Latest additions and reviews

eBay finally getting their act together, after years of inaction?

I spend a lot of time – here or even without venting it publicly – complaining about the unhelpful, customer-adverse rather than “-centric”, bureaucratic mess that Amazon has become. But eBay tends to be no better.

I buy a lot of CDs on eBay, when prices are more attractive than on Amazon – which happens especially when I buy in bulk from a given seller, because I can get rebates on combined shipments, an advantage that Amazon doesn’t offer. Payment through paypal is also very easy, two clicks and it’s done. And there are other attractions to eBay. But eBay is like Amazon: such an obdurate, bureaucratic mess in some aspects that it is absolutely infuriating. As satisfied as I am with getting my CDs cheap, I woudln’t put my life on the line to save eBay if it was threatened.

I’ve recounted here the asinine stupidity of the translation “dildo” that they implemented back in 2015 on some of the German listings. If you want to know how Handel becomes “Commerce” and Till Eulenspiegel becomes “Till Owl Mirror”, go read it. To this day this grotesquerie continues.

Another problem that appeared one day – past exchanges of mail show that it had already started in October 2016 – was with the Summary page. That’s the page – or rather, the pages – that recap the objects you are following (“watch list”), or those you have purchased. That or these pages all of a sudden were taking hours – well, maybe a minute, which in the time of the internet seems like hours – to load. Scrolling down a page was so slow you thought it was mired in wax or something. Or whenever I made a change to one of the pages, like suppressing an object that I had been watching: hours to load again (and some spooky jumping from page to page in the process). Paying my bulk purchases became a nightmare, because when I needed to suppress from the list of purchases to pay those that seller had not yet invoiced (it happens with some sellers I do regular custom with): hours to re-load with each suppressed item, so imagine if I had to take ten off the list. Infuriating.

From the little I could make up of it, it had to do with some script or scripts – for ads, maybe, I’m not sure – that were endlessly running while the page was loading and slowed down everything. So, of course, I contacted eBay. And, of course, the response was: “it’s not us, it’s you. Empty your caches, delete your cookies, use another browser, check the settings of your antivirus. It’s not us, it’s you”.

Yeah, sure: so why was it doing it ONLY with eBay, and with no other website, not Amazon, not Wikipedia, whichever browser I used, even the already obsolete Internet Explorer 11? They didn’t care, “yeah it can happen, it’s not us, it’s you”.

Sometimes, you feel that those people are hired and trained and paid not to solve problems, but to deflect requests and throw the hot potato out the office window. Of course, that attitude, “it’s not us it’s you”, isn’t very conducive to examining if it may not be “us” after all, and fixing whatever problems.

I gave up and was left to mumble and grumble against the inconvenience of eBay and the incompetence of its staffers.

BUT! Wait. This is not a post just to vent and complain. This is one to say that one should never lose hope and optimism. THINGS HAVE SUDDENLY GOTTEN BETTER WITH EBAY ON THAT FRONT.

First, a few months or weeks ago, I noticed that the loading and scrolling of the Summary pages got fine! What a relief. Now, the price to pay was that I couldn’t delete items from those pages anymore, the link to delete didn’t work. But okay, I could live with that better than with the sticky loading and scrolling. But, more good news: now, just recently, the delete function was effective again.

Problem solved, then.

Now, I will NOT say “thank you eBay”. I’ll say: “so, after all, it WAS you, and not me, not my caches, no my cookies, not my browser, not my antivirus? WHY DID IT TAKE YOU SO LONG TO FIND OUT AND FIX IT???? And have you learned the lesson? I bet you haven’t”.

Now, how ’bout fixing that problem with the translation dildo, you know?

Not the kind of stuff that I usually buy and review… but there’s always endless ramifications to the simplest things

Not the kind of stuff I usually buy and review, but… I chanced on this one as I was working on a discography of the French label Chant du Monde, and I thought it would make a nice gift for a friend of mine who just had a baby. I wasn’t even going to consider reviewing it… and then one thing led to the other, and even the apparently simplest, most unconspicuous things can lend themselves to very elaborate reviews, once you start digging… So, that story is told under my review of Berceuses du Monde Entier (Lullabies from Around the World) sung by Colette MagnyTalila, Marina Vlady, Brenda Wootton, Naomi Moody and Toto BissaintheChant du Monde LDX 200312 (1990), CML 500312 (1995), 500312 (2004).

Recent acquisition and review of 8-CD set Michèle Auclair

Michèle Auclair Milestones of a Legend. 8 CDs The Intense Media 600317 (2016) barcode 405379600317. Concertos  of Mozart (Nos. 4 & 5) (Stuttgart Philharmonic, Marcel Couraud 1961 from Philips), Brahms (Vienna Symphony Orchestra, Willem van Otterloo 1958 from Philips), Tchaikovsky (Austrian Symphony Orchestra, Kurt Wöss circa 1950 from Remington), Haydn Violin Concerto No. 1 (Orchestre de la Société des Concerts du Conservatoire, Jacques Thibaud 1938 from La Voix de Son Maître / Disque Gramophone), Bruch (Austrian SO, Wilhelm Loibner from Remington circa 1952), Sonatas of Bach (Marie-Claire Alain 1956-1957 from Les Discophiles Français), Debussy & Ravel Sonatas (Jacqueline Bonneau circa 1960 from Les Discophiles Français), Encores by Kreisler (Otto Schulhof circa 1953 from Remington)

I chanced upon this set as I was compiling my big CD-discography of Christian Ferras.  The same label has also issued a set devoted to him, 600379 barcode 4053796003799,  which I’ve left out of the discography, because obviously it offers what I believe are bootleg dubs of material that was reissued by the official labels, EMI and DG, in transfers that I trust will be infinitely better, so why bother? The label, “The Intense Media”, appeared to be an offshoot from the infamous German label Membran, that I had first encountered some years ago when it issued large sets devoted to the great conductors of the past, adorned with inept titles for the supermarket, like “Maestro Classico” (for Furtwängler!), “Maestro decente” (Böhm), “Maestro Brillante” (Ormandy…) and the likes, and, more fundamentally, that obviously plundered all the other labels they could find, official like Sony or RCA, or non-official like Dante, Biddulph etc.  And now Dante and Biddulph are dead, and Membran thrives? That’s rewarding the bad guys. Nonetheless, the CD reissues of Michèle Auclair are few and hard to come by in the West (she appears to enjoy a much greater standing in Japan and Korea), and although I had some of the Japanese “official” reissues, the set was cheap and I thought I’d give it a try.

