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What are you reading, music or otherwise?


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Showing 1-25 of 587 posts in this discussion
Posted on 19 Apr 2017, 10:37:59 BST
Roasted Swan says:
Just started reading Morton Gould: American Salute (this is a pretty amazing 1p wonder!) . Fascinating story - particularly his background as a child prodigy who was working in Vaudeville and theatre pits from his teens to support his whole family. I've always enjoyed Gould's music and the context of music in America pre-WWII is especially interesting.

In reply to an earlier post on 5 Mar 2017, 15:07:32 GMT
Mr Willard says:
Yes he did, Rasmus. But I think he did most of the talking about music with Ozawa often merely agreeing! Still, an interesting book for all that.

In reply to an earlier post on 5 Mar 2017, 13:13:48 GMT
Mr. Willard

Murakami made a book with interviews about music with his compatriot the conductor S. Ozawa:
Absolutely on Music: Conversations with Seiji Ozawa

Posted on 5 Mar 2017, 12:24:54 GMT
Mr Willard says:
Murakami's somewhat weird books always seem to have a piece of classical music as an active element. With the huge 1Q84 it is Janacek's Sinfonietta and with Kafka on the Shore (which I am now enjoying) it is the Archduke Trio.

In reply to an earlier post on 14 Feb 2017, 08:41:09 GMT
Last edited by the author on 14 Feb 2017, 08:42:55 GMT
T. Franklin says:
The software available now could make viable some recordings Culshaw regarded as unusable in his day, that's certainly true. Assuming the budget was available to do the job properly of course; some of the small labels which issue vintage live operas won't have the money for that.

Software trickery can't cure everything though - eg, singers moving 'off-mike' for example.

In reply to an earlier post on 13 Feb 2017, 14:48:22 GMT
Last edited by the author on 13 Feb 2017, 14:49:07 GMT
RS: I don't know how much aural air-brushing goes on. Over recent years I have been collecting the Halle orchestra's own-label CDs and these are mainly live recordings. As I understand it the live performance is used and any orchestral blemishes are edited out using material from the dress-rehearsal. Generally, applause has also been removed. I suspect audience participation has also been removed. For both of these I am grateful and don't think it detracts in any way from the atmosphere or authenticity of the performance.

I have just been listening to a live recording of Rheingold from Bayreuth made in 1961. There is sporadic coughing at the start but after that the audience settles down. Needless to say there is quite a lot of bumping and other stage noise but that doesn't disturb me. Culshaw says that various Bayreuth projects had to be abandoned because there wasn't enough usable material from the performances to make a viable recording. Was he being too fussy or was the level of perfection that was expected from critics and potential record-buyers too high. Numerous Bayreuth recordings from that era have now been issued, some to great acclaim. Some could possibly have been left in the can, eg. a horribly slow Rheingold from Knappertsbusch in 1956, disfigured by almost continuous coughing.

In reply to an earlier post on 13 Feb 2017, 14:37:21 GMT
Lez Lee says:
Thanks very much for the offer, I'd like to take you up on it when I can. I'm doing other things at the moment - transferring hundreds of old holiday transparencies to computer, then hopefully printing the best ones. I do enjoy a challenge!

In reply to an earlier post on 13 Feb 2017, 14:29:23 GMT
Roasted Swan says:
Lez - it takes a bit of fiddling around with. Would you like some basic tips? Happy to help

In reply to an earlier post on 13 Feb 2017, 13:37:59 GMT
Lez Lee says:
I've started copying LPs to disc using Audacity but I've not yet managed to separate tracks or cut out applause etc.. I've got the instructions but as usual I don't understand the terminology. It doesn't really matter much with symphonic movements but it's very annoying with non-classical songs. You could see what you were doing with tape-splicing but I can't cope with everything being out in the ether somewhere!

