Latest additions and reviews

The REAL market value of Starker’s fourth Bach Suites on Sefel

As a follow-up on my blog post of September 16, “Seller madness – or buyer’s ?“. So, now, we know the REAL market value of Janos Starker’s Bach Suites on Sefel (his fourth out of five recordings) :

 

The indication of 17 bids is deceptive because some bidders made multiple bids, but I count 8 bidders, which is significant enough: the offer met its demand – and Ieronim of Romania is now a rich man (though maybe not as rich as he hoped…)

 

 

Not worth a mention in the Kobbé

27 September 2021. I was yesterday at the Paris Bastille Opera, attending a performance of Georges Enesco’s rare opera Oedipe. Now, I must declare myself a great and unconditional fan of Enesco (or, using the Romanian spelling, Enescu) . His violin sonatas belong to my pantheon of the greatest works in the genre of all times – and not only the famous Third “in the Romanian popular style” (indeed an absolute masterpiece, a work of devastating evocative power), but also his Romantic second, and his ultimate cycle “Impressions of Childhood”, which, if even possible, go further and higher than the Third. I love his way-less-popular  two string quartets, Piano Quintet and Octet. Although I have many versions in my CD-library, I am much less familiar with his orchestral output – I’m just lacking listening time.

So I was really looking forward to the opportunity of Oedipe.

Well… I must declare myself a great fan of  Enesco… but not anymore unconditional, and not of all his music. I found Oedipe excruciatingly boring. The music sounded to me very banal: big orchestral forces and a lot happening in the orchestra, but all couched in a late-Romantic idiom which you have heard so many times – if you have a little interest in that style –  in the works of Zemlinsky, Joseph Marx, Franz Schmidt, Arnold Bax, Josef Suk, and many others, and displaying little of the daring inventiveness found in Enesco’s chamber music…. None of the oriental lushness of Szymanowski (which you may have expected of Enesco), very little of the shimmering delicacy of Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloé. The vocal lines are run-of-the-mill French opera, with, to compound the problem, a constant solemnity because, of course, Oedipus is seee-rious and serious must be solemn. The lyrics are by Edmond Fleg, a French playright who had his hour a modest fame in the 20th-century French “Republic of Letters”. The one thing I can say in favor of Fleg is that, although his lyrics are written in verse (much of them alexandrines, the canonic 12-syllable verse of French poetry), they flow naturally enough that, unless you have an ear very attuned to these things, you won’t even know that it’s verse… as in Meilhac and Halévy’s libretto for Bizet’s Carmen… And I won’t hold it against Fleg that he certainly doesn’t observe all the very constraining rules of French classical poetry, because, after all, who cares…. On the other hand, Fleg’s lyrics and “poetic language” do add their layer of constant (and ultimately boring) solemnity of the whole proceedings. One interest at least with Enesco’s (and Fleg’s) Oedipe is that is doesn’t just sheepishly follow the famous play of Sophocles, it compounds the various Oedipus-traditions of the Greek mythology and stages what Oedipus-Tyrannos presents as mere references to things past: the birth of Oedipus and his sacrifice because of the fateful oracle told to his father Laïus, Oedipus’s flight from Corinth where he had been raised by the Queen and King as their own son and ignorant that he wasn’t, the encounter with Laïus at the crossroads of Corinth and Thebes and his murder at the hand of Oedipus, the riddle with the Spynx and the espousal with Jocasta. The opera’s third act stages the actions in the play of Sophocles, and the fourth act corresponds to Sophocles’ other and less-famous play on Oedipus, recounting the death of the blind castaway accompanied by his daughter Antigone, Oedipus at Colonus. Another interesting thing about Fleg is that, as my bored mind was wandering away from the opera, I said to myself at some point that next thing the Paris Opera might do is to produce this other great neglected opera in French language, by a composer who presents some similarities with Enesco (not French, but French-speaking, his musical invention rooted in popular traditions – not Romanian, but Jewish): Ernest Bloch’s Macbeth. And, checking on Edmond Fleg’s biography on Wikipedia, it turns out that he authored two opera librettos in his life – the other being, you’ve guessed, Bloch’s Macbeth

