4 February 2018 – I’ll win this fight, Amazon

Morning. Got a response from Amazon Communities and it is as I expected:

Sent: Sunday, February 4, 2018 4:09 AM
To: discophage
Subject: A message from Communities


I’ve researched your previous correspondence and re-evaluated your Customer Review for “Rugby.” After careful consideration, I agree with my colleague’s decision that the review violated our posted guidelines. Specifically, the following parts cannot be posted on Amazon.com:

.. I have (as of February 1, 2018) transferred it to my own website and replaced it with this short summary. Join me on my website! You will find there much more than I can post here. The link is on My Profile.

Your review can’t be posted on Amazon.com as written. However, you’re welcome to resubmit your review, restricting your comments to the item.

The irony of it is that, simultaneously, I receive notification that my summary / comment for Munch’s Boston Symphony Honegger on RCA, which I had posted three days ago and had not appeared online – and which ended with exactly the same sentence – was approved for posting (and likewise with my summarized review for Ansermet’s Christmas Cantata).

Anyway, I found the go around. Yesterday I posted similar summary / comments for Munch’s Danse des Morts and Second Symphony, ending with “This is the summary (from February 3, 2018) of a review that was originally much longer, detailed and substantiated, with links and in-depth interpretive comparisons with other versions, including Munch’s own. To know more about it, visit my Profile“, and that got posted instantly. I’ll win this fight, Amazon.

And a P.S. from the afternoon: yep, that seems to work. Now I feel a little like David Bowman disconnecting Hal 9000. Only, it’s going to take me longer.

I’ve added Orchestre National de France – Charles Munch dirige Honegger: Le Chant de Nigamon, Pastorale d’été, Symphony No. 2 & 5 “di tre re” (1962, 1964). Disques Montaigne MUN 2051 (1989), Valois / Audivis V-4831 (1998) – and I like the looks of my Honegger introductory page, which turns out to be a commented discography.

3 February 2018 – the fight with those fucks at Amazon continues

More transfers yesterday:

Honegger: Symphony No. 2, Symphony No. 4, Une Cantate de Noël. Pierre Mollet, Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, Ernest Ansermet. Decca / London “entreprise” 430 350-2 (1991) and subsequent CD editions

Honegger: Symphony No. 2, Symphony No. 5. Milhaud: Suite provençale op. 152, La Création du Monde. Boston Symphony Orchestra, Charles Munch. RCA GD60685 (1991) and subsequent CD editions

Honegger: Pacific 231, Rugby, Pastorale d’été, Une Cantate de Noël. Camille Mauranne, Choeurs & Orchestre National de l’O.R.T.F, Jean Martinon. EMI “L’Esprit français” CDM 7 63944 2 (1991) and subsequent CD editions

Only three, because – hey, lots of work! Finding all the details about the Japanese editions, label numbers, barcodes, relevant cover photos, was extremely time-consuming.

And three added today (that today may have spilled over tomorrow…):

Charles Münch volume 3 “The Münch Brothers conduct Arthur Honegger”: La Danse des Morts, Symphony No. 2 (Orchestre de la Société des Concerts du Conservatoire, Charles Münch), King David – excerpts (Choeurs de Saint Guillaume, Orchestre Municipal de Strasbourg, Fritz Münch).  Dante Lys 292 (1998)

Charles Munch: La France résistante. Arthur Honegger: La Danse des Morts, Symphony No. 2. Jolivet: Les Trois Complaintes du Soldat. Cascavelle Vel 3060 (2005)

Charles Munch in Boston – The Early Years (Previously Unissued Concert Performances 1952-55). 7 CDs West Hill Radio Archives WHRA 6015 (2007) (with Munch’s live and extraordinary performance of La Danse des Morts from December 1952)


And the fight with Amazon continues. So, each time I’m done transferring the review over here, I replace it with a short summary and an invitation to read the longer review on my website. Most of these emended versions have NOT gotten online. I made a request on one the other day and they put it online. I made a new request on the next one yesterday and got the answer: “promotional content”. Nothing else, no pointing our of what exactly is “promotional” and how it is “promotional”. And those fucks not only did not post the summary, they deleted the original version altogether, which had been online for five years. No more review under the entry (it was for the Alpha edition of Honegger by Honegger).

