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…

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.

The discographer’s tips: favorite online resources of the mad discographer

This is taking notes for a larger post that I’m hoping to write some day, on my activities and searches as possibly the maddest label discographer in the history of mankind.

I maintain, I don’t know (I don’t count), I guess a hundred of label discographies, labels ongoing or labels defunct, from (in alphabetical order) Abseits, Acanta, Accent, Accord, Adda, Adès, Aliavox, Aliénor, Alpha, Altarus, Ambroisie, Amon Ra, Anemos, Aparté, APR Appian, Arabesque, Arbiter, Arcana, Argo, Arion, AS Disc, Assai, Astrée, ASV, Attacca Babel and Audiofon to Zig Zag Territories, in various stages of achievement. Originally, those label discographies were only meant to serve my own, private and very selfish purposes as a music lover and buyer and collector of CDs: knowing what there is, listing what I have and more importantly, what I don’t have. Now that I’ve created this website, well, I’m progressively expanding them with a view to making them eventually public and useful to others, and it’s lot of work (going from, say “901614.15 Bach Mass in B Herreweghe 794881416523”, which is enough for my own use, to giving complete credits of performers and release year, or from “ONF” to “Orchestre National de France”, because not every music lover may know what “ONF” stands for). I avoid what were known in the LP era as the “Big Five”, DG, Philips, Decca, CBS-now Sony, and RCA, because there’s too much (and too much junk too) to make it possible to maintain a discography (but I do maintain discographies of some of their budget series or other interesting and limited sub-series, like Philips “Early Years” or “Dutch Masters”). I don’t “do” Teldec, Hungaroton, Supraphon either for the same reasons, but I “do” (at least tentatively) Denon, which is totally unreasonable. The catalog of Naxos is also so large that I only keep a discography of the releases I have (and that by itself makes a sizeable discography), but I go for completeness with Marco Polo, Naxos’ original flagship label. Some of those labels are small and their catalog numbers less than a hundred releases, some are huge, like the great independents Hyperion, Chandos, Harmonia Mundi (and, once independent but no more, Erato). Some of those large independent labels I don’t do and I don’t even know why, probably awed by the magnitude of it, like Nimbus or BIS or the Dutch Channel Classics, and some I do, and it’s very arbitrary, like the Dutch Challenge Classics (in fact, it’s because they are obliquely related to Vanguard Classics) or Etcetera.

I’ll recount in another post how the activity of a CD discographer is a game of “following the barcode”. Right now I’d just like to do, by way of tribute and expression of gratitude, a little presentation of the best online resources I’ve found online for compiling my label discographies.

Amazon
Melomania
Rakuten
Muziekweb
Discogs
Google
eBay

Because of my many grudges with the not-so-“most-customer-centric-company-in-the-world” (at least not for buyers of classical music CDs), I hate to do so, but I always start with Amazon. Depending on where the label is based, I’ll use .com, .fr or .co.uk. The advantage of Amazon is that it’s very complete – not every CD of classical music ever released is listed, especially with those that came out in the early days of the CD, before Amazon was even created, say between 1983 and 1995, but I don’t know any other website where more are listed. The other advantage of Amazon is that you can make searches on the barcodes, which (story told in a future post) is the best, and sometimes only way to find a CD on Amazon. Another important advantage is that, once you’ve found your CD entry, you can use its ASIN number to retrieve its barcode; it’s a little convoluted, you need to go to your seller account and use the function “find your product in Amazon’s catalog”, but it’s EXTREMELY useful in order to establish or check a barcode – and also to know exactly what’s being sold on the entry, which more often that not is NOT what is publicized by product image or product information.