The production didn’t help, either. It was staged by Wajdi Mouawad, a Lebanese stage director and playwright who enjoys a certain recognition in some French theatrical circles. Well, I don’t know about his theatre productions, but here he seems to have been content with staging the way they did 50 or 60 years ago: everybody singing to the public (always a problem, possibly, in venues as huge as the Bastille opera), making no pretense at even trying to address their interlocutor. Set design were “abstract” although evoking, perhaps, some massive Babylonian (rather than Greek) archicture. And those costumes! I thought I was seeing old images from Wieland Wagner’s Ring productions in Bayreuth in the 1950s…. A cliched imagery of Ancient Priests and Vestals…

And why did Oedipus trudge along with only ONE shin protection? I mean, I get the point of having arm protection only on the arm that bears the sword… but leg? Are we supposed to understand that he’s some Karate Kid who strikes only with the left foot? But the hair-dresses were even worse: I don’t know if they were supposed to depict the horns of stags or mooses, or some wild vegetation… I guess that the notion is that those Ancient Greeks from the mythical ages had some special link with nature – you know, “Gaia”, “Mother Earth” and all that mystical drivel – that we’ve lost, and maybe there were some reminiscences of the films of Pasolini. They were grotesque.

Oedipus is a huge role and Christopher Maltman coped valiantly and with powerful vocal projection, although by no stretch of the imagination could you believe you were watching a 20-year old character (and by then Jocasta must be how old? 35? And when the plague strikes Thebes, that’s another 15 years later…)… Maltman’s French was okay, and I’m ready to accept that French baritones able to cope with the acoustics of the Bastille Opéra aren’t an abundant commodity… but the Russian Ekaterina Gubanova as Jocasta? Why? It’s a small role (all roles other than Oedipus are relatively small), and sure you are going to need a dramatic soprano, but can’t you find a dramatic soprano more fluent in the French language these days? And it isn’t a question of nationality: Anne-Sophie von Otter coped very well in the role of Merope (Queen of Corinth, adoptive mother of Oedipus) and with pristine French accent.

Of course, I leaf through the thick booklet published by Opéra Bastille, or the libretto to the 1990 EMI recording with José van Dam and conducted by Lawrence Foster , and I read all these eulogies about Oedipe, how it’s Enesco’s great masterpiece, that obsessed him night and day for 30 years, I read Menuhin’s testimony  (a great pupil and disciple of Enesco, as, later, was Christian Ferras) which opens the EMI booklet- “here lies the very soul and heartblood of Enesco”: and how could I not doubt my own judgment? Let me quote the EMI liner notes, by distinguished French critic and musicologist Harry Halbreich (with my own comments in brackets, and a translation that I’ve slightly ammended to better fit the original French): “Oedipe is a supreme masterpiece in the history of opera of all times [let us start in a bang, and refrain from no exaggeration],  one of the peaks of 20th-century opera  among a handful of works that include Pelléas, Wozzeck, Lulu or Die Soldaten [Halbreich does speak of “a handful”, meaning that he is mentioning the five top operas in 20th century music: no Puccini, no Britten, no Strauss – not Salomé and Elektra, really? -, no Janacek, not Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress, but Enesco’s Oedipe…]. Yet one looks for a mention of it in the main opera guides – even the celebrated Kobbé – in vain: this is beyond comment”.

What do you mean, “beyond comment”, Harry? Quite the opposite! How do you explain that so many commentators and critics would have neglected such an absolute masterpiece, part of the top-five of the twentieth century. Nobody oversaw Pelléas, Wozzeck, Lulu or even Die Soldaten… Well, I have an explanation for you: if your premise is false, then your conclusion will be as well, you know? If Oedipe is NOT the masterpiece you make it, then no wonder all those commentators, including the Kobbé, have neglected it…

And, coming back to Menuhin’s comment: he adds that “perhaps the most haunting fragment of the opera, one which continues to return to my mind, is the Shepherd’s flute solo at the crossroads, just before the fateful encounter in the first act“. Well, sure, I agree: that was about the ONLY memorable moment in the opera, one in which the Enesco from the 3rd Sonata seems to pierce through. No wonder it is the one that kept haunting Menuhin.