I suspect why: it’s the invitation to visit my website (although the answer to my first request did not raise the issue). Well, I’m playing dumb and fighting back. Anyway I read carefully Amazon’s guidelines about promotional content and it says nowhere that you can’t invite readers to visit your non-commercial website. They even invite you to provide the link to your website on your Profile.

My message to Amazon:

“Re my request that you check why my modification of my review ASIN B000I2KJII (barcode 3760014198021), Arthur Honegger “Rugby” (CD). was not posted, you respond that this new version of my review contains “promtional content” – BUT YOU DON’T SAY WHICH. WHERE, IN WHAT SENTENCE. This is totally unhelpful, I DO NOT KNOW what to fix. Please single out lines or paragraphs that contain promotional content.

I HAVE CAREFULLY READ the guidelines about promotional content, and I don’t see where my review breached them.

I have not created, modified, or posted content regarding my (or my relative’s, close friend’s, associate’s, or employer’s) products or services, my competitors’, or in exchange for compensatition of any kind, or offered or requested compensation, or posted advertisements or sollicitations, including URLs with referrer tags or affiliate codes.

I am not a product brand posting a review for my own product. I am not a customer posting a review in exchange for entry into a contest or sweepstages or membership in a program, or for bonus -in-game contents or credits, or to boost sales, or because I was promised a refund in exchange for the review, or a negative review about a competitor’s product, or a postive review in exchange of someone else’s positive review; etc, etc, etc.

You are mis-applying your own guidelines about promotional content.

In addition, WHY WAS the previous and longer version of that review also deleted? It has been online for 5 YEARS. Did it contain promotional content, too ? Which? Where ?

And the guidelines state that if a review is removed because it contains promotional content, even a modified version without the purported promotional content CANNOT be reposted?

So you pretend there is promotional content in the review which you have not demonstrated, delete the previous version which you DO NOT CLAIM contained promotional content, and then bar me from even reposting review without what you claim was the promotional content (if you can underline what that supposedly was) ?

What is the meaning of this bullying your customers?”

Amazon has moved from being reviewer-friendly to reviewer-hateful. I think it is more through incompetence than intention, but still, in my opinion, they are shooting a bullet in their own foot. Their community, not of “consummers”, but of users, and their reviewing system, was one of the company’s main assets. They are squandering it all.

1 February 2018

Well – I started. And since it is re: a review of a Honegger CD that I got really pissed at Amazon (see my blog-posts of January 29 and January 30), I decided to start by transferring my many Honegger reviews over here, and replacing them on Amazon with short summaries and invitations to visit my website. It’s going to take quite a while, because it is never a process of simply copying and pasting, but more of copying, pasting, scanning front and back covers, writing the complete credits and product info, sometimes adding relevant iconography, updating the reviews, changing the links, etc, etc.

But I started, and I decided to start with the historical recordings:

Collection Piero Coppola vol. 3: La Musique Française du XXème Siècle (Roussel: Suite en fa op. 33, Naissance de la Lyre op. 24 excerpt. Honegger: Pacific 231, Rugby. Schmitt: La Tragédie de Salomé. Rabaud: Mârouf Savetier du Caire Danses. Golestan: Rapsodie Roumaine). Dante Lys 373 (1998)

Honegger conducts Honegger (La Tempête-Prélude, Pastorale d’été, Pacific 231, Rugby, Les Aventures du Roi Pausole: Overture & Ballet, Symphonie “Liturgique”). Rhené-Bâton conducts Le Chant de Nigamon. Music & Arts CD-767 (1993)

Honegger conducts Honegger (Pacific 231, Rugby, Prelude to the Tempest, Pastoral D’été [sic], Les Aventures du roi Pausole: Overture & Ballet, Concerto for cello w. Maurice Maréchal). Maurice Jaubert conducts Jaubert: Ballade. Gabriel Pierné conducts Pierné: Ramuntcho. Dutton CDBP 9764 (2006)

