The collectors' dilemma

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The collectors' dilemma

About the practicality of collecting symphony cycles:

My question is: when does buying another cycle, be it Beethoven or whoever, become nothing more than satisfying the urge to collect? With me, I am afraid I have to own up that it often is.

As well as loving classical music, I am also a philatelist, and the only thing better than acquiring an uncommon stamp is acquiring an additional one that is finer. In these terms, collecting music is much the same.

But, yes, there is a difference. Whereas stamps, or indeed any pictorial art can satisfy with a single glance, music lives in time, and in many cases that time is not inconsiderable. I admit that I do not have sufficient relaxation time to appreciate new cycles of symphonies, when I already possess music that I haven't played in over a decade. Being a natural collector poses a dilemma; the sheer amount of music makes it impossible to listen to in its entirety.

Could I prune my collection? Yes - if I could bring myself to do it. But I can't. I will play that dusty cd someday. Promise.

Does anyone else have this problem? Does anyone else buy music knowing that music may only get played once or twice, and maybe - dare I say it - not at all? Where do you draw the line?

 

RE: The collectors' dilemma

Judging by many past posts on here, it’s hardly a rare idiosyncrasy. I’d hazard a guess that most of us have suffered from it at one time or another. Two subsets are the ‘disease’ of completism, and the ‘search for the holy grail’ – ending up with multiple versions of a work in the hope of finding the one closest to what exists in your mind. Completism stems from coming across a work you like and rushing out to buy everything that composer wrote. Daft, because composers themselves consider much of their output sub-standard. Perhaps the holy grail syndrome is more difficult to conquer because it sometimes succeeds. Both result in shelves full of near-misses and pot-boilers.

I tend to avoid complete sets of anything unless they're going at knock-down prices. Every complete cycle contains at least one or two duds.

RE: The collectors' dilemma

My wise friend Albert - who sold me more than one or two lps, reminded me that "they were there for reference".

Mrs P fortunately can be persuaded to believe this

P

RE: The collectors' dilemma

I think once was has been listening to music for a few years the urge to 'collect' becomes almost inevitable, unless one has great willpower (sadly lacking with me). My itunes tells me that I have 87 days of music currently on my ipod. At the rate of two hours a day taht works out at 1064 days or 2 years and 334 days before I get round to Abel again. Maybe that's a sign...

Looking at my own 'habit' it is pretty clear that I have all the flaws mentioned so far to a greater or lesser extent: with some music I really am interested in having many recordings becuase I 'know' and love the work so much that I want to hear as many different interpretations as possible. I would be the same about Ibsen or Chekhov - I will see any production just because its fascinating. I have been know to be a completist - I admit to having bougtover the last few years ever CD (bar one!) of the Leslie Howard Liszt series (Hyperion). The only excuse I give for this is that every time I rlistened to the new CD and then read the sleeve notes I thought, "Darn, I really want to hear that first verison, before he cut back on the splashy octaves!"

The only flaw I hope I am resistant to is the idea that there is a Holy Grail. How can there possibly be such a thing of any piece? There are so many ways to interpret a piece of music, equally succesfully, that the ideal performance is nonsense. That said I have to admit that I always shy away from buying another Tchaikosky 5th Symphony - Mavrinsky's recording is all I ever need to hear.

I wonder if anybody has the same, rather increasing problem as msyelf. These days I find myself draw more and more to the so caklled 'second rank' composers. In part this is because I am beginnning to find it more and more interesting to put things 'in context'. That is one of the reasons I think projects such as the Hyperion Romantic Piano Concertos series always captures my attention - hearing all those works on either side of the New German School is a really interesting experience and puts so much of Mendelssohn, Liszt, Schumann and Brahms in context for me.

Now where did I put that ipod....

Naupilus

RE: The collectors' dilemmas

When I started collecting LPs years ago, I happened to read an interview with an amazing collector in UK, who has managed to reach the incredible number of 30.000 LPs. At the critical question, if he has managed to listen to all these discs, he gave this...answer:

The collector is like an emperor and the collection is like an empire. He has his basis, where he stays most of the time; he visits occasionally some favourite places; rarely he may go to some remote areas and the vast majority...never.

Having reached an equivalent number of CDs/SACDs (I have sold the vast majority of the LPs), I have to confirm this fate of the collector, grosso modo.

So, do I feel any regret? Financially speaking, yes. However, I feel proud I have a huge "file", a kind of archive, where any researcher, musician, scholar, producer, etc. could resort to find, more or less, what he/she may need, in various performances, even of less known or even unknown words. Besides, I can have very detailed and specialised listening sessions, e.g. Haydn in E flat, Mozart in g minor, works of various composers in the rare b minor, or Symphonies in f minor and many other combinations.

My worst nightmare is what will happen after me. The day after. Who is going to manage my collection? Who is going to appreciate it, even in a similar way? Who is going to use it in a positive and constructive way? I don't dare to think what might happen. To sell it will be a disaster both for the collection and for the seller. To donate it is not an option, since none will be able to manage such a huge collection without the dedication, immense interest, undiminshed passion and enough money to spend. I wish, one day, an institution may be created, a short of "Library", where people would have access to any possible work of Classical Music and where other collectors could contribute their collections, if they find themselves in a situation of no immediate "heir". However, this might become the subject of another discussion.

So, aspiring and seasoned collectors beware of the day after. Building a collection and listening to as much music as possible is a sheer joy, further education, spiritual healing, artistic sensibility and many more that you will never regret to experience. However, we are not immortal...

Parla

RE: The collectors' dilemma

Perhaps you are lucky, JAH, it is only symphony cycles you crave and not opera sets.

