Do reviews of vanity recordings have a place in Gramophone?

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Do reviews of vanity recordings have a place in Gramophone?

Gramophone has hit a new nadir in my eyes with the review of what is plainly a vanity recording by guitarist Warren Nicholson in the November issue of Gramophone. My attention had been drawn to this recording in the preceding months by the appearance of several prominent half-page colour advertisements promoting this CD from a guitarist whose name was new to me.

Lo-and-behold several months advertising later a generous review appears! 

The recording 'Latin American Guitar Favourites' is of what Gramophone's late lamented Early Music and guitar specialist John Duarte called 'Rent-a-Programme' material ie. a potpourri of short hackneyed lollipops.

The reviewer Guy Rickards is generous in his praise(although curiously faintly damning in his use as Milos as a yardstick which is rather like comparing a serious pianist with Richard Clayderman), which will no doubt afford Mr Nicholson with plenty of useable quotes for publicity.

My complaint is not against the performer who is after all only after publicity for his recording, but more against Gramophone for what appears to be a quid-pro-quo review. Gramophone, have you sunk so low already?

The indicative force of a publication.

Auric, my response does not intend to defend Gramophone, but, I believe any publication on Classical Music might come up with some reviews on less "obvious" recordings. Guitar Music recordings are limited anyway. Plenty of the existing soloists of the instrument in question never manage to become household names and the era of a Segovia or Parkening or Bream has passed, anyway. In addition, "Guitar Favourites" discs are common among "newly" appeared performers. This Warren Nicholson is totally unknown to me and, as far as I understand, his disc is not even available in quite a few places of the globe. So, I cannot see what kind of "vanity" is served by such a recording and even a promtional review.

In any case, any publication on Classical Music should be faced as an indicative form of information and not as guiding force. Much more, when the reviews we read are written by only one reviewer, we may be more tolerant to whatever he/she might wish to project and defend in his/her review.

If the above do not make sense to you, perhaps, you may consider to move to the next step, that is to rely on your personal experience, knowledge and access to more reliable sources.

Parla

In response to Auric's post

Dear Auric,

Just to reassure you that Gramophone absolutely does not run reviews in exchange for advertising - every CD we review is the result of an entirely objective decision made by our Reviews Editor. As to the timing you've observed in this case between the advertisement running and the review appearing, this review had actually been commissioned earlier in the year, when we collated a number of discs of South American music to help celebrate the region's culture in the year of the World Cup. Most ran in a single page round-up, whereas the critic preferred to write this one as a standalone review because it didn't quite fit that page's focus. Sadly it then had to be held over a few issues (as reviews very exceptionally are, for example due to space constraints when we come to lay the pages out). 

As to the review being 'generous', our reviewers respond as they hear, and are entirely detached from any commercial considerations.   

I hope this helps reassure you on this important point regarding Gramophone's integrity.

Kind regards,

Martin 

Editor and Publisher, Gramophone

Vanity recording reviews

Well thanks for clearing that one up Martin. I'm delighted to hear Gramophone's integrity remains unsullied by advertisers.

Parla, as for guitar recordings being limited, one only has to look to the monthly new releases on the Naxos and Brilliant Classics labels(to name but two) by established and up-and-coming young artists(often competition winners) with innovative programming, outstanding performances in high quality  sound that makes the sort of repertoire in Nicholson's CD sound dated and stale by comparison. This recording smacks of just another 'me too' release with little new to say.

 

 

 

Martin Cullingford wrote:

Dear Auric,

Just to reassure you that Gramophone absolutely does not run reviews in exchange for advertising - every CD we review is the result of an entirely objective decision made by our Reviews Editor. As to the timing you've observed in this case between the advertisement running and the review appearing, this review had actually been commissioned earlier in the year, when we collated a number of discs of South American music to help celebrate the region's culture in the year of the World Cup. Most ran in a single page round-up, whereas the critic preferred to write this one as a standalone review because it didn't quite fit that page's focus. Sadly it then had to be held over a few issues (as reviews very exceptionally are, for example due to space constraints when we come to lay the pages out). 

As to the review being 'generous', our reviewers respond as they hear, and are entirely detached from any commercial considerations.   

I hope this helps reassure you on this important point regarding Gramophone's integrity.

Kind regards,

Martin 

Guitar recordings -repertory.

Auric, guitar recordings are limited based on the fact that there are limited established repertory by great composers for the instrument. There is a handful of well-established Concertos and Chamber Music with guitar. As for the solo music, if there were not enough transcriptions of other great works of major composers (e.g. Bach, Scarlatti), I doubt the likes of Sor, Giuliani or Tarrega and Rodrigo could manage to save the instrument's reputation in the Classical realm.

Brilliant and Naxos have launched a great campaign to promote the instrument and, in quite a few cases, even its repertory, but, I do not think a double disc of the Complete Solo Guitar Music by Regondi (on Brilliant) by a certain Mr. Mesirca (as good as he can be) or a Recital by the somehow known here, in the Orient, Park Kyuhee (with transcriptions of Scarlatti, Diabelli, some well-known works by Barrios, an arrangement by Tarrega and the Guitar Sonata by Berkeley) or the recently released recital by Eva Fampas on Greek Guitar Music (the last two on Naxos) can add too much to the instrument's reputation or save the day.

I happened to have attended some recitals by few of the Laureates of Naxos. All of these recitals were fraught of the same old lollipops (as you called them) from the same old Guitar composers along with some -sometimes inspiring sometimes trivial- transcriptions.

I love and appreciate Guitar Music, but I do not expect too much from the recording companies, particularly now that we do not and cannot have personalities like Segovia, Bream or John Williams and composers care less about writing some great works for the instrument (have you listened to the latest works by Gubaidulina?).

Parla

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