Arthur Honegger: “Rugby” – Interprétations historiques sous la direction du compositeur (Pacific 231, Rugby, Symphony No. 3 “Liturgique”, three out of Quatre Chansons pour voix grave orchestral version w. Madeleine Martinetti, two excerpts from Apollinaire’s Alcools w. Dolores de Silvera, Trois Psaumes, two excerpts from Quatre Chansons pour voix grave piano version w. Eliette Schenneberg, two excerpts from Trois Chansons de la petite sirène w. Claire Croiza). Alpha 802 (2008)

Les Rarissimes de Arthur Honegger: Une Cantate de Noël (A Christmas Cantata), Cris du Monde, Nicolas de Flue, Rugby, Pacific 231. Georges Tzipine, Orchestre National de la Radiodiffusion française, Orchestre de la Société des Concerts du Conservatoire. (2 CDs) EMI 5 86477 2 (2005)

Honegger: Pacific 231, Rugby, Mouvement symphonique No. 3, Prelude pour “La Tempête”, Pastorale d’été, Chant de joie. Stravinsky: Pétrouchka. Hermann Scherchen, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Westminster 289 471 245-2 (2001)

And an escapade to a more recent, and famed recording: Honegger: Symphony No. 2 for string orchestra & trumpet, Symphony No. 3 “Liturgique”. Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, Herbert von Karajan. DG 20th Century Classics 423 242-2 (1988), reissued on DG “The Originals” 447 435-2 with Stravinsky’s Concerto for strings in D (1995).

And a post-script: having just transfered my review of the twofer Les Rarissimes of Honegger conducted by Georges Tzipine (see link above), I am reminded that there are strange connexions between my activities as a reviewer on Amazon, and Honegger. So, it is because Amazon.com pissed me on re-posting a review already posted of a Honegger disc that I decided to really jump out of the train – and have started doing it.

But it’s also a Honegger review that, back in 2006, sent me to Amazon.com to post my reviews. When I decided to post reviews on Amazon, the obvious choice to me was to post them on Amazon.fr (and in French, of course).  But I soon found the process extremely tedious and unwelcoming: many of my reviews wouldn’t get posted, I never received an explanation why, I figured out that, apparently, any review that was over 500 words was simply barred (although the limit established in Amazon’s own guidelines is 1,000). But the last straw with Amazon.fr came when I tried to post that review for EMI’s Rarissimes of Honegger by Tzipine. It didn’t get posted. In inquired why. I got in answer, which baffled and infuriated me. The review started something like: “Shame on EMI-France for not systematically maintaining in their catalog some of the sets they had published in the 1990s in the collection “Les Introuvables”, for which some internet sellers are now asking ludicrous prices. But still, praise them for pursuing their reissue effort in this new collection “Les Rarissimes” and making available again some of the finest collectibles from the late 78rpms and early LP era, from their own archive or the vaults of the French label Ducretet-Thompson“.

Well, the asses who screened the reviews at Amazon.fr responded: “libel”.

WTF??? Hey guys, I know a thing or two about libel laws in France. I know that in France free speech is more limited than in the US and libel laws stricter. But, NO you people, saying “shame on EMI for not keeping this or that available but praise them for making other things available” is NOT, not even close to (and not even far from, because metaphors of distance simply wouldn’t even apply) “slander”.

So I had people screening my reviews, that were incompetent both in classical music AND in the law, and they were making my life needlessly complicated. Jeeeezus!

But then, my first reaction was to say, “hey what the heck”, bite the bullet and mollify that first sentence, like “a pity that EMI-France hasn’t maintained….”. Ah, but, no…. although the review had been barred, the “system” (makes me think of Kafka’s Castle) considered that I had published a review, and barred me from posting another one under the same entry.

So: fuck Amazon.fr and go to hell if you don’t want my reviews and are afraid of your own shadow. And I moved my reviewing to Amazon.com, where to my great marvel most of my reviews got posted immediately with no apparent screening, even if they approached the 1,000-word limit (which I later discovered was in fact NOT a limit, just a recommendation – it is only passed 5,000 that the system wouldn’t accept a review) and staff was responsive and nice whenever I inquired about problems.