I try to avoid complete cycles by one conductor and orchestra unless I deem them exceptionally fine (Kempe's Brahms and Sawallisch's Schumann, for example) or I want a particular work and can't, or couldn't at the time, get it any other way (Cluytens' Beethoven and Karajan's BPO Bruckner).

I, too, find myself seeking excitement outside of the mainstream and thanks to the Hyperions, CPOs and Naxos', to name but three, there is plenty of opportunity to explore at, mostly, modest cost. That's how I discovered a load of duds (I will not name them for fear that someone will tell me how wonderful these crashing bores are) but the opera seria of Rossini (Mose in Egitto is a work of towering genius), Tournemire, Casella, Onslow, Farrenc, Kalliwoda, Bantock(I think I have all of Handley's recordings, which astonishes me), Pettersson, Simpson, Arnold (this composer sometimes makes very uncomfortable listening) and, more recently, Malipiero. Oh, and my recent pursuit of Italian opera recordings has encompassed Ricci, Catalani and the wonderful Giordano!

I supplement this with an occasional return to my favourite works by the acquisition of a different performance.

So, it seems, I am not alone in this.

RE: The collectors' dilemma

naupilus wrote:

IThese days I find myself draw more and more to the so caklled 'second rank' composers.

I've certainly been there. And it can result in runaway completism. You come across a work you really like by some obscure composer, think you've found a soul mate and run out (or log on) to buy every recording of his you can find. Only to find the work you heard first was the only worthwhile thing he ever wrote.

My wife doesn't begin to understand the holy grail syndrome. To her, the first version I bought is always the best, the rest is down to some kind of magpie impulse that only men experience.

As for what happens when we're gone, having cleared my father-in-law's house of two large industrial bins of what I would call junk after he passed away, I'm under no illusions about that. My son, who moved out years back, still hasn't collected all his own cds let alone expressed any interest in mine.

RE: The collectors' dilemma

This is a depressing thread. Parla's comments had me thinking about my last days. (I'm not knocking you, Parla. Just the thought of our inevitable deaths was, well, maybe not the most inspiring way to end a long day of work.)

Having said that, I have to admit that these very same thoughts have been crossing my mind a lot of late. As a relative "newbie" to the world of classical music, I have a pretty paltry collection compared to most of you out there. But even my "modest" collection of around 275 CDs is rapidly growing and causing me to think the same thoughts as JAH. I'm averaging 2 to 3 new (well, mostly "used", but new to me) CDs a week. Like the rest of you, I have a pretty busy life, with family responsibilties and a demanding job. There really isn't time to give each new addition the attention it deserves.

I'm averaging around 5 or 6 plays, then I move on to the more recent additions. I always keep some of my older acquisitions on my iPhone, but I don't get to them that often. I do the math and realize that if I keep adding to the collection, I'll reach the point where I'm playing a piece maybe once a year, on average.

Worst of all, I can't stop.

Dilemma or addiction?

Lance
RE: The collectors' dilemma

I'm pretty much with everyone here except maybe that planning your 'legacy' is not all that depressing once you've accepted that you're not immortal.

I'm reminded of a tv documentary about Herbert von Karajan - he planned his 'exit' down to the last detail including press release and destruction his film and video out-takes in order that no-one could tinker with them after his death.

Anyway, thanks to this thread, I've decided to put my latest planned purchase on hold.  It was to be a 22 CD set of all Stravinsky's works even though the review states that there are better recordings.  Let's see how long I can resist the completist urge.

RE: The collectors' dilemma

Quality over quantity is my rule. It's ok to go about building a huge library, a real asset to hand over to your sons and grandsons or perhaps to your community (depressing indeed), but I prefer to buy only the recordings I will listen to and that is considered, according to certain parameters, to be among the best. That's why I only have about 2K cds and I see room for maybe another thousand, no more!

So, regarding buying complete symphony cycles my approach is, at first, avoid it, mainly huge sets from budget labels (poor sound, no notes....) and promotions: 110 cds for just .....tempting but no! If there is one or two recordings there you want, try to get them in one or two-cd set when available. Another common situation: I almost bought the Jascha Heifetz complete edition on BMG-Sony, but when I saw the recordings included, I noticed that I already had the most important ones (but, of course, this is great stuff).

As said above, there are some sets you simply cannot avoit and buy w/ pleasure: Shosta-Kondrashin (Melodyia), the already mentioned Schumann-Sawallisch (EMI), Brahms-Haitink & RCO(Philips), Jochum-Bruckner (EMI or DG), even the incomplete cycle of Beethoven's symphonies by Reiner&CSO on RCA and so on....just to mention symphony cycles.

I try to add to my library just great recordings (yes, there is a great doze of subjectivity here), that's why I normally avoid the flavour of the month recordings mags ( and now some websites....), understandably, have to produce.That's why I prefer the comparative listenings of a given work some magazines offer monthly: Gramophone Collection comes to mind.

I keep a list of wanted recordings: discs I think will add real value to my library. By the way, does anybody know where I can get the Richter's 1986 live recording of Beethoven's Diabelli Variations, originally on Praga?

 

RE: The collectors' dilemma

I am someone who kept buying cassettes until 1998 when I finally believed CDs were here to stay. I now have about 1,000 of the things, at least a good third of them still in the shrink wrap. I find myself playing the same few over and over, promising myself to get to the others "soon." Why did I buy all of these? Well, they were conducted by a favorite conductor or music out of the mainstream. My wife finds herself with the same "problem". She collects Naxos mainly, with a huge sprinkling of the old EMI Seraphim label. She has about 400. Will we ever hear them all? Of course not. But they are there if we ever want to open a record store.

Must close now - maybe there's another Boult recording being issued by EMI, ICA or First Hand and I don't want to miss out on it.

Bliss

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