In reply to an earlier post on 13 Feb 2017, 13:27:42 GMT
Roasted Swan says:
When I was at university in the late 70's we had (for its time) one of the most advanced studio/recording set-ups in the country. A substantial amount of time was spent learning how to edit well with a razor blade - what a difference a tiny amount of tape could make even if you were recording at 15 ips. The HUGE difference between physical editing and in the digital domain is going back and doing it different/better. Scrabbling around on the floor for the 1/2" of discarded tape was a regular occurrence. Its now easier to do edits on a free piece of software like Audacity than it was ever possible on tape. Apart from anything else its the question of the overhang and continuation of a believable musical line. Cross-fading from one edit to another digitally is SO much easier than a tape join. Also software can literally manipulate a note in situ (without an edit as such) in a way that was never possible however skilled the tape operator. Listen no further than the fact that all these current 'live' recordings have next to no audience noise at all. Audiences are as bronchial as ever - its just that the technology allows those sounds to be filleted out. Its the same with little technical flaws in playing - intonation/bow noise/general clunks etc can be removed relatively easily. All of which is fine but I do get a sense that there is now a trend to aural air-brushing. I think that was what Culshaw was reacting against in his story about the edit of Hotter's voice - the manipulation went too far.

Without a shadow of a doubt the *average* standard of instrumental playing has risen. Just in terms of sheer technique - the ability to play the notes - things are at a higher standard than ever. As a rule of thumb, students are now having to play repertoire at their entry auditions for conservatoires that they might have played in their final recitals. I don't think the 'best' are any better - and the big famous orchestras in the world still probably attract the finest players of all (but since this is now a global industry possibly at the cost of some unique individual sound - but we've been there before on this forum) - but the 'average' standard of the 'average' player in any kind of orchestra or ensemble is higher. Better musicians?.... not for me to say ....... more individual? ....... I'd say probably not - probably because with individuality comes identifiability and part of that process is dictated by fallibility in the broadest sense.

In reply to an earlier post on 13 Feb 2017, 09:50:23 GMT
Last edited by the author on 13 Feb 2017, 09:51:41 GMT
I don't really know what standard recording practice was in those days or if such a thing existed. Culshaw says that his practice of recording 15 - 20 minute takes was unusual. These takes were often repeated until perfection was achieved and earlier in the book he says that patching of takes with 'perfect' bars and even single notes, ie, 'ironing out wrinkles', was commonplace. It was a highly skilled process involving tapes and razor blades but I don't see that it is any different from modern digital techniques.

I am not sure that editing 'sanitises' modern performances and think the problem lies elsewhere - possibly too many recordings by second-raters that are technically perfect produce that impression; also perhaps technical standards amongst musicians has also risen.

In reply to an earlier post on 12 Feb 2017, 18:05:04 GMT
Roasted Swan says:
How odd - the quote you refer to is on page 257 of my copy of the book! I don't know Culshaw's preferred recording practice but I was under the impression that it was noted for the LONG takes they did with as little stop/start editing as possible except to cover joins. I had a friend who worked at Decca and there was famously a recording of Rubinstein in his latter years which had to be put together literally bar by bar.

Even with the enormity of the recording schedule for the complete Decca Ring I don't think time would have allowed for endless retakes of tiny corners. As Culshaw says; they were having to husband Hotter's voice at this point in his career. My sense from the passage you refer to is that in the "final edit choices" they were initially dictated by where Hotter sounded best/freshest but that (perhaps) this was at the cost of the overall music-making. So perhaps they revisited the takes and then went for the takes that served the music best - even allowing for some vocal unsteadiness/imperfections etc.

At the end of the day Culshaw was aiming for a heightened listening experience so I don't have a problem with what he did. Better that than the modern-day ability to iron out every wrinkle of intonation and ensemble in digital post-production. To my mind THAT's what 'sanitises' so many modern performances - they are simply too gleamingly 'perfect'.