Ah but those were the heydays of Amazon.com, that’s over now. But how strange it is that a Honegger review would open that cycle and another one would close it, no? Ghost of Arthur, what are you trying to tell me?

30 January 2018 – Amazon is the worst

UN-BE-LIE-VA-BLE. So, this is the sequel to my diary of yesterday. I got the response from “Communities” this morning. Just unbelievable. Here it is:


I’ve researched your previous correspondence and re-evaluated your Customer Review for “The Arthur Honegger Centenary, Vol. 2: The Musician of the Twenties .” After careful consideration, I agree with my colleague’s decision that the review violated our posted guidelines. Specifically, the following parts cannot be posted on Amazon.com:

But those are small details, that will be perceptible only by those following with a score, and they are offset by the great instrumental vividness and pungency of the performance and recording. Cellist Michal Kanka plays with warm tone and great lyricism, but also vigor and bite when the music requires. He and Kosler adopt some unusual tempi in some passages of the slow movement and Finale, but I always find their choices convincing. Still, the performance glitches and the various audience noises (not that they are obtrusive, but this one was recorded at a public concert) would not make this your version of choice…. but there is a special treat in store for the Honegger aficionado. Honegger planned for an “ad libitum” cadenza at the end of the slow movement. He didn’t provide one, but his dedicatee and premiere performer Maurice Maréchal wrote one, that is appended at the end of the score, and it is great, sounding like a scrap from Kodaly’s Solo Cello Sonata. However, inexplicably, most recordings don’t play it: Maréchal did, of course, in his 1943 recording under the composer’s baton (ASIN:B000ECWY8U Honegger Conducts Honegger), but not Tortelier, not Sadlo, not Rostropovich, not Julian Lloyd Weber, and the list isn’t limitative: they all segue directly, and frustratingly, from the slow movement to the Finale. The only modern recordings I know that play the Maréchal cadenza are those of Ulrich Schmid (ASIN:B00000JIP6 Ernest Bloch: Schelomo; Arthur Honegger: Concerto for Violoncello and Orchestra) and of Alban Gerhardt (ASIN:B001F4YGYG Une Cantate De Noel Horace Victorieux). The cadenza should be mandatory, and if not Maréchal’s, cellists should do like Maréchal and provide their own.

So, Kanka: Maréchal’s cadenza? No, another one, presumably his own (the liner notes are entirely silent on this issue). It is great too, longer than Maréchal’s (it runs 2 minutes) and it alone is reason enough for the VERY serious Honegger fan to buy this CD. And he can sample any other reasons to find this disc attractive in my review.

Other than that, it can be of interest also to the occasional amateur of Honegger, provided he can find it cheap. The program is valuable and varied, the interpretations are of unequal value but the best among them are good enough. This here is the “official” entry for this CD, corresponding to its barcode (3149025050915). There are others, like ASIN:B000005VZG The Arthur Honegger Centenary Vol. 2: The Musician of the Twenties: La Tempête, prelude / Concertino for Piano / Pacific 231 / Cello Concerto / Mouvement symphonique no. 3 / Symphony No. 1 in C major (under which I originally posted this review). 

Your review can’t be posted on Amazon.com as written. However, you’re welcome to resubmit your review, restricting your comments to the item.”

“Promotional content”? These people are INSANE. No, I take that back: Amazon staffs people of such abyssmal INCOMPETENCE, they know DICK about classical music, so when I post a fine, elaborate comparative review, where I compare intepretation a to interpretations b to z, they call it “promotional content”!!!!

Oh I did respond, more out of a sense of indignancy than in any hope to get things changed. Amazon has become, as far as reviewing classical music is concerned, the worst website in the world, and I hate them. It’s gonna take time, but I will progressively move all my reviews over here and delete them from that shitty website. I will not contribute gratis anymore to the value of a website that so mis-treats its contributors. Fuck you Jeff Bezos, and may you choke in your dollars.

