The Wizard of Salzburg, by Tim Page – The New York Review of Books

In all, there are 330 compact discs, twenty-four DVDs, two Blu-Ray audio discs, a handsome pictorial biography that would be worth having even without the music, and several booklets. There are 405 hours of music here: the first performance dates from 1938 (the overture to Die Zauberflöte with the Berlin Staatskapelle) and the last from April 1989 (Bruckner’s Seventh Symphony with the Vienna Philharmonic, a few months before Karajan’s death). According to the Guinness Book of World Records, which tracks such things, this is the “largest box set ever issued,” eclipsing a 2011 award presented to the late Arthur Rubinstein for the “largest boxed set of recordings by a single instrumentalist” (a total of 142 CDs).

Critic Tim Page reviews the new, big box set of recordings by Herbert von Karajan. (Amazon.com, Amazon UK) While the above mentions the largest box set by a single instrumentalist, this new Karajan set also eclipses the 200-disc set of Mozart recordings released in late 2016.

The sheer bulk of the set is overwhelming, and one can’t help wondering who will listen to it all. After all, we live in a world that offers the near-complete recorded output of Maria Callas and Renata Tebaldi and most of the albums released by Vladimir Horowitz over the course of sixty-one years (as well as a fifty-CD set of live performances that chronicle seismic ups and downs in the last part of his career), and virtually everything Arturo Toscanini, Pierre Monteux, Wilhelm Furtwängler, and Charles Munch ever conducted near a microphone. Moreover, if you are growing weary of Anne-Sophie Mutter, Hilary Hahn, and Itzhak Perlman, you can find the complete records of worthy but not exactly household-name violinists such as Johanna Martzy, Gioconda de Vito, and Eduard Melkus issued in Asia, where there has long been a huge hunger for rare recordings.

We have reached peak classical music. These complete sets are everywhere, but I still await one: the complete (more or less) recordings of Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, at least those he did for the major labels, DG, Philips, EMI, etc.

There is a simple reason for this proliferation: reissues are nothing but profit for record companies. There are no studio costs to pay, only a small fee to the musician’s union, and some residuals to the artist or the artist’s estate. It has long been considerably less expensive to spiff up and repackage an existing recording than to make a new one. The first stereo albums of Fritz Reiner and the Chicago Symphony, for example, sound as though they were recorded yesterday, although some of them are nearly sixty-five years old and every person associated with them is either dead or long retired. Brilliant young performers now have to compete not only with their contemporaries but also with a host of legendary ghosts. Through technology we have established a permanent pantheon of great performances, one that can be very difficult, perhaps impossible, for newcomers to crack.

This is an interesting point. These sets aren’t just about cheap (per disc) recordings of all the major classical works, and many minor works, but they have flooded the market with recordings that will make it much more difficult in the decades to come for other performers to stake out a place.

Source: The Wizard of Salzburg | by Tim Page | The New York Review of Books

The Next Track, Episode #94 – Do Classical Record Labels Make Money?

The Next Track Blue Flat Button2 400pxPeople often wonder if classical record labels make money. We asked Andy Doe, who has a lot of experience in the classical record business, and he explains how the business works.

Listen to The Next Track: Episode #94 – Do Classical Record Labels Make Money? .

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.

Marin Alsop appointed first female artistic director of top Vienna orchestra – The Guardian

The American conductor Marin Alsop has been appointed artistic director of the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra, becoming the first woman to take up the prestigious role.

Alsop, one of the world’s leading conductors, and the first woman to conduct the Last Night of the Proms, said she was honoured to be assuming the post in Vienna, which she called “the seat of classical music”.

Acknowledging how groundbreaking the appointment was for the classical music capital of the world, which has often been shockingly slow to welcome female musicians, let alone promote them to leadership roles, Alsop said she welcomed the chance to “push the envelope” for women in music. But she said she hoped the time would soon come when being “the first woman” would no longer be news.

“I’m very honoured to be the first,” she admitted, “but I’m also rather shocked that we can be in this year, in this century, and there can still be ‘firsts’ for women.”

Good for her.

The Vienna music world has frequently made headlines for its fusty attitude towards women. Only 20 years ago the Vienna Philharmonic bowed to public pressure and announced it would officially accept female musicians for the first time. What it was reluctant to admit was that it had had a female musician — the harpist Anna Lelkes, for the previous 26 years, but had never acknowledged her presence, and only allowed for her hands to be visible during television broadcasts. Even after officially opening up to women, the orchestra was extremely slow to appoint them and even today it remains overwhelmingly male dominated.

Ah, yes, the Vienna Misogynistic Orchestra…

Source: Marin Alsop appointed first female artistic director of top Vienna orchestra | Music | The Guardian

The Next Track, Episode #80 – John Cage

The Next Track Blue Flat Button2 400pxWe welcome Laura Kuhn, executive director of the John Cage Trust, to discuss the life and legacy of composer John Cage.

Listen to The Next Track: Episode #80 – John Cage.

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.

ECM Records Now Available on Apple Music

ECM Records is now available on Apple Music. You can stream their excellent roster of jazz, classical, and world music (which they call “transcultural) on this and other streaming services.

Most of ECM’s presence is in the Jazz genre, where Apple is highlighting featured playlists, other playlists, and “new releases” – new to Apple Music, not recently released albums. (As you can see, the first is the landmark Köln Concert by Keith Jarrett.)

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ECM is one of those rare labels that has their own sound; something you don’t find much any more. Check out music by Keith Jarrett, Pat Metheney, Jan Garbarek, Bill Frisell, and so many more. This 10-hour playlist will give you a taste of the ECM sound.

While ECM isn’t as visible in the classical section, they have an excellent line-up of classical recordings, including works by Steve Reich and Arvo Pärt, and the wonderful recordings of pianist Andràs Schiff. On of my all-time favorite classical recordings on ECM is the Hilliard Ensemble’s 1989 recording of music by Pérotin, a haunting recording of early polyphonic music.

This link will take you to the ECM “curator” page, where you can browse their catalog.

So, stream away that great jazz and classical music that has made ECM one of the great record labels.

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.