In reply to an earlier post on 12 Feb 2017, 16:16:38 GMT
Last edited by the author on 12 Feb 2017, 16:17:16 GMT
RS: I am referring to Culshaw's description of the editing of Die Walkure:-

'And somehow, in our efforts to get the best of Hotter, we had let the final scene of the opera fall apart in a way that was wholly uncharacteristic of Solti'

What are we getting in these recordings, Solti's Ring or what Culshaw thought Solti's Ring should sound like? I think this is a danger inherent in Culshaw's practice of repeating a passage over and ove again until it was note perfect and assembling the final product from the best takes. I know this was fairly common practice in those days but possibly not taken to the same degree. It may be part of parcel of recording a work like the Ring rather than a symphony that has movements rarely lasting more than 20 minutes or an opera consisting of arias, choruses etc.

In reply to an earlier post on 12 Feb 2017, 14:18:30 GMT
T. Franklin says:
Would the modern practice of 'patching' recordings exacerbate that, RS? I've read that some modern recordings largely consist of patches overlaid on the original full take.

That's in stark contrast to days gone by when classical recordings were generally a single take of each movement. It might mean a sprinkling of errors, but the best had an internal life (and most important, feel) that still makes them superior to recordings made 40, 50 or more years later.

In reply to an earlier post on 12 Feb 2017, 13:30:07 GMT
Roasted Swan says:
Geoffrey - I assume you're referring to Culshaw's comment about most orchestral players finding recording a tedious business.

I think the important thing to remember is that at a certain time - not these days given current financial limitations - the biggest money-spinner for any orchestral player was to do sessions. Given you could do 3 sessions a day (10-1, 2-5, 6-9) that meant a possible 21 sessions in a week. Some players could get close to that - goodness knows how you kept any level of concentration going! But the downside of that would be - almost by definition - that you'd be playing a lot of mediocre music with mediocre conductors and with that being the case it really is "just a job". Of course - if you play in the Vienna PO you're not going to be recording jingles for local radio with a completely rubbish conductor but on a sliding scale the same routine-ness could apply.

At that level, players playing routinely is still the stuff most of us other lesser performers would dream of. Orchestras the world over will produce good solid performances pretty much to order - but to get that extra 10% which will lift the good and competent to a level of remarkable will take something pretty special whether its the person on the stick, the soloist or something happening.

Orchestras such as the BBC bands who spend much of their time in a recording studio it is hard to lift another-day-in-the-studio out of the routine. This is a very personal opinion, but I find that the BBC PO's discs for Chandos - the newer ones especially - are marked by very high levels of execution but lower levels of inspiration. It was not that many years ago that the BBC orchestras didn't record commercially at all - so their early discs were by definition an event - and frankly sounded like it. The same applied to those early Ulster discs for Chandos too. There was an orchestra with NO history in the commercial studio suddenly producing discs that punched way above the orchestra's perceived 'weight'.

Obviously the presence of an audience helps lift the atmosphere if a recording is being made too. Likewise, I suspect with studio-only sessions being much rarer too there will be more of a sense of occasion for them. But the default position for many players is still along the lines of, "I'll play all the notes for you but prove to me that you/the piece is worth going that extra mile for - if you can I will".

In reply to an earlier post on 12 Feb 2017, 12:41:51 GMT
RS: Ring Resounding is a compelling book showing Culshaw at his opinionated best and worst. Something struck me the very first time I read it decades ago and still troubled me when I reread it fairly recently. I don't want to spoil anything for you or prejudice your response so when you have read 'Coda' (p. 251) let me know what you think.

Posted on 5 Feb 2017, 09:37:34 GMT
Curzon's Grieg concerto is a classic of the gramophone. The slow movement in particular is truly magical. Enjoy!