29 January 2018 – why I will no longer review on Amazon

Long time away from discophage.com. There are a number of material reasons to it, including that I (still) buy so many CDs that it seems to take endless time just to sort out and write down what comes in (especially when I receive parcels of 50 or 100…. yeah, that’s how sick I am…), and also that I’ve been busying myself with various discographies, but fundamentally I think it was a period of “reviewing fatigue”. Listening is easy, writing serious reviews is hard work, time-consuming!

But I’m reminded what a shitty place for reviewing Amazon.com has sadly become. I wanted to repost under its legitimate entry, corresponding to its barcode, a review that I had already posted some years ago of a CD (which is not important… Honegger on the label Praga) that was in fact listed under a distributor’s barcode. Very same review. And now I get notification that it can’t be posted, because it purportedly breaches guidelines. It doesn’t, of course. So I write to “Help” – only to discover that the direct link (which was not easy to find, but nonetheless existed) to “topic: customer reviews” is gone. Amazon doesn’t want you to write any more when you have an issue with your customer review. So I write anyway, using the “website feedback” category. OK, to my great surprise, they do respond: that the review contains “promotional content” and if I do it again, they’ll “remove my posting priviledges”!!! FUCK YOU! The review contains no “promotional content” whatsoever, no more than it did four years ago, and I defy you to show me what promotional content it contains. I don’t know if this is bot error or human mis-judgement, but it is crass incompetence. So I wrote back, and I’ll see what they answer.

But is it really worth the fight and time and energy wasted?

Also, limiting myself to my center of interest, classical music CDs, Amazon is increasingly becoming a horrendous bureaucratic mess. Frankly, the customer in search of a specific CD is more likely NOT not to get a good deal on Amazon, because so many of its entries are SO BADLY BOTCHED that they are impossible to find or entirely misleading when you do chance on them. In order to find the right CD at the right price, you need to know its barcode, and I’m sure that the immense majority of that very tiny minority that are purchasers of music CDs are not even aware of what a barcode is.

And this: And when I started posting my reviews on Amazon.com in 2006, reviewing on Amazon.com was a fun and friendly experience. No more. Year after year, change after change, they’ve made the reviewing experience a less friendly one, one increasingly fraught with hurdles and frustrations. Among the last straws, there has been this asinine new Profile which they implemented some years ago. Before that, you had something like 10 of your own reviews per page, and then went to page two for the next 10, etc. Now they had this oh so brilliant idea to have ALL your reviews on the same page. Yeah, fine, when you’ve posted 10 or 100 short reviews, no problem. But when you’ve posted 2,500 long ones? The page NEVER STOPS scrolling down with the next reviews popping up, and it takes, like, 10 fucking minutes of scrolling down (in fact I need to chronometer that precisely) to reach my first review from 2006! So this new Profile is useless to me and I avoid it like a venerian disease (and there are other issues with it as well, I’ll spare you the details). Fortunately, they provided a link to your reviews, with 10 displayed per page as on the old Profile, so I bookmarked that and could circumvent the hateful new profile. Well, as of December 2017 (probably before, but that’s when I realized of the change),  that’s gone too. So now I’m stuck with this hateful Profile.

And, of couse, as of October 2017, Amazon has closed its discussion fora. When it was launched in 1995 as an online bookseller, Amazon based its strength and development on creating a sense of comunity. The allegiance and fidelity to Amazon went way beyond just finding favorable prices, but was built on that sense of comunity.

Well, obviously, Amazon is not interested anymore. Bezos just wants our dollars. OK, I’ll keep buying from Amazon when I find cheapest offers, why not. But as for adding to the websites value through by reviews, FUCK YOU! If you don’t want them, why should I insist on imposing them on you?

So, it’ll take time, but I absolutely need now to be serious about importing my 2,500 Amazon reviews over here and, probably, suppressing them from there.

Okay I needed to vent.

And with all that, at the end of the day, I managed to tip-toe back into reviewing: Pierre Boulez: Domaines, by Michel Plasson and Ensemble Musique Vivante conducted by Diego Masson, Harmonia Mundi, reissued on DG’s Pierre Boulez complete works.