Well, turns out that all my “expectations” were fulfilled: the Auclair set is obviously plundered as well from previous reissues by other labels; I could check that for sure with the Brahms and Mozart Concertos, by comparing with my Japanese editions, and I have no reason to believe that the set proceeds otherwise with the rest of its material (it may be cause for some to rejoice, then, that the sonics won’t be any worse than the original reissues they were  copied from). Also, you may think you are making a good deal for 8 CDs, but each CD is very short, the worst being the Debussy-Ravel Sonatas, running 28 minutes.

But to make my review useful, I’ve added a discography of all those other, mostly Japanese, CD reissues of Auclair’s recordings.

Recently acquired: Yvonne Loriod, The Complete Vega Recordings 1956-1963 (Decca)

Recently acquired (and that I hope to fully review someday):

A superb 13 CD set from Decca, “Yvonne Loriod, The Complete Vega Recordings 1956-1963” (2019) barcode 028948170692

Years ago, I had, if I remember well, a very scratching, 10″ LP with two Mozart Concertos played by Loriod and conducted by Boulez, that I had inherited, I think, from my dad or my uncle. Yes! Boulez conducting and Loriod – Madame Messiaen – playing Mozart. Not exactly what you might have expected from those two specialists of 20th century, avant-garde music. But the record was so unbearably scratchy that I happily parted with it, offering it to a dear friend of mine and record collector.

Well, those Mozart concertos are back, first time on CD – there were actually four of them recorded by Loriod and Boulez for Vega, Nos. 1-4. No scratches, excellent transfers. In fact, the set is lavishly done, with an excellent booklet that is in itself a fine compendium of Messiaen documentation, sporting reproductions of the original Vega LPs, rare early photos of the Messiaens and associated performers, and posters of various concerts of Loriod and Messiaen, an introduction by esteeemed French critic, Messiaen specialist, founder of the Olivier Messiaen piano competition and erstwhile artistic director of Vega records in the early 1960s, Claude Samuel, and moving tributes by Loriod’s pupil and Messiaen specialist Roger Muraro, and by musicologist and Messian biographer Nigel Simeone. No slapdash job, a work of care.

As for the recordings compiled on those 13 CDs, I had many of them, both on old crackling Vega LPs and on their CD reissues by Adès or, later, Accord, which picked up the Adès catalog in the 1990s. But some are rarities making their first CD appearance: the four Mozart Concertos (CDs 1 & 2), Liszt’s Piano Sonata (CD 2), 12 Chopin Etudes and 8 Schumann Novelettes (CD 3), the complete Iberia of Albeniz (CDs 4 and 5) – only excerpts had been previously reissued to CD, in 1985, by Adès, 14.071-2 barcode 3129671407127 -, Jean Barraqué’s daunting Piano Sonata (CD 6). The Messiaen recordings – Vingt Regards sur l’Enfant Jésus, Visions de l’Amen, Cantéyodjayâ, Catalogue d’oiseaux, 7 Haikai, Oiseaux exotiques, Turangalîla Symphonie –  are not to be confused with those she later made for Erato. 7 Haikai was first CD-released in 1985 on Adès 14.073-2 (barcode 3129671407325), paired with Boulez’ Marteau sans maïtre and Sonatine for Flute and piano, Vingt Regards on Adès 14.112-2 (1987) bc 3129671411223, Visions de l’Amen and Cantéyodjayâ on 13.232-2 (1988) 3129671323328. Falla’s Night in the Garden of Spains was reissued in 1989 on Adès 13.272-2 barcode 3129671327227 (with Dances from the Tri-Cornered Hat and Arbos’ orchestration of Albeniz’ Iberia, all conducted by Manuel Rosenthal). Maurice Le Roux’ Turangalîla was first reissued on Accord 204 792 bc 3229262047920. Oiseaux Exotiques, Boulez’ Sonata No. 2 , Henze’s Concerto per il Marigny, Berg’s Sonata, Webern’s Variations op. 27 and Schoenberg’s Suite op. 29 saw their first CD outing in 2006 on two Accord sets documenting  Boulez’ Domaine Musical 1956-1967, 476 9209 barcode 028947992096, and 476 8862 bc 028947688624. Those two sets were reissued in 2015 with more on a 10-CD set, Accord 4811510, barcode 028948115105, the “more” including Boulez’ first (and rough) recording of  Marteau sans Maître, with Marie-Thérèse Cahn, in 1956 (the version previously reissued was with Jeanne Deroubaix, from 1964). There were a number of individual reissues  of the Messiaen recordings (and Falla’s Night) on Accord, but all Vega / Adès’ Messiaen was compiled (with Catalogue d’Oiseaux making its first CD appearance) in 2008 on a 7-CD set Accord 480 1045 “Messiaen Les Premiers enregistrements 1956-1962”  barcode 028948010455.

