"Didn't sound well on British machines."
Demned if they didn't!
Demn foreign muck.
Especially that Italian bandmaster!
Tend to agree that reviewing is 90% puffery. Remember one year a reviewer uttered the phrase 'this will definitely be one of my discs of the year' - at the time when Gramophone reported the favorites of all its reviewers. I bought the disk. But it was not subsequently among that writer's (six) discs of the year, nor was it anybody elses, nor did it ever get mentioned in the magazine ever again. Add the ludicrous puffery around Hatto - and Bryce Morrison's famous declaration that Hatto was far superior to Haebler (the Hatto recordings WERE the Haebler) - and I got the picture, I think we all did.
That said, reviewers have to be forgiven their enthusiasm. If there were not periodicals like Gramophone pushing this stuff then there would be less money (even) in the music industry. I treat reviews as what they are - an enthusiastic notice that something new and perhaps interesting has come along - and that's fine. Like others, I already know what I like and am not easily influenced, but I do welcome the fact that there are people at least trying to intrdouce me to new stuff.
...reviewing is 90% puffery.
May I submit 'grandiloquent' - 'pompous or extravagant in language, style, or manner, especially in a way that is intended to impress' (Oxford Dictionaries online)
'After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music'.
Aldous Huxley brainyquote.com
The Wikipedia entry on Joyce Hatto has this link:
The only ones worth trusting are the ones that you agree with.
Agreed. I try to test out a critic by reading her or his comments on some performances I already know. If we like and dislike the same features, then that person's tastes and judgements are more likely to reflect my own.
Then, we don't need the critics, reviewers, etc., mussessein, in the first place. And, if we don't need them, why we bother to discuss about them?
I trust their role is to add their whatever expertise incorporated in their opinion, so that their review could make a positive contribution in the general but also in our own perception of the performance/recording in question. In some cases, this has been quite useful and constructive. However, nowadays, it tends to be a plain account of their quite personal opinion and nothing more. In the worse cases, other motives (commercial, etc.) intervene and, then, we have the result(s) we're faced today.
I'm glad that a few comments list the great reviewers like Alec Robertson, Robert Layton and the late Jeremy Oliver and John Steane. All respected. Today there is a shallow glibness in the reviews and too much emphasis on comparing recent recordings when so many classic and great performances are still available through Amazon and CD Universe (HMV Japan also releases astounding stuff in re-issues not seen anywhere else). Recently a reviewer in Gramophone wrote of Colin Davis finding shades of his beloved Tippett in Nielsen's last symphony. What rubbish and pretentious tosh. Bryce Morrison may have lost street cred over the Hatto affair but his error riddled history of the LSO was even worse. Shoddy and careless, I threw it out and Tully Potter savaged it, finding even more mistakes than I had, yet he hangs onto important reviewing positions.
What equipment do critics listen on? So many times I have been disappointed with a highly praised recording when played on my state-of-the-art Naim system. It seems a lot of them are listening on mini hi-fi equipment suitable for a London bed-sit.
This is something I've often wondered about. One wouldn't necessarily want a list of the equipment used after every review (as Gramophone used to do in the 'Sounds in retrospect' panel reviews of the technical quality of recent releases) but I see no reason why reviewers' systems couldn't be listed on, say, an annual basis. It might help put comments on recording quality in some sort of perspective.
Father Alec Robertson trashed the classic Callas/Di Stefano/Gobbi/De Sabata Tosca on first review.
An exception that proved the rule?
Going back over the old issues on the wonderful archive it is interesting to read how time has proved many of the critics correct in their reviews.
My favourite was DS-T, Desmond Shawe-Taylor, who was responsible for the Quarterly Retrospect on Opera, Choral and Song and, it seemed had time to live with a recording before reporting on it in detail as he saw fit and offering his views.
Having said that I often wonder whether my All-British, Naim, equipment is suited to some of these foreign produced CDs.
Exactly. At the very least you can benchmark. I was never a big B&W fan and when Sounds in Retrospect switched to a pair of B&Ws I knew I had to start interpreting their reports.
I came across some Layton sleeve notes this weekend. What a grounded, calm reviewer he was and ready to back up his views with specifics.
I've always been a fan of B & W and was pleased when they were recommended to accompany my Naim equipment last year.
They sound splendid and they have not been fully "run-in" yet!
True, a good critic can describe, analyze, and teach as well as simply providing an opinion. What I mean is that a reviewer with similar tastes can scout ahead for you -- if your opinion of a piece I know is similar to my own, and for similar reasons, then your views of something I haven't heard are more likely to be what mine will be; hence, I will give more credence to your reviews of unfamiliar material than someone else's, and probably be less disappointed with my purchases.
I'm listening to critics views less and less. I think the best approach is to choose artists you like and follow them into the works they choose.
Fair play Doc, in your more lucid moments you can raise the odd titter.
Eduard Hanslick keeps popping up in music history books and I'm wondering if there's a modern day equivalent.
It seems that Hanslick made Bruckner's life a misery and was wrong about him anyway. Is there such influence today?