Now, to counteract those advantages, there are so many problems with that online retailer’s website(s) that I’m not sure I’ll remember all of them: missing cover photos (oftentimes); missing backcover photos (many, many times), which is where you find the indispensable information about barcode, label number, artists, copyright year, track listing, and possibly recording date;  illegible cover photos, where even if photo is provided, the resolution is so lousy that it is impossible to decipher that vital information; wrong photos (many, many times) corresponding to another edition of the same recording (and, for that reason, very misleading), or (sometimes) to an entirely different CD; sketchy, missing or downright wrong product information (performer, composer, label, release year….), and, finally, label number seldom given outside of the front or backcover photos. There used to be a time, long long ago and far, far away, when customer could submit to Amazon product information updates or correct cover photos. In one of those typical and frequent moves designed apparently to make the website worse, Amazon suppressed that possibility, one day. The explanation given to me back then was that many sellers complained that the entries on which they were selling their wares had too many wrong customer-submitted photos. The explanation strikes me (as with so many decisions of Amazon) as totally asinine. It’s not like they just accepted your photos blindly. You had to give proof that it was the correct cover photo, for instance by providing a backcover photo with the same barcode as the one to which the entry was indexed. Now that customers aren’t allowed to do that any more, has the situation of sellers improved? No, it’s gotten far worse, by my guesstimate.

The only possibility now to change or submit a product photo now is through a seller account, and the process is so tedious that I’ve given up (other than the fact that, by way of principle, I now refuse to serve Amazon). Personnally, I don’t care if the wrong product images or information adorn the entry; in fact, I find great advantage to it: since nobody knows what’s actually being sold, nobody buys, so sellers have to offer their CD at low prices, and as a buyer knowing (thanks to the barcode) what exactly is sold, I can take advantage. Compiling my discographies and going through entry after entry, I’ve found incredible bargains on Amazon.

Another glitch, which I hope will be only temporary (writing on April 10, 2020) is that the search engines of Amazon.fr and Amazon.uk are disfunctioning at the moment, and have been since early this year. Searches on barcodes don’t yield anymore, which may lead you to think that the product isn’t listed or doesn’t exist – not so: it’s just that the search engine is disfunctionning. I’ve found the go-around: using the “find your product in the Amazon catalog” function in my seller account (see my March 29, 2020 blog post for details on that). In fact, for my discographic purposes, it’s surer. It used to be, even when the normal search engines did work, that they wouldn’t yield when a product, though listed, wasn’t currently offered. Even in those cases, the seller account search engine does yield. So, if it’s listed on Amazon, it’ll show there.

Note that, occasionally, even if a CD is listed on Amazon, it doesn’t prove that it really exists or has existed. I suppose that some labels create an entry because the CD release is in the works, but ultimately, for some reason, it’s never issued. Here’s an example from the ending days of the French label Dante, what should have been LYS 587/591 (6 CDs) “Glazounoff intégrales des symphonies” (1999), barcode 3421710465878, or LYS 592 “Hommage à G. Sebastian vol. 2 Bartok Le Château de Barbe Bleue (Bluebeard’s Castle) Szekely Palankay Budapest live 1951”, barcode 3421710415927.

Bottom line of this ranting: for the discographer, Amazon is, most of the times, only a starting point, an indispensable one, but one from which he needs to complete the information by going to other websites.

If I don’t find all the information I need on Amazon, I go to Melomania. Melomania is a small boutique of used classical music CDs and DVDs on Boulevard Saint-Germain in Paris, and they have (or, sadly, I have to say at this point: “used to have”, see anon) a very useful website and search engine. What makes it so useful are a number of features:

1. The abundance of its data base. If the CD has gone through Melomania for resale, it will be listed, and throughout the years a lot as gone through Melomania for resale.

2. The information provided is, by and large, correct and complete – a HUGE advantage over Amazon. Label number, performers. I’m less trusting with indications of release year.

3. Likewise, many (not all) entries display front AND the indispensable back cover photo. With very few exceptions that I’ve located, the cover photo is the correct one (HUGE advantage again over Amazon).

4. Searches on the usual criteria – perfomers, work’s title – are not always effective because, in order to yield, you have to use the exact labelling that Melomania has entered in its date base (have they used “Mass in B” or “Messe en si” ? “Histoire de la résurrection du Christ” or “Historia der Auferstehung Jesu Christi”?). But, for my discographic purposes, searches on both barcode AND label number are (were….) possible through Melomania’s “advanced search” engine: VERY useful.

5. Melomania’s entries ALWAYS indicate the CD’s label number, making it possible, when you have the CDs barcode, to determine said label number, even in the absence of cover scans: indispensable.

