The Next Track, Episode #78 – Alexander Joel on the Role of the Conductor in Classical Music

The Next Track Blue Flat Button2 400pxConductor Alexander Joel talks about the profession of conductor for operas and orchestras.

Listen to The Next Track: Episode #78 – Alexander Joel on the Role of the Conductor in Classical Music.

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.

Classical Box Sets for Christmas 2017

It’s that time of year again. Classical record labels released big box sets to tempt music fans, and many of them offer very interesting collections of recordings at nice prices (at least the per-disc price). Here’s a roundup of some of the box sets that I’ve found interesting. (Note that some of these recordings may not yet be listed on Amazon US.)

Bernstein

Leonard Bernstein Remastered is a 100-disc set of Bernstein’s recordings on Columbia records (now Sony). The box is the now-familiar shape of the big Sony sets; nearly cubic, with a hardcover book, and with original album covers. With some 230 separate works, it features recordings that were previously released in Leonard Bernstein: The Symphony Edition and Leonard Bernstein Edition – Concertos & Orchestral Works. Those sets totaled 140 discs, so this new set is just a selection, and not his complete recordings. The discs are “remastered from their original 2 and 3-track analogue tapes. This has allowed for the creation of a natural balance (for example, between the orchestra and solo instruments) that brings the quality of these half-century-old recordings, excellent for their time, up to the standards of today’s audiophiles.” (Amazon.com, Amazon UK)

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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.