The set is wrong in some of its indications of “First CD release”. As I mentioned, excerpts from the four books of Iberia were published on Adès 14.071-2 (1985) barcode 3129671407127. The four Mozart Fantasias, Sonata K331, Rondo K485 were on Adès’ budget collection “Or”, 13.204-2 (1987), barcode 3129671320426 (best documentation for the latter is on Muziekweb.nl). But all these early Adès CD reissues are now offered on the marketplace (if they are at all) at cut-throat prices, it’s good to have them back in a single set. Nigel Simeone, in his otherwise very detailed and informative essay on Loriod’s performance and recording career, is, I believe, also wrong when he states that that Loriod and Messiaen’s first recording of Visions de l’Amen, in 1949, was made for the American label Dial. I believe it was for the French Contrepoint, 6 78rmp sides CO 1 to 6. My understanding is that Dial 8 was a reissue to LP.

As a great bonus, the set adds two recordings made for Boîte à Musique (Messiaen’s 8 Preludes, 1958, first CD reissue) and Club Français du Disque (Stravinsky’s Petrouchka by Orchestre des Cento Soli under Rudolf Albert, a recording from 1957 in which Loriod was the pianist). The latter was previously reissued to CD on Accord 476 8957, barcode 028947689577 (paired with Le Sacre by same conductor and orchestra).

One small frustration, maybe: Decca left out the recordings made for Vega’s successor Adès, of Yvonne Loriod’s sister, Jeanne, a famous player of Ondes Martenot, who participated with Yvonne in (most of) the recordings of Messiaen’s works with piano and Ondes. Vega’s Turangalîla-Symphony conducted by Maurice Le Roux is there of course, but in the early 1980s Adès published two LPs of Jeanne’s Sextet (originally on 21.007, see entry on Discogs.com), and two pieces there included were for Ondes and Piano, with Yvonne at the piano, of course: André Jolivet’s 3 Poèmes pour ondes Martenot et Piano and Darius Milhaud’s Suite pour ondes musicales Martenot et Piano.

Independent even of one’s appreciation on the interpretations, this becomes (if you don’t already have the Accord 7-CD set mentioned above) an indispensable acquisition for the fan of Messiaen, one of the building blocks of any serious Messiaen collection, together with the twofer from EMI’s Rarissimes, 3 85275 2 (2007) barcode 094638527527 (documenting the earliest recordings on Ducretet-Thompson, Pathé, Contrepoint and others: Trois petites Liturgies de la présence divine, Visions de l’Amen, Quatre Etudes de rythme, 3 preludes, Offrandes oubliées), and the great Erato 17-CD set ECD 71580 (1988) 3269657158022, reissued on 2292-45505-2, barcode 022924550522, augmented reissue (18 CDs) Warner  2564 62162-2 (2000)  825646216222 (and, for Messiaen’s organ works, you also have EMI-France’s 4-CD set 7 67400-2 “Messiaen par lui-même” documenting the composer’s 1957 recording, barcode 077776740027). But in this case, it is not just a tribute to Messiaen, it is a beautiful tribute to Yvonne Loriod.

Repost of my review of Dante Lys 397 Beethoven Symphony No. 1, Violin Concerto by Szigeti Walter 1947

Just sold my copy of Dante Lys 397, Bruno Walter edition vol. 4 with Beethoven’s Symphony No. 1 and Violin Concerto with Joseph Szigeti and the “Philharmonic-Symphony Orchestra of New York” as it was still called then, in 1947. I have these recordings in other and more convenient editions, on Sony and Music & Arts. The liner notes to the Dante edition are great, though, and I’ve scanned them. I took the opportunity to repost here my Amazon review. Can it be as old as 2009?! I don’t feel older… I feel as if it was last year…

A chronological CD-discography of Christian Ferras

Wow. Mission accomplished. I’ve just published my great CD-discography of French violinist Christian Ferras (1933-1982). I thought it would be a quick escapade from this other discography I’ve been working on, of the three labels of historical recordings from EMI-France, “Les Introuvables”, “Les Rarissimes” and “Les Pianistes français”. One of the installments in the “Introuvables” collection was a valuable Christian Ferras 4-CD set (2002), which I’ve reviewed, and, checking on previous and subsequent reissues, I decided to go ahead and order the two recent sets from DG, “L’Art de Christian Ferras”, 10 CDs DG 480 6655 (2012) (with almost all his DG recordings) and from Warner, “Christian Ferras The Complete HMV & Telefunken Recordings”, 13 CDs Warner Icon 9029576308 (2017). I already had most of the material gathered on these two sets, but scattered between numerous CDs and sets, plus, the two sets offered a few “firsts-on-CD” (like Serge Nigg’s Violin Concerto for the DG set – which I have on LP -, or a 1962 recording of Beethoven’s Violin Sonata No. 1 on the Warner set, plus the Telefunken recordings) that made them attractive to me. So, with (almost) all his DG recordings and all his EMI and Telefunken recordings in my collection, plus a number from Decca, I thought it’d be a good idea to do this discography. Moreover, foolish me, I thought I had most of the necessary information with me already, either from the CDs themselves, or from the Ferras discography compiled by French violin specialist Jean-Michel Molkhou and included in the DG set, and also available online on the website of Association Christian Ferras. But why – did I object to myself – make an online discography when there was one already, and pretty complete, it seemed? Well, first – did I reply to my self-objection – because I wanted to do it chronologically rather than alphabetically. I find that there is a special interest to chronologically-ordered discographies, as they give you a glimpse to the artist’s recording and artistic career. Second, because Molkhou’s discography provides only label numbers, not barcodes. I insist, again and again, that given the shambles that most of them are, it has become almost impossible to find a specific CD on your favorite online webstore if you don’t have the barcode. A discography without barcodes is no more than an abstract list of numbers; what’s the interest? What’s the use of a discography if it doesn’t enable you to find the damned CDs? Just make you drool with envy, without ever being able to actually locate the object of your desire? And there were other reasons still that, I thought (and still think) lent legitimacy to my own effort, which I detail in the discography’s introduction.

