Mark James Russell

Books, blog and other blather

Category: Classical music

Classical Flame Wars (the first of many?)

Okay, I must admit, I have a bit of a strange hobby. I love reading the YouTube comments for great classicals recordings and discovering caustic insults and blistering flamewars. Not for some random amateur making a hash of a famous piece. I mean the great recordings, made by some of the most talented musicians of our era.

These days, the world is an angry place. And you might think the world of classical music might provide a respite from the rage. But, as it turns out, no. Apparently neither education nor refined subject matter can prevent people from being people.

(Warning: Plenty of naughty words)

Murray Perahia’s Goldberg Variations

My favorite comment:

no! he is shit. Bach does not come to him naturally. Listen to Sir Andras Schiff for fuck’s sake!!!

NES Chamber Orchestra’s Goldberg Variations (for string ensemble)

Favorite comment:

This version is at best a curiosity and baroque background music. It is nothing more than a student exercise and should be looked upon as such. It is wrong on many levels. First the recording is awful. There is too much reverb and by the nature of a string instrument sustaining notes it should have been recorded with a closer, more direct microphone set up. There are way too many instruments which muddy the sound. It is vital to give importance to every note in a work like this. The interpretation is entirely mundane and without artistic merit. There is a reason for this not being transcribed in the past…

And it goes on …

Glenn Gould, Beethoven Emperor Concerto Nº5 E

There’s a great conversation in here:

Ethan
what the fuck does he do at the beginning!?? Does he really think Beethoven meant this groupings literally?!

Seno
Beethoven meant everything literally.

Ethan
no fool if you think that yiur just a robot and not a musician

Seno
You should stick to jazz or Beyonce and not concern yourself with german music.

Ethan
you idiot. I’d rather stick to great music like beethoven. Read more about beethoven and you’ll find out the truth about his markings

Seno
“The truth about his marking”Lol.Let me guess:”It´s all like some halfwit music professor after the war said it is”Give me a break.

And they continue for quite some time.

Then again, professional music critics can be just as snotty and randomly biases (even if they happen to swear less). Andrew Clark in the FT a couple of years ago called Gould’s famous 1955 recording of the Goldberg Variations “too wilful and eccentric to rank as anything more than a curiosity.” Seriously? I mean, everyone has different tastes … But to utterly dismiss one of the great recordings? What a random bit of jerkiness.

 

Classical Asia

A great article in this weekend’s New York Times about the rise of Asia in classical music, in particular in opera. While I knew about Korea’s pianists and violinists, not to mention coloratura soprano Jo Sumi, I had no idea Korea was producing so many top opera singers these days (or that China was coming along so strongly).

Increasing numbers of Western conservatories seek to cash in by recruiting the best young Asian opera singers — particularly those from Korea, Taiwan and China. Last year, in Germany’s prestigious Bertelsmann competition, all three top finalists were Korean, while in America’s top competition at the Metropolitan Opera, one of the four finalists was the Korean tenor Sung Eun Lee. A majority of new tenors hired in Berlin, Stuttgart and a number of other important German opera choruses are Koreans.

I have been spending more time recently listening to Barcelona’s local orchestra (the Barcelona Symphony Orchestra and National Orchestra of Catalunya). It is interesting to be in a place where classical music is so deeply ingrained … and so overlooked at the same time. The local orchestra is maybe 10 percent Catalans, and many of them are alternates. Going to the symphony here is such a different experience than it was in American cities, like Baltimore or Philadelphia, and different than the faux grandness that one usually experienced in Asia. Or maybe I am a different person than I was then.

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