I use (or rather, I used to use) Melomania’s search engine A LOT, especially when I need(ed) to do searches on label numbers. There are a few glitches to the way the website functions which makes it a little irksome at times, but it’s a small matter compared to the services it gives. Now, the website’s shortcomings : 1. unlike, for instance, Amazon-japan (Amazon.co.jp), Melomania doesn’t list the barcode number, only the label number. So, if you’ve chanced on a CD using its label number and Melomania doesn’t provide a (legible) backcover photo, there’s no way to find the CD’s barcode and I have to look elsewhere.

And… 2. For some reason (and Melomania hasn’t responded to my request for information – but P.S. about that, see comments), the search engine is OUT-OF-ORDER since, at least, the end of December (I sent them my inquiry in early January). Four months! VERY IRKSOME. I mean, that a search engine breaks down, ok, shit happens, but why FOUR MONTHS in disrepair? And when WILL it be repaired? Will it ever? No response from Melomania (I know they are still in business – or were, before the coronavirus lockout, because I called them to inquire, and I got a response, although to my query “what’s happening, when will it be repaired”, the response was only a sigh). The demise of their search engine has made my activities as a discographer, especially when it comes to establishing the label number of a given barcode, more complicated. In addition, in this time of lockdown, absent a functioning search engine, how do they maintain their online business??? I would HATE to see Melomania go because of the virus…

With Melomania unavailable, I find myself using the online platform for maketplace sellers Rakuten (former Price Minister) more than I used to. Frankly, it’s not a good website, and I should hardly be mentioning them. I seldom buy from them (I do occasionally), because usually I find better prices on Amazon. Their entries are a mess, making them close to useless. BUT: sometimes, they will list a CD that Amazon has omitted, so when the entry doesn’t exist on Amazon I’ll always check on Rakuten, just to make sure. AND: their entries often have cover photos that are NOT the stock cover photos used on Amazon, and some (far from all, though) have the indispensible back cover photo (not always legible, alas). A further problem with Rakuten is that it used to be that you could search also out-of-stock products (a discographer doesn’t care if the product is currently sold); apparently, no more. So if search on a barcode doesn’t yield on Rakuten, I never take it as a proof that the product doesn’t exist. It’s only if it DOES yield that I take it as a proof that the CD exists.

Muziekweb.nl  “Muziekweb is the music library of The Netherlands”. In the absence of Melomania I find myself using it more and more, and I am VERY grateful to them. It is a very useful and helpful data base because it contains many, many entries, and ALWAYS displaying front AND the treasured back cover photo [well… not so. Just today, April 19 2020, I chance on an entry missing its photos, Chopin’s Polonaises by Roger Muraro on Accord], ALWAYS legible (and always with a magnifier function): thanks the Netherlands! Searches are possible on label number, thanks the Netherlands! Label number is also always provided among the product info (and so is track listing), very useful in the very rare case where it is not displayed on front or back cover photo.

Now, perfection is not of this world. Muziekweb’s disadvantages : 1. though abundant, the data base is far from complete. In particular, the website documents only first releases, not reissues of same material. Not blaming them: they’re a library, not a catalog, so if they have first edition in their inventory, why would they need the reissues? And 2. The search engine responds to searches on label number, but NOT on barcodes. So whenever I’m desperately looking for the backcover photo of a CD that Amazon or Google searches don’t show,  I first need to establish the CD’s label number, and when I have only the barcode, it isn’t always an easy task (in the absence of Melomania).

Discogs.com is a website that I used a lot. The advantage is that its entries are usually very well documented, with full track listing and complete credits of performers, producer, engineer, and more; front and back cover photos are usually provided (although not always, and I find it very frustrating when they are not, because somehow, when I go to an entry on Discogs, I expect the entry to be fully documented). Its data base is abundant.

Disadvantages: 1. the data base, though abundant, is not complete, so while Discogs is very useful, it doesn’t answer all the discographer’s questions. 2. there is no uniform system for indicating the barcodes, some entries reproduce them as they appear on the backcover, e.g. with blanks. For instance,  “3 149025 039804” rather than “3149025039804”. The problem with that is that a Google search on “3149025039804” (which is how the discs are indexed on Amazon, Melomania and most commercial webistes) will not yield the Discogs entry. So you’ve got to fiddle around sometimes to find an entry on Discogs. 3. The release years are not to be trusted, I often find errors, some indications just seem be guesses (and wrong ones – I can establish with some degree of precision the release year using the barcode sequence), or they confuse recording year and release year, or, in case of reissues, they follow the back cover information by indicating the year of release of original issue, not of the specific reissue (again, that can be determined using barcode sequence). Occasionally I correct some of the wrong info. But gratitude to all those who fill out those entries.