So there I went, on (what I thought would be) my quick discographic work. Well, it turned out that:

a. locating some of the CDs referenced by Molkhou and/or other online discographies was hell (and in one case, I failed – but in so many cases, I succeeded, against the odds). Pretty easy when the label number is part of the barcode: when you know the barcode’s syntax, it’s easy to guess it from the label number – although, even with that, I was never able to find that one reference mentioned by Molkhou and spent hours on it (I know what the barcode should be: 724347191923; and I’ve been able to locate CDs with adjacent barcode numbers; but hours of searches on both barcode and label number yielded nothing online, the eternal silence of infinite spaces). But sometimes there is no relation between label number and barcode. I shouted in triumph (and relief), very late at night, when finally I found EMI Eminence CD-EMX  2178, barcode 077776406527. I had the two adjacent label numbers, EMX 2177 (077776404622) and EMX 2179 (077776411422), because both are listed on Discogs.com,…

…but WHERE WAS THE DAMNED EMX 2178 hiding? And it’s not like they were just following each other in the barcode sequence, to make my life easy. From O4622 to 14222, you’ve got 96 barcodes to check. I was lucky in my decision to start from 046 and go forward, rather than 142 and go backwards…

(Addendum 12 June: And, since I found it, and it was cheap, I went ahead and bought it, so – breaking news from 1991 ! – I can now triumphantly provide the cover photos! And I’ve done my good deed of the day, and listed it on Discogs.)

 

 

Likewise, I decided that I was finally done and it was time to publish the disography, when I was able to find (another middle-of-the-night outburst) the barcode of Originals SH 846 (an Italian label, a 1995 publication with Ferras’ only extant performance of Prokofiev’s First Violin Concerto, under Dean Dixon). In truth, I had given up upon it, but that little indication in parantheses, “barcode not found”, itched. That’s when, the other night, I chanced on eBay on another release from the same label, SH 827, which at least gave me the general “syntax” of the barcode, 01166290XXXY. No relation with the label number, alas, but still, it seemed pretty easy, 846 minus 827, that’s 19 numbers, so relevant barcode should be 19 numbers up, right? Wrong, because that barcode is used for a number of different Italian labels that I usually categorize as junk, Gramofono, Radio Years, Entreprise, AS Disc, and usually terribly badly listed, with gaps that I didn’t know if they were truly gaps, or just my CD listed nowhere online and I was inadvertently skipping it. There again I was able to reduced the range of research by locating the adjacent label numbers, SH 844, 845, 847, 848… But still no Ferras (turned out that the actual barcode was not in incremental sequence…)! It didn’t help that most of these releases were listed on Amazon not under their proper barcode, but under the barcode of their distributor, Allegro Import (I’ve seen a backcover photo of one of them with the Allegro sticker covering the “legitimate” barcode). I did help hower that many of the listings on Amazon offered a backcover photo with the legitimate barcode. That unfortunately did not seem to get me any closer to my Ferras CD, because that collection/barcode series is very elusive online,  quark-like, rarely there when you expect they should, possibly because only 3000 copies of each were pressed. I was going as far as Yahoo auctions Hong-Kong and finding nothing, it was getting late, I was getting exhausted, I was giving up, and in the last resort, before shutting down, I just typed “Ferras Prokofiev Dixon”. I could have done that to start with (in fact, I think I did, but it must have been “Beethoven Prokofiev Ferras”. And that yielded. Of all places, on Amazon.fr. Shout of triumph and relief. It’s like looking for something all around the world and it turns out it had always been under your bed…

Bottom line: discographers, give us the barcodes and spare our time!

b. …and it turned out also that Molkhou’s discography, although pretty abundant, is far from complete. There’s the additional info I have in my own lists of labels (like the erswhile Dutch Disky), the info I found on the Amazons, Discogs and various other websites. Moreover, searches on the Japanese websites, Amazon.co.jp and Tower.jp, yielded piles of CDs – even Western editions – that did not show up on the Western websites. Boy was I happy when I chanced on PECO SSCD 003 (a tricky one because, though published in 1998, came with no barcode)! Felt like the patient fisherman reeling in a monster carp…

So with all that, I can say without, I think, excessive bragging, that I’ve published the most complete and, I hope, useful Ferras discography so far. It was a lot of work: I began on May 6. Hope you enjoy, and benefit.

Now I need to complete my discography of Introuvables Rarissimes Pianistes français….

Amazon: the ongoing story of “from worse to even worse”

So, one of my last blog posts (link will open new tab) recounted how  the correct cover photos that I had uploaded when I had created some entries for CDs that I wanted to sell, and that had been duly posted at the time,  had suddenly disappeared from public view (although the submission remained present on my offer). One case in point was Anthony Davis’ opera “The Life and Times of Malcolm X” on Grammavision, but I’ve found many other cases – and not just on pages I had created, all over the place, there must be hundreds, if not thousands of them, apparently there’s been a Stalinist purge of photos at Amazon!

In my April 11 post I recounted my first attempt to notify Amazon and have them reinstate the correct images, and the gibberish I had received in response:

“We cannot modify the category tree node (noeud d’arborescence de catégorie) suggested for the product identifier: B000009JE4.  It seems that this product is out-of-stock in your inventory”. 

Well, I decided this would be my Sisyphus moment: roll that boulder up the hill, and when it rolls down on you, do it again, and again, “and yet persist”, until you get over the hill. Against bureaucracies, dogged persistence is your weapon. In the long run, sea and rain are stronger than stone….