4 December 2017

So, I’m becoming a great specialist of Schumann’s Der Rose Pilgerfahrt. I’ve now reviewed my third version and second with piano accompaniment, conducted by Marcus Creed on Harmonia Mundi, the most “authentic” of the three (to know why, see the review). But I think I’m going to stop there, the work isn’t so good that it warrants endlessly returning to it. I may let myself be tempted by Christoph Spering’s recording of the orchestral version with period instruments, on Opus 111, if I chance on it for cheap enough.

Spent some time working on my discography of French Harmonia Mundi. Huge catalog, difficult to reconstruct because barcodes don’t follow the sequence of the label numbers, and also because of the numerous reissues. It’s always the same story, I just want to check a small detail and I think it’s going to take me a couple of minutes, and then a small thing leads to another small thing…

30 November 2017

Because the orchestrated version of Schumann’s Der Rose Pilgarfahrt, as conducted in 1974 by Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos on EMI, didn’t give entire satisfaction, and because, based on Schuman’s own testimony, the original version with piano accompaniment seemed truer to his original conception, I ordered the recording made by the label ebs in 1990, which boasted being the premiere recording (of the piano version) – and it was cheap enough.

I then put up EMI’s CD on my shelves – only to discover that the ebs version was already there! Of course I had totally forgotten about it – it entered my collection in 1994… Now, I have so many records that it’s easy for me to forget what I have, and that’s why I keep files – I’m slowly moving to computerizing them, but they are, at the present, cardboard files. The ebs recording was duly listed. Only, when I checked on my files to see if I had any recordings of the work, I had looked at the end of the Schumann’ files, where I normally list the choral works; but, because it is the version with piano accompaniment, I had entered it with the lieder, just after the piano works and before the chamber music. Well… too late to cancel my order, so now I have two copies of the ebs recording, and I feel particularly stupid.

In fact, I think the CD was given to me by the American tenor Scot Weir, who sings on it. I met Scot at the Salzburg Festival, where I was a stage manager and he was singing Basilio in Mozart’s Nozze. Scot was called late to replace another tenor in a concert with Britten’s Les Illuminations and he asked me to give him a little coaching in French. Well, I can testify to what a great ear and knack for foreign accents Scot has. After a few hours, I can tell you that he sung better French than most of your French singers, and the concert was superb. When he made the Schumann recording, in 1990, Scot had been singing as troupe member in German operas for a decade, and his German also sounds near-spotless to my non-German-native ears.

27 November 2017

Another CD that I pulled out of the incoming lot and listen to just to get an idea, and ultimately listened serious and reviewed: Schumann’s late cantata Der Rose Pilgerfahrt (The Pilgrimage of the Rose) in Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos’ classic 1974 recording on EMI with the Düsseldorf forces which were the distant heirs of those who had premiered the work. The piece is almost exclusively lyrical, much Eusebius and little Florestan. Careful listening with score lent more rewards than first casual hearing, although the piece doesn’t really stick in mind. Stellar cast, but Frühbeck’s conducting seems objectionably slow at times.

24 November 2017

Started listening to Schumann’s Der Rose Pilgerfahrt (The Pilgrimage of the Rose), in Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos’ reference recording from 1974 on EMI, with a stellar vocal cast. On first hearing, not really convinced by the music, but some of it may have to do with Frühbeck’s conducting, not always as animated as I think the music calls for, but some of it may come also from Schumann’s rather bland orchestration.

But in the midst of it, checking on the mail of the day, I was returned to my review of Marjory Kennedy-Fraser’s Songs of the Hebrides. When I first wrote the review, ten days ago, I had checked the songs on the CD against the scores available on the International Music Scores Library Project. Some I was unable to locate, including the marvelous “The Uncanny Mannikin of the Cattlefold”, and assumed they were on the fourth volume referred to by the liner notes and not available on IMSLP (turns out that there was also a fifth volume). As I was researching the volume on the Internet, if only to find a table of contents, I chanced on an offer from a marketplace seller on Abebooks, which was within my range of price; so I  bought it; and that’s what came in the mail today. I’ve got to confess that I am impressed to hold in my hands and have in my collection a book of scores that is almost a century-old. And the score of “The Uncanny Mannikin” is indeed included. I edited the review with the new info in my possession. Now back to Schumann.