Google. When I don’t find the info I need on all those websites, a Google search is always on the order. If barcode doesn’t yield I’ll try label number, associated or not with composer and/or performer’s name. Sometimes it is the odd online library catalog that provides the sought information, or an online retailer. Google doesn’t ALWAYS yield though, even using that variety of criteria, and it doesn’t mean the CD doesn’t exist. In particular, Google doesn’t find as “deep” as Amazon barcodes, as if Amazon had established some kind of anti-Google firewall. Google search a given barcode associated with, say, “Amazon.com”, and although the CD is duly listed on Amazon and a barcode search on their search engine will yield it, Google doesn’t. But none of the above yield AND Google also doesn’t, I take it as a strong indication (but not absolute proof) that the CD doesn’t exist, and that the given barcode or label number was left blank and unused by the label.

My Google searches will occasionally lead me to MusicBrainz.org (barcode AND label number usually provided, as well as full track listing, but no backcover photo), Allmusic (no backcover photos, sketchy product information), Pickclick (sometimes links to eBay sales and photos), WorthPoint.com, Cdandlp.com, and I’ve found them occasionally useful, but I don’t use them systematically. When I’m looking for Japanese editions, I’ll use a combination of Amazon-Japan (Amazon.co.jp) useful for providing the barcodes, and Tower.jp, where, if you have the barcode, you can find the label number (not possible the other way around, unfortunately: if you have only label number, the public pages don’t provide the barcode). On both, you can do searches on both barcode and label number. There seems to be more CDs listed on Amazon than on Tower, especially with early releases from the 1980s and early 1990s, so when I don’t find on Tower the information missing from Amazon, I’ll try a Google search. [Addendum 23 May] On the other hand, working on my great CD-discography of Christian Ferras, I saw that Tower has the more accurate and complete information and better indexing: a search on the name Christian Ferras (in Japanese characters!) yielded a number of Ferras CDs, not only in Japanese but also in Western editions, that didn’t show up on any of the Amazons, Western or Japanese.

In the last resort, I may do searches on eBay. The interest of eBay is that sometimes you will find CD backcover photos that are not the stock photos of Amazon, but individually- and, so to speak, tailor-made by seller. When searching on eBay I fish “large”. Barcodes will yield sometimes but not always, label number will yield but not always, so I’ll use large criteria like “Bach Christie Harmonia Mundi” and just sift through the results hoping to find what I’m looking for – and sometimes I do.

Okay, so, now, I need to complete and publish all those discographies I’m working on.

 

Amazon is getting worse by the day

Some day, when I have nothing better to do (and I have so much better to do every day), I need to write the chronicle of how Amazon became the worst online website for purchasing your CDs of classical music (I won’t pronounce on the rest, I seldom use Amazon for anything else). But for today, just to keep this in memory for that anticipated chronicle.

So, the research engine doesn’t work anymore. Due to the laughable and infuriating vagaries of artist and label credits on just about each and every one of Amazon’s entries (I’d need to elaborate on that, but not here), the only sure way to find the record you are looking for is the barcode (because entries are indexed on CD barcodes). It doesn’t work 100% of the times, there are glitches there too (as when an entry is indexed on two different barcodes, for two entirely different products – and I can’t tell you the fight and waste of time and energy it is to get Amazon to fix it), but, okay, I’d say 99% of the times, it works.

It used to be that you could research on barcodes and, bull’s eye, find the CD you were looking for (provided, of course, you knew its barcode. I’m losing the memory of many (other) things, because my head is filled with barcodes… ). No more. It started, in my own experience, with Amazon.co.uk: barcodes didn’t yield, serving the infamous “no results for…. “. Still worked on Amazon.fr, so I could go there retrieve the ASIN indexing (which is proper to Amazon), and from there return to Amazon.uk and find my CD. But now it’s on Amazon.fr that barcodes don’t yield. It used to be that some searches on barcodes didn’t yield although the CD was duly listed, but because there was no current offer. Now, barcodes simply don’t yield. Well, okay, as with thousands of other things on Amazon that went for the worse in a decade or so, I found the way to circumvent that. That required going to my seller account on Amazon, and “add a product”. That still yields (when the product DOES exist and has been listed, which is usually the case), and from there I can click on the link and find the entry.