Okay, so: step one: since they’re not going to act because “this product is out-of-stock” in my inventory (true: I’ve sold it. But then what kind of an excuse is that? What difference does it make to the integrity of the entry, that serves all sellers and buyers? That’s really the typical bureaucratic excuse for NOT acting when you should act), I marked the item as back in my inventory, at a sale price that ensured that nobody would buy it (and wouldn’t you know: a few days later I received a notification that they were de-activating my offer because there was an anomaly in the pricing. WHAT? By what right or rule does Amazon pronounce on the price set by a marketplace seller? I’ve seen CDs go on eBay at much steeper prices… if there’s a demand, no price is “anomalous”! For all my efforts, I was not able to reactivate the offer… Anyway THIS side-episode had no impact on the main thread of this story…)

Then, on May 4, I opened a new case (in, I confess, a moment of temporary discouragement, I had let the previous one lapse…), asking them again to reinstate my cover photos, for a product that they now could not claim was “not in my inventory” to dismiss the demand.

May 4, immediate response (at least, they are quick to find excuses not to act – translating from the French) : “we noted that you are the proprietor of the trademark recorded for this ASIN. You can solve the problem faster by directly modifying the detailed product page through the page “Inventory management” to change the ASIN. Once you’ve made the changes, allow for a maximum delay of 24 hours for this change to appear on the detailed page”.

WTF????

May 4, 15 minutes later, my response: “Excuse me, your response is incomprehensible, to put it politely. I am not ‘the proprietor’ of who knows what ‘trademark recorded for this ASIN’. I am a marketplace seller and I’ve created, back then, this page so that I could sell my CD. I have provided all the product information useful to the buyer, including back and cover photos, and these remain available in my offer, although Amazon has inexplicably suppressed them from the public page. WHY? What I’m requesting is very simple: I don’t want to modify the ASIN. Thank you for reinstating the two appropriate photos, front and back of the CD, in the public page. It doesn’t seem difficult, either to understand, or to do. Thanks in advance.”

May 5, a few hours later: “Hello. I understand that you wish to update the images of ASIN B000009JE4. In order to fulfill your request, we need you to provide to us one of the following valid documents:

– A link to the manufacturer’s website clearly presenting the suggested changes, accompanied by a visible product identifier (UPC, EAN, ISBN, etc.), if available.

– The manufacturer’s catalog (product manual), either as scan of the physcal catalog, or a PDF version, indicating the suggested modifications, accompanied by a visible product indentifier (UPC, EAN, ISBN, etc.), if available.

– High resolution product images clearly indicating the suggested modifications, together with a visible product identifier (UPC, EAN, ISBN, etc.).

– A high-resolution photo of the article in its original packaging, showing a product identifier code (UPC, EAN, ISBN, etc.) and the attribute or attributes that you wish to change.

Thank you for your understanding on this issue.

Thank you for selling on Amazon.”

The two last sentences in particular leave me breathless. My UNDERSTANDING on this issue ??? Close to nil, buddy! Selling on Amazon? Yeah, you may thank me, because guys you make it SO unwelcoming that I don’t even know why I’m doing it.

So, okay: persist.

May 5, a few hours later, my response: “Your demands are inoperative, in the case of used CDs, whose original publisher (Grammavision, USA) doesn’t exist anymore, and who even if it did would not have maintained this particular CD in its catalog. That’s not how the sale of CDs functions, and I am surprised that Amazon – after all the first online platform in this business -seems not to know. Your demands, if applied, would make impossible all activity of marketplace sellers of CDs, and I don’t think this is Amazon’s objective.

I’ve provided with my offer the front and back cover photos of the CD, on which appear VERY CLEARLY the requested information, in particular the barcode, which duly corresponds to the page’s barcode. Should it really be necessary, the CD is currently on sale on eBay, with back and front cover photos [link to eBay offer provided], and you can see that these photos are the same as those I have myself provided.

Thank you then for publicly displaying the product photos on the page”.

May 5, some hours later: “Thank you for your patience while we are examining your request.

We have duly updated the attribute so that they [sic] will correspond to the requested changes. If you do not see this change in one business day, force refreshment (Ctrl+F5) to empty your cache.

If your product doesn’t correspond to the update images, thank you for deleting your SKU for this ASIN and putting it back on sale under the proper ASIN.

Do not hesitate to come back with us if you need more information.
Thank you for sharing your experience. Are you satisfied with the support provided?”

(Why am I under the impression that I’m hearing HAL 9000 speaking to me?)

The catch with that kind of notification is that you think the problem is solved, and you neglect to actually check it, and a few days elapse, and Amazon closes your case, and when you check you see that nothing is solved, but the case is closed so you have to start all over again, and that’s when you let discouragement and an “oh what the hell” reaction set it.

Sisyphus will roll his boulder uphill again.

So I checked and, no way, the image was NOT displayed.

So I wrote again.

May 6, hours later: “More than 24 hours later, I see no change on the entry. The page still displays without its product image (see appended screenshot).”

The response let my jaw gape:

May 7, hours later: “Hello. In order to fulfill your request, we need you to provide to us one of the following valid documents:

– A link to the manufacturer’s website clearly presenting the suggested changes, accompanied by a visible product identifier (UPC, EAN, ISBN, etc.), if available.

– The manufacturer’s catalog (product manual), either as scan of the physcal catalog, or a PDF version, indicating the suggested modifications, accompanied by a visible product indentifier (UPC, EAN, ISBN, etc.), if available.

– High resolution product images clearly indicating the suggested modifications, together with a visible product identifier (UPC, EAN, ISBN, etc.).

– A high-resolution photo of the article in its original packaging, showing a product identifier code (UPC, EAN, ISBN, etc.) and the attribute or the attributes that you wish to change.

