’s the baritone voice that gives this music its full palette of colors.

Interestingly, the set features a number of different pianists, who give each disc a slightly different color. (And one disc includes Christoph Eschesbach’s recording of Schubert’s d.960 piano sonata.) The set contains the three major song cycles, of course – Die Schöne Müllerin, Schwanengesang, and Winterreise – but the rest of the recordings are a wonderful selection of the best of Schubert’s lieder.

It’s worth noting that Goerne has also recorded the song cycles with pianist Alfred Brendel (Schwanengesang and Winterreise), and Eric Schneider (Die schöne Müllerin), as well as recording Winterreise for Hyperion, in their complete set, as well as a few other collections of Schubert’s songs.

There probably isn’t enough demand for him to record the rest of the songs for male voice, a set that would rival Fischer-Dieskau’s recordings in their quality. And there doesn’t seem to be a female singer working on a similar project for the remainder of the work, which is a shame. It would be great to see a set with both voices, perhaps with someone like Bernard Fink, who is also a fine lieder singer, to come up with a solid, modern, complete set of the music. The Hyperion set, while excellent, has both good and bad. Some of the voices are ideal, and others past their prime. Some of the women warble a bit much, and the styles are often more English than German. As for the Naxos set, it’s really a mixed bag: there are some very good records, but overall it’s not up to snuff.

Goerne is certainly the pre-eminent baritone for this music today, and I hope that he will continue to record those songs that have so far been left out.

The Next Track, Episode #61 – Traditions and Etiquette in Classical Concerts – Applause, Encores, Curtain Calls, and the Bravo Guy

The Next Track Blue Flat Button2 400pxWe ask Andy Doe why classical concerts have such rigid traditions and etiquette regarding audience reactions. And we discuss the Bravo Guy, present at concert halls around the world.

Listen to The Next Track: Episode #61 — Traditions and Etiquette in Classical Concerts — Applause, Encores, Curtain Calls, and the Bravo Guy.

Find out more, and subscribe to the podcast, at The Next Track website. You can follow The Next Track on Twitter at @NextTrackCast, to keep up to date with new episodes, and new articles from the website.

Deutsche Mega-phon – Van Magazine

There aren’t many brands like Ferrari or Lamborghini in classical music. For a long time, Deutsche Grammophon was one of the only ones. It was obvious why: the label stood for tradition, good taste, objects of value, cutting edge technology. When you bought something from Deutsche Grammophon, you knew you were getting a reference recording. True, the quality of the product wasn’t always as high as the impeccable reputation of the brand–at times, the brand brought more prestige to the artist than the artist to the brand. But even for people whose main cultural experience of music was through pop culture, the Deutsche Grammophon records on their parents’ shelves had an irreproducible aura. For a long time.

The story of the crisis that came next has been told often. DG wasn’t the only label to suffer. Across the industry, profits from record sales crashed; the supply of recordings and artists on the market came to outstrip demand; standard repertoire was played so often a kind of interpretation fatigue set in; and a new generation of musicians came of age who didn’t achieve, or even strive for, the cult appeal of earlier stars. The window of time in which to find new business models and ways to profit from digitalization was missed. At some point, the core product DG was offering wasn’t enough to cover larger overhead and administration costs, salaries and fees, advances and marketing budgets. The label reacted to this development by distancing itself further from its core classical business and looking for new customers. And so the things that made the Yellow Label special fell increasingly away. Loyal fans began to look elsewhere for their quality records. Browse through forums for classical music obsessives today, and you’ll find few more common targets for invective than Deutsche Grammophon.

Interesting article, but I’m not sure things are as clear as it suggests. DG is simply following the more general decline in classical music, and the rise of smaller labels, which make the concept of a “reference” label anachronistic.

Source: Deutsche Mega-phon

An Archive of Avant-Garde Music Recordings from the 1950s to 1970s

A couple of months ago, I linked to the Avant-Garde Project, which has an archive of avant-garde musical recordings, all out of print, that you can download. I’ve spotted another, similar collection of recordings on UbuWeb: the Wolf Firth Archive. As the site says:

Wolf Fifth was a modernist music blog, featuring out of print and orphaned classics. Like so many great blogs, they fell victim to the cloud locker wars. Fortunately, UbuWeb’s pal Justin Lacko downloaded the entire archive before they went down and donated the collection to UbuWeb. As you can see by the list below, there’s a ton of stuff, and it’s going to take quite some time to get this all sorted and posted on Ubu. So stay tuned. We’re working on it.

You can download or stream these recordings from the site. If you’re interested in this sort of stuff, it’s a gold mine of rare, edgy music.