Posted on 5 Feb 2017, 08:49:57 GMT
Roasted Swan says:
I'm sure this has been mentioned on here before - I'm about halfway through Ring Resounding: The Recording of Der Ring Des Nibelungen . I'm no ultra-Wagnerite but I'm enjoying this a lot and can feel myself being drawn inexorably back towards listening to the set again. I'm at the part where Culshaw writes about Flagstad at length and warmly and quotes a letter from her praising the (then new) Decca recording of the Grieg Piano Concerto played by Clifford Curzon. So in turn I've dipped into the Marketplace for Tchaikovsky & Grieg: Piano Concertos - just a few pence yesterday when I bought a copy. Not yet arrived - anyone have any thoughts on this version. I'll be interested to hear the coupling of the Tchaikovsky No.1 with Solti/VPO/Culshaw the team at pretty much the same time as the Rheingold sessions.

Posted on 18 May 2016, 13:32:51 BST
Roasted Swan says:
I've never read much background detail about Wagner but am enjoying The Real Wagner very much. In essence a selection of letters to and from the composers collected under a group of headings from "women" to "financial woes" etc. Clearly a man with a view of the world and his place in it that set him apart from 'ordinary' folk. Very entertaining and a book that wears its extensive research and depth of knowledge lightly.

In reply to an earlier post on 22 Mar 2016, 09:10:56 GMT
Fencible says:
Mandyrka - asks 'Inherent tuneful quantity. Do you think meanings matter?'

Not always, but the meaning of 'inherent tuneful quantity' is clear - it is a quality of the preceding 'caloric engine'.

In reply to an earlier post on 21 Mar 2016, 18:08:21 GMT
Last edited by the author on 21 Mar 2016, 18:14:31 GMT
Mandryka says:
Inherent tuneful quantity.

Do you think the meanings matter?

In reply to an earlier post on 21 Mar 2016, 13:49:55 GMT
Fencible says:
Mandyrka, I wasn't your preference for the repetition of sound in alliteration over the repetition of sound in rhyme that attracted my attention, but your assertion that 'We Brits prefer alliteration...' I didn't think our literary history demonstrated that.

Rhymed verse has its place in our nation's poetical heritage, in our folk songs, in our hymns, and in our Nursery Rhymes. Unrhymed verse also has its place - a great poet like Shakespeare excelled at both.

If you like alliteration - as I do too - here is some fairly contemporary alliteration in a stanza from J.H.Prynne's 'Blue Sides at Rest' [2004]


'Partition blurred caloric engine his spiral transfusion

playful to flex, inherent tuneful quantity. Both recessive

to malabsorb, lapse of thought. Neither remembered this,

neck flushed allumette profusion, caressment. Up through

by a turn in apical thrill conveyed to famish, ingenious

breast cured to breathe. Sweet droplets immune in a flurry

laid aside get a shift. Her beveled spectral glide furnish,

unusual: maps to gene margin prior frivolous ought soon

to lift off ransom by choice, cantilena. Flitting under her

breath in catches, bird on briar hydroxy filament he raids

a temper vane limit venture payout. Imitate less. Apart

low rent voices motion entire neighbour despite dowel.'

Posted on 18 Mar 2016, 22:52:10 GMT
Bella says:
I rather like rhymes, so they didn't put me off Racine. I was in fact introduced to him in English when a friend persuaded me to go to Britannicus, I expected to be bored stiff but was riveted from start to finish by the subtle psychological twists, a new and fascinating world. I acquired the complete plays and managed to read them in French (18thC French is relatively easy), the characters are so vivid that one knows who is speaking just by reading a couple of lines.

Posted on 16 Mar 2016, 18:22:00 GMT
Paul says:
I had a dog and its name was Rover. When it jobbed it jobbed all over.

In reply to an earlier post on 16 Mar 2016, 17:49:54 GMT
Last edited by the author on 16 Mar 2016, 18:15:05 GMT
Mandryka says:
The problem I have with rhyme at the end of lines is that it draws attention to itself, and in the context of of rhythms as regular as Racine's, it seems silly. A bit like Walt Whitman ending each line in a sort of exclamation.

This is my favourite bit of rhyme:

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed.
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