Thank you for your understanding on this issue.

Thank you for selling on Amazon.”

Is this HAL 9000 losing his marbles or am I caught in an eternal time-warp?

Sisyphus. Boulder. Up hill.

May 7, couple of hours later: “!!!!! You’ve ALREADY given me this answer, and I’ve ALREADY responded that it was inoperative, in the case of used CDs whose publisher doesn’t exist any more. If the Amazon staff could spend less time doing all it can to NOT solve the problems, and spend just of fraction of that time solving these problems, it would be less irksome. The correct product images are with my offer; they were duly displayed until, for an unknown reason, Amazon decided to come and botch perfectly correct pages. REINSTATE THE PHOTOS PLEASE”.

May 8, 10 hours later. “Hello.

I am returning to you regarding the images.

We have duly updated the attribute so that they will correspond to the requested changes.

Note that the change may not occur immediately, but the process should be completed within 24 hours.

Do not hesitate to come back to us if you need more information. Thank you for sharing your experience. Are you satisfied with the support provided?”

I’ve checked this morning.

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B000009JE4

The cover photos have been reinstated.

Mission accomplished. Boulder up hill. Sisyphus beats implacable fate (and asinine bureaucracy).

That’s only ONE entry out of dozens, hundreds or thousands.

Since the Reagan-Thatcher era, we’ve been Pavlov-trained to believe that public bureaucracies are monstrosities of inefficiency. Friends, the bureaucracies of private, “free-entreprise” companies are FAR. WORSE.

I have two conflicting theories about this:

1. Incompetence. Those staffers – and who knows in what corner of the world they are located? – don’t know what the hell it’s about, they give stock responses to specific demands, because they don’t have the faintest idea how sales of used CDs function. So you really have to insist to drill through what your specific case is about and what measures it calls for.

2. Laziness. In fact they know perfectly well what it’s all about, only they simply don’t wanna bother, they’d rather sit snugly in their armchairs sipping those beers. So they’ve passed on the world among themselves, to make it a rite of passage of sorts: “hey, one of the boogers – you know, the damned ‘customers’ – pestering us with a new demand? Erect obstacles! Provide non-responses! Fend ’em off! Drive ’em crazy! Try and discourage them away! See how the rat overcomes the obstacles! (that should be fun). And if really they get through five of these hurdles, pronounce them the winner and give them their nibble of cheese as a reward!”

And all that for a CD that I’m not even selling anymore.

André Cluytens The Complete Orchestral & Concerto Recordings. 65 CDs Warner-Erato (2017)

Just received Warner’s 65-CD set of André Cluytens The Complete Orchestral & Concerto Recordings (2017), barcode 0190295886691. Found it for cheap enough, less than 2 dollars per disc with shipment, and thought I was making a good deal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

First, the grudges. I resent Warner’s policy of erasing all signs and the glorious memory of EMI and its affiliate trademarks, His Master’s Voice, La Voix de son Maître or Pathé, by substituting the trademark “Warner”. And it’s not just limited to this set, it’s in all of Warner’s reissues, calling them “The Warner Recordings” and similar titles. No, those artists never recorded for “Warner” – when EMI was created, in 1931, from the merger of British Columbia and His Master’s Voice (whose history of course goes even further back, to 1901), Warner was still more than 50 years away! So why hide the name EMI? Has it become anathema? Was it once headed by Harvey Weinstein or Roman Polanski? Or is there a legality I’m not aware of, by which Warner is banned from using the label name “EMI”? Whatever that may be, who – what classical music lover –  cares about Warner , when they have the glorious heritage of EMI?

And it’s even worse with this box: why the hell did they decide to publish that set with the logo “Erato”? Unlike Munch or Martinon, Cluytens never recorded for Erato; the set’s liner notes even boast that he always remained faithful to EMI – but, since that little presentation is signed “The Catalogue Team of Erato and Warner Classics”, they have to use a twist of language, “a conductor… who was always loyal to this company”: yeah, guys, the company was EMI, with the labels La Voix de Son Maître and Pathé, never “Warner” or “Erato”. I think Warner’s policy is that, if its a French conductor (Martinon for instance) or affiliate (Cluytens, of course, was Belgian), publish it under the Erato logo, formerly a French label! Yet, the Charles Munch box was published – with the typically loathsome title “The complete recordings on Warner Clasics” – solely under the Warner logo. Go figure the logic of those non-governmental bureaucracies…

Okay, I needed to vent that out. I’ve been hard-working this past month on a discography of some of EMI’s past collections of historical reissues, “Les Introuvables”, “Les Rarissimes”, “Pianistes français”, “Artist Profile”, “Icon” and the likes, and have been regularly stumbling on those “misappropriations” by Warner of the EMI name, and they have irked me.

THAT SAID….

It’s a magnificent reissue, and kudos and genuflections to “The Catalogue Team of Erato and Warner Classics”. If erasing the trademark EMI is the price to pay to get such magnificent reissues, play on, give me excess of erasement!

65 CDs then, laudably presented in chronological order of recordings, with precise information on recording date and venue, and with all their cardboard slips nicely reproducing the cover art of the original releases – nice touch, proving that this was no slapdash reissue but a work of true care. Not ALL of Cluytens’ recordings are there – the box leaves out the opera recordings, and that’s fine with me, because I’d rather have these operas individually, with complete librettos. But, as the title says, all of his orchestral and concerto recordings are there – and that includes the masses and oratorios, Fauré’s Requiem, Berlioz’ L’Enfance du Christ, Debussy’s Martyrdom of Saint Sebastian and Stravinsky’s Persephone… but not the 1959 Berlioz Damnation of Faust with Rita Gorr and Nicolaï Gedda, although whether it is or not an opera is anybody’s guess.

