Not your usual classical music reviews

9 posts / 0 new
Last post
Not your usual classical music reviews

Anyone looking for something different to the usual "isn't-everything-terrific school of classical music critique" may be interested in the site that Tom Service mentions in his "On Music" blog

"Louder! Louder! I can still hear the singers!"

- Richard Strauss to the orchestra, at a rehearsal.

RE: Not your usual classical music reviews

Just read the blog. It's true. Rarely have I come across truly negative reviews on the pages of this magazine. Reviewers rarely trash a recording. They are content with making very nuanced remarks about this or that aspect of recording. I don't think the public should be required to revere everything that the classical CD industry churns out. I hate to be the one to cast the first stone, but maybe reviewers and this magazine are a bit too cozy and chummy with the classical music industry. 

A music lover currently living in the middle of nowhere. 

RE: Not your usual classical music reviews

Second stone from me. Especially when it comes to British labels. The Joyce Hatto scam, marked by the incredible gullibility of the hype-prone reviewers, gave a pretty clear indication what kind of world this is.

RE: Not your usual classical music reviews

I dunno. I agree with many of the comments made on this thread, but funny as some of them are, these Vice mag reviews get down to the level of exchanges on football forums. You can find hard-hitting reviews elsewhere without having to put up with the reviewer trying to be a smartass. Look for the recent Hurwitz review on Boult's old performance of Brian's Gothic.

But I have to say I do like the comments on the Glass quartet disc. And "Worst Cover of the Month" is a long-overdue award.

RE: Not your usual classical music reviews

Really with reviews it depends how you use them. I am quite interested in concert reviews if I was at the concert, really not very interested in CD reviews whether commercial or independent. With regard to Gramophone or BBCMM (are we allowed to mention that?) I generally see the reviews as part of the advertising, so the main function is to make me aware of the existence of a recording.  A positive review has little impact on me as there are so many and I feel they are basically designed to talk up the industry - which is fine by the way, if everything got talked down there'd be no sales and no industry. However where a review signals a problem I don't ignore it, even if the reviewer is otherwise puffing the recording. For example, a slight reservation about the recording quality usually means a disk is borderline unacceptable and should be avoided. On certain labels though - I would call them independents but they are so associated with G that they are more like co-dependents - I don't believe anything in the reviews and I almost never buy the disks.

 

All that said, for years now I have rarely looked at G and buy things based on my interests. If you want a recording of Rihm or Boulez, say, you pretty much have to buy the one that exists, and if you like the LSO or Renee Fleming then you have to buy disks recorded by the LSO or Renee Fleming. Slightly crude as an approach, I know. Oh and if they aren't much cop you find that out when you listen to them.

 

Yes - as you can see I've got it all worked out. ;-)

RE: Not your usual classical music reviews

I was somewhat startled by the Editor´s contribution to this post. Why would a reviewer of any integrity decline to review a disc in any circunstances?, and why would an Editor allow them such a privilege?, I would have thought that the Editor tells them what to review, end of story. I certainly don´t think this was always the case as I frequently have read negative reviews and editorials of recordings, performers, works and even listeners in the past. One I particularly enjoyed was MacKenzie berating Proms audiences for applauding everything indiscriminately, and that their main concern seemed to be shouting louder than the audience the previous night. Nobody wants negative reviews just for the sake of it, but it seems there is far too much agreement in a world were opinions, of listeners, forum posters etc., are very often diametrically opposed. Why don´t Gramophone reviews show that? Is it because we just don´t know what we are talking about, or that modern recordings are of a much more similar level of quality than before? I remember one of your Top Ten columns was something like the Top Ten most mistaken reviews. I found myself agreeing with most of them, and moreso applauding the reviewers for having the courage of their convictions and saying exactly what they felt, not worried a jot about what posterity might make of their opinions, such worries are the death of reviewing in my opinion.  I was also disappointed to see that the Lortie Beethoven Piano Sonatas review is a mere two paragraphs.

RE: Not your usual classical music reviews

I've often thought reviews are too sanitised today. So more power to those who are prepared to call it as it is.

I had a quick look at some past issues. These are some of the most negative quotes I can find from 50, 40 and 30 years ago (all orchestral recordings).

Dec 1960 - 'I have found it difficult to listen to [it] at all, let alone judge. No, this just won't do.''
'The record is made completely unacceptable through technical shortcomings'.
'This is the first record of [Beethoven's] Second Symphony at a bargain price, but I can hardly advise anyone to take advantage of it.'
'Altogether it seems to me a bored and boring performance.'
Incidentally a couple of these are from EG who is still going strong!

Dec 1970 - 'The sound of the orchestra for a start, with scrawny string tone, is of no real quality; the playing, too which is no more than routine and sometimes not even as good as that.' 'Not a recommendable record, even at its moderate price.' 'I can't conceal a feeling of disappointment'. 'Turning to the recording, I unfortunately have to continue my tale of woe.'

Dec 1980 - 'This record must be regarded as serviceable rather than distinguished.' 'Ormandy's new version, for all the brilliant Philadelphia playing, sounds superficial'. 'This new version of the Four Seasons came as a disappointment'.

My feeling is that there is a long standing process of toning down negative language, for whatever reasons. Hence our need to read between the lines as indicated above.

RE: Not your usual classical music reviews

Thanks, James I'd forgotten that interview (but in retrospect perhaps it would have been rather good to hear Hummel played by Brendel (notwithstanding the excellent efforts of Martin Galling & more recently Howard Shelley)!

I think Tagalie & I have commented elsewhere on this forum regarding the excellence of Brendel's Vox & Vanguard recordings, not always bettered by his Philips remakes. I noticed in Mozart 20 K466 too he plays along sometimes in the tutti and does some extemporization of the solo part not evident in the later ASMF recording.

For durob, perhaps reviewers may turn down a disc because they don't care for a composer. I can't remember what it was now but I looked up a review of something on the archive and the reviewer began by stating his dislike of the composer: at least the Magazine's moved on from that. 

 

RE: Not your usual classical music reviews

Brendel's old Vox / Turnabout recordings have given me much pleasure.

 

P

Log in or register to post comments

Gramophone Subscriptions

From£67/year

Gramophone Print

Gramophone Print

no Digital Edition
no Digital Archive
no Reviews Database
no Events & Offers
From£67/year
Subscribe
From£67/year

Gramophone Reviews

Gramophone Reviews

no Print Edition
no Digital Edition
no Digital Archive
no Events & Offers
From£67/year
Subscribe
From£67/year

Gramophone Digital Edition

Gramophone Digital Edition

no Print Edition
no Reviews Database
no Events & Offers
From£67/year
Subscribe

If you are a library, university or other organisation that would be interested in an institutional subscription to Gramophone please click here for further information.

© MA Business and Leisure Ltd. 2019