But now Amazon.uk doesn’t respond to ASINs either. The asses! So how do I find my entry to find the best price? Look, it was simple, the compilation of Giulini’s Concerto recordings in a Warner 9-CD Box, barcode 5099943176120, titled “Giulini The Concerto Recordings”. But type the barcode, type the ASIN number B00FJZQS34, and nothing. Type “Giulini The Concerto Recordings” (seems obvious enough, no?) – well, that one yields: to two entries that are NOT  the official release with its 5099943176120 barcode,  but are probably entries created by distributors, with specific barcodes. And note that one yields if I search in category “CDs and Vinyl”, and the other if category “All Departments”: why don’t BOTH yield in any category? Why doesn’t “All Departments” include “CDs and vinyl”? Well, don’t ask me why Amazon is so disfunctional. One goes by barcode 799665242633, ASIN: B01JT7JZO6, and is more expensive than the “legitimate” entry which you won’t find; for the other I haven’t been able to find the barcode (because it is not  listed on Amazon.fr where I have my seller account), and ASIN is B013H2D7YI; it is currently priced… 1367.20 £. I’m not kidding you. What a great deal!

So, okay, I’ve found the “fix” on that again. Copy the full address in the navigator’s adress bar on Amazon.fr, open new tab, paste, substitute “Amazon.co.uk” to “Amazon.fr” and you get to your entry.

But this is a PAIN.IN.THE.ASS. These are inconvenient fixes to circumvent the glitches of Amazon that shouldn’t happen in the first place. AND: I know the tricks. How does the normal Joe do? He doesn’t. Other than that arguably very complicated go around, I haven’t been able to find the legitimate release on Amazon.uk, using all the possible criteria that would be available to the “normal Joe”: “Giulini Concertos”,  “Giulini Warner”. EVEN knowing that the set is listed on .uk under the title “Carlo Maria Giulini Centenary Edition – The Concertos” and using it for the search (which, of course, is cheating, because it supposes that you already have been able to access the legitimate entry), the yield on “All Departments” is to the “thousand pounds” entry (!!!). Only does a search on “Cds and Vinyl” yield, besides the thousand pounds entry, the legitimate one (but DON’T click on “see all 2 results”, that will take you back to misleads):

No, Amazon, you dunces: YOU need help!

Bottom line: the normal Joe simply doesn’t find the CD he’s looking for, or finds the wrong edition, at a much steeper price. He’s been ripped by Amazon.

3 September 2019

Because I make it a point to review every CD that enters my collection, however insignificant (at least as a driving principle. In actual fact, I am hopelessly lagging behind, because I buy so much, and also have other things to attend to in my life), I’ve reviewed “Stop & Go“, a jazz CD by the German/Dutch Martin Classen Quartet. So, the German and Dutch can play “club” jazz that is as formulaic and anonymous as anyone else’s – no worse, but no more original either. Jazz is truly a universal language.

And, while I was at it, part of a recent batch of purchases, “Hommage à Piazzolla” by Gidon Kremer and friends on Nonesuch 7559-79407-2 (1996). Kremer’s first CD entirely devoted to the music of Piazzolla – he didn’t stop there – and a safe recommendation if you are not yet tired of Piazzolla and tangos.

13 May 2019

Long time no activity, alas. Found the time to review Alfred Hill’s String Quartets Nos. 5, 6, 11 by the Australian String Quartet, a CD published in 1997 by Marco Polo. I had never heard of Hill, didn’t even know where to situate him in chronology and geography. Turns out this Aussie was writing, in the 1920s, beautiful string quartets strikingly reminiscent of those of Dvorak (written 25 to 50 years before) and, in 1935, one that evokes Ravel’s own essay in the genre (1903). Well, if you forget the chronology and the derivativeness, they are quite enjoyable.