But there’s more. A significant chunk of this material, especially the later, stereo recordings, had been, of course, previously reissued by EMI and other labels, usually in their mid-price (EMI Studio) or budget-price collections. His noted Ravel cycle with Orchestre de la Société des Concerts du Conservatoire (including the reference recording of the Piano Concertos with Samson François), and superb Beethoven Violin Concerto with David Oistrakh, were always available on CD. I have the Complete Beethoven symphonies with the Berlin Philharmonic – as the liner notes point out, the FIRST complete recording done by the orchestra, completed three years before the one they did with Karajan for DG – on a valuable reissue by a once serviceable and long defunct label from the Netherlands, Disky, HR-703732 (2001), barcode 0724357037327, but it was many times released by EMI, (1995) 724348341228, (2006) 094636753027, (2010) 5099964830322 and more. Some Cluytens rarities had been reissued by EMI France on their “Introuvables” series (“Cluytens as accompanist”, 1999, see my – soon to be published (I hope) – complete discography of “Introuvables” and “Rarissimes”) and “Rarissimes” (2004).  In the early 2000s, Testament had again been precious in bringing back rare Cluytens from the 1950s and mono era (Beethoven Concertos with Solomon, Concerto recordings with Gilels, his first and mono recording of Beethoven’s Pastoral symphony with the Berlin Philharmonic, which he later remade in stereo for his complete traversal, works of Berlioz, Saint-Saëns, Franck, Bizet, d’Indy, Debussy, Ravel) and 20th century repertoire in stereo (Shostakovich’s 11th Symphony, Roussel…). All of that is now gathered in this single box.

And what make’s the set even more invaluable to the collector, is that they’ve managed to include unpublished recordings – and not just trinkets! An early Beethoven Fourth Piano Concerto with Monique de la Bruchollerie from 1943 which had never been released – I mean, 75 years in the vaults (CD 1)! Excerpts from the rare and beautifully Ravelian ballet from Gabriel Pierné “Cydalise et le chèvre-pied”, recorded in November 1951 with the French National Radio Orchestra, “for which (say the liner notes) the editing of the original tapes was complete especially for this edition” (CD 6). Like… wow. Chabrier’s España which – and this is hard to believe – was discovered during the remastering sessions, at the end of a tape devoted to the recording of Beethoven’s piano concertos 2 and 4 with Solomon and the Philharmonia (CD 13) in November 1952. Or again, Handel’s Water Music (in Hamilton Harty’s arrangement), from October 1955 with Orchestre de la Société des Concerts du Conservatoire (CD 26), the stereo versions of Strauss and Smetana made with the Vienna Philharmonic in January and December 1958 (CD 36): they had been published on LP in mono only, and likewise, for the two Strauss pieces, Don Juan and the love scene from Feuersnot, on Testament’s CD reissue, SBT 1255 (2003) barcode 749677125523. Others were published on 78rmp or LP but, claim the liner notes (and I am inclined to trust them), never yet on CD: Haydn’s Symphony No. 94 with Orchestre de la Société des Concerts du Conservatoire (hereafter OSCC) from March 1950, as it had been “released only in Italy” (CD 4). On CDs 7 & 8, Cluytens’ first recording of Berlioz L’Enfance du Christ (June 1951) with the stalwart singers of the French radio Hélène Bouvier, Jean Giraudeau, Louis Noguéra, Michel Roux and OSCC (it is Cluytens’ stereo remake and his last completed recording, begun in September and October 1965 and completed in November 1966, with OSCC again and the international stars Victoria de Los Angeles, Nicolai Gedda and Roger Soyer, on CDs64 and 65, that envoyed the widest circulation, all but obliterating the memory of the earlier version – which I happen to have on LP, passed on to me by my father….). More: Debussy’s Martyre de Saint-Sébastien, a very-complete version with spoken text, recorded in April ’54 (CDs 22 & 23),

I haven’t yet checked in detail for previous CD reissues on labels devoted to historial reissues like Pearl, Music & Arts, Dante and the likes, but other even than those claimed “firsts on CD”, the set is precious for bringing back all the material from the 78rpm (Cluytens started his recording career in 1943) and mono-LP eras which, for all its efforts, Testament had only begun tapping. I’m especially happy to have on CD a recording which I had on a very-used and woefully-scratching LP, the rare incidental music to Massenet’s Les Erynnies from September 1952 (CD 20). Emmanuel Bondeville’s symphonic poeme Gaultier-Carguille and excerpts from the opera Madame Bovary (CD 15, October 1953) are true rarities, even for me. The fact that Cluytens remained ever faithful to EMI – unlike, say, Munch, or Martinon, or violinist Christian Ferras, who recorded for various labels that are not (yet) in the ownership of Warner, like RCA or DG – means, also, that what you get on those 65 CDs is, truly, his complete orchestral recordings.

The liner notes – other than the general presentation by the “Catalogue Team of Warner and Erato”, a chronological survey of Cluytens’ recording career by François Laurent – are serviceable and interesting, and I find Laurent laudable for not papering over, as might have been the temptation in this kind of tribute, the more troubling aspects of Cluytens’ early career, especially his apparent sympathies with the collaborationist Vichy regime and Germany (he was later acquitted of the charges). The booklet also contains a moving tribute from soprano Anja Silja, who had met Cluytens in 1964 through the auspices of Wieland Wagner. Silja, who was 24 then (and singing Salome! She had made here debut in Bayreuth as Senta from Fliegende Holländer in 1960), had a personnal relationship with Wagner’s grandson and intendant of the Bayreuth Festival, who suddently died, in October 1966, not yet 60. Then she had a relationship with Cluytens – who died in June 1967. I don’t know who dared to date her thereafter – well, conductor Christoph von Dohnanyi did (reminds me of the story of Boulez asking a libretto for an opera to Jean Genet – and then Genet died. Then asked young French playright Bernard-Marie Koltès – and Koltès died. Then aksed Heiner Müller – and Heiner Müller died. And Boulez never wrote an opera).

Okay now I need to listen to these 65+ hours of music. Either the “stay-at-home” order never ends, or I manage to do it in three days without sleeping.

 

republication of my review of “Les Introuvables de Christian Ferras”

I’ve been working on a discography of some collections of historical reissues from EMI France, “Les Introuvables”, “Les Rarissimes” and “Pianistes français”. I thought it would be a quick job, but – as I should have expected – it turned out to be quite a journey, because, for publication, with typical and self-destructing fastidousness, I decided to look at previous releases of the material contained in those sets, as well as subsequent reissues. Hope to finish before the end of the “stay-at-home” orders… but these are nearing!

Anyway, I took the opportunity to repost here my old review of “Les Introuvables de Christian Ferras“, a fine set from 2002, although a somewhat frustrating one, not for what it included but for what it omitted (like Berg’s Chamber Concerto and Chausson’s Concert for Violin, Piano and String Quartet), and now superseded by more complete reissues, namely EMI-become-Warner Icon “Christian Ferras The Complete HMV & Telefunken recordings”, barcode 190295763084.

And a post-script from May 26: all this led me to abandon for a couple of weeks my work on the label discography, and compile a huge Christian Ferras chronological CD-discography. How did I put it hereabove? “I thought it would be a quick job, but – as I should have expected – it turned out to be quite a journey”. But I’ve reached destination. Now I need to get back to “Introuvables”-“Rarissimes”-“Pianistes français”!

Amazon ever worse: a new page in that infamous saga

So, Amazon gets worse by the day. Here’s a new episode, which I’m documenting here only for memory.

For my discographic and purchasing purposes, I do a lot of searches on Amazon, using CD barcodes because they are the surest, and sometimes only way to find a CD, given the mess that most Amazon CD entries are (see my blog post of yesterday). And sometimes I’ll find that a CD has never been listed on Amazon. It happens especially for CDs published between 1983 and circa 1995, when Amazon was created. It may be that it is a CD that I want purchase, and that some sellers have it for sale, but since it isn’t listed on Amazon, they  don’t go through the trouble of creating the listing themselves and simply don’t sell their ware on Amazon. Or, it is a CD that I want to sale myself (usually because I have two copies).

So, in either case, I’ll oblige and create the entry myself. Trust that the product info and cover photo (which I retrieve from other websites in case of a CD I don’t have) is always correct and precise. Speaking only of CDs I’m hoping to buy, I must have created, over the years (not that I wish to count precisely) something like a hundred such entries, maybe less: from labels Adda, Adès, Cybelia, early Deutsche Harmonia Mundi, some early Erato…. I’d need to do much more but… well, there’s only 24 hours in a day. Eventually offers from marketplace sellers appear (usually more expensive than what I’m willing to pay, but I’m patient). So, fine, seller is happy, buyer is happy, a win-win situation, right?

But that’s counting without the asses who run Amazon.

In my recent discographic searches on Amazon, I’ve noticed that Amazon had wreaked havoc in the product images of many, many CD entries. Product images that used to be there are now gone. And you know that it’s not that the image was never there in the first place, because whenever the backcover photo was also available as image 2, oftentimes it is still there (here’s an example: https://www.amazon.fr/dp/B000TT1QOG). Only main photo has been suppressed. And to make things even worse: the absent product image is indicated… in Dutch!!!

“Nog geen afbeelding beschikbaar” my foot! Why Dutch? Why the suppressed cover photos? Oh, do you ask “whys” about Amazon’s motivations? Bureaucratic incompetence, I would say.

But now I see that those damned, obnoxious ASSES have suppressed said images – front AND back – from some of my own entries!!! Here’s an example: Anthony Davis’ The Life and Times of Malcolm X on Grammavision (in this case, a set that I had in two copies and re-sold some months ago), ASIN B000009JE4.

This is what the entry looks like now on Amazon.fr:

Yet these are the images that I uploaded and that were, and should be, used :

I’ve tried to send a request for modification of the image. “We are facing some technical issues as of now, please try again later.” I hate them.

And a post-script from a couple of hours later. Apparently they DID receive my request. I’d rather they hadn’t. Here’s the response – I’m translating from the French and… boy is that gibberish difficult to translate !

“We cannot modify the category tree node (noeud d’arborescence de catégorie) suggested for the product identifier: B000009JE4.  It seems that this product is out-of-stock in your inventory”. No kidding, I couldn’t have invented that. You think they’re making it up just as a repellent against requests like the one I did? You know, like: requests to fix a faulty entry and improve the site, help sales, all that petty stuff? Is it just a sophisticated way of telling me: “why don’t you fuck off, guy! Ya think we’re paid to examine your shit and improve this website?”

I hate them.

And it gets worse. Because it’s one thing to suppress the legitimate cover image from an entry; it’s something else to replace it with a conspicuously WRONG image of something entirely different. Here’s another entry I created, ASIN:B00Q0KR1Z6, an early Deutsche Harmonia Mundi, Schütz’ First Book of Madrigals by the Consort of Musicke under Anthony Rooley (original CD edition, DHM 567 16 9527 2, that’s even before DHM was taken over by EMI). These are the legitimate front and back cover photos as I had uploaded them

(and for a better view:)

 

 

 

 

And this is the entry as it stands now:

 

Anybody wants to buy that CD? Good luck to the guy who’s currently selling it for circa 20 euros. My conclusion: Amazon is a bottomless pit of customer- (and marketplace seller-)adverse incompetence.