Yet, as I was listening and trying to keep focused, I was thinking that perhaps it was the inept and even corny staging that prevented me from grasping the beauties of Enesco’s orchestral writing… despite the fact that, given the ineptitude of what was going on on stage, I hadn’t much else to do but to try and concentrate on the orchestra. At one point I thought it might be helpful to draw a Symphonic suite from Enesco’s Oedipe, or a “Symphonic synthesis” as Leopold Stokowski dubbed it when he did the same with Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov. So I decided I’d give a second chance to Enesco’s opera, and pulled out the 1990 recording by Lawrence Foster with José van Dam on EMI that had been lying on my shelves awaiting a listen for more than a decade. I’ll try and review it (I also have the recording in Romanian from Electrecord).

Seller madness – or buyer’s?

As a follow-up on my blog post about “Kogan madness“:

Yeah, yeah, I know : Janos Starker WAS one of the greatest cellists of the second half of the 20th century, worthy of unrestricted admiration and collecting. And I know: his penultimate (out of five) recording of the Cello Suites, from 1984, on the small (and long gone) Canadian label Sefel is a rarity.

But an ask price of 1,000 dollars for the two CDs ?

Hey, that’s madness!

I don’t want to lay too much blame on the seller, Ieronim (based in Romania). I’ve bought from him in the past, a couple of times (never at those prices!), and he’s often got good and rare stuff – incredible what finds its way to Romania, not usually recognized as the center of the world of Classical music. I do think it is crazy to expect to find someone ready to shell out one thousand bucks on 2 CDs, but if he does – madness is the buyer’s and the blame goes on him!

Anyway, I’ll put the offer on my watchlist, to know if buyer’s madness manifests itself. So far, Ieronim’s 1,000 dollars is not the market value of the Sefel recording. It’s market value will be determined when the offer meets a demand. Discogs.com, which functions as both an encyclopedia of recordings and a marketplace, indicates that the most expensive CD1 sold from their platform is 55 euros – still expensive for a CD, but way more reasonable (in fact, I was almost tempted to spend 40 on only one CD of the Bach Sonatas and Partitas by Patrick Bismuth on Stil, one of those rarities I’m hopelessly hoping to find for around 20… and then balked).

By the way, I’ve just checked the other eBay offer I had mentioned at the end my “Kogan madness” post, of only one of the two Sefel CDs, by a Texas-based seller alliased Gnarly-Media. His start price was 360 dollars back then.

Well, it turns out the “listing was ended by the seller because the item is no longer available”. From that I understand that he withdrew it because it didn’t sell – no wonder.

But what I find particularly, well, interesting, is that apparently, when the guy got no bids at 360 dollars, he relisted his CD as “buy it now”…. and at an offer price of… 1078 dollars! Why 1078, rather than, I don’t know, 1,000, or 1,077? No clue.

Anyway, it strikes me as a real revolution in micro-economics: when your goods don’t sell, triple the price!

As they say: as long as you haven’t sold, you ain’t rich.

 

PS from 2 October 2021: see my follow-up, and learn the REAL market value of these two CDs

 

 

La Zarzuela on EMI-Spain (Hispavox) 1991-92 and some reissues from 2000

For whomever’s interest (fans of Zarzuela, the Spanish operetta, evidently): as I was working on my discography of EMI’s budget and mid-price series, I chanced upon a collection that EMI-Spain (Hispavox) released back in 1991 and 1992 (the heydays of the CD), reissuing recordings originally made from 1958 to 1969, and that is very badly represented on the Amazons, even Amazon Spain, probably because the series was circulated before the invention of Amazon and in a country that is aloof from the international marketing circuits. The begining of the series was reviewed in the July-August 1992 issue of the Spanish record magazine Scherzo (pages 86 and 87), which at least helped me to track down the collection (things are easier to find when you know them to exist). I’ve found a few subsequent releases from 1992, not listed in Scherzo.

 

(For better legibility here is the magnified list)

One additional difficulty is that the series was released in various batches, but for some reason the barcodes of the second series, 7 67428 2 to 7 67434 2, are out of sync with EMI’s normal barcode sequence, and that remains a puzzle to me. Discogs as often was very helpful as it documents a number of those releases – but not all. Here’s the list, and, when CDs are not listed on Amazon, I provide links to Discogs or other websites, for more complete information and cover photos. In some cases, when useful, I provide cover photos. A number of them were reissued in 2000. I haven’t (yet) looked systematically to establish if all were, but initial research suggests that this was not the case. I indicate those I’ve chanced upon.

First batch:

CZS 7 67322 2  (2 CDs) La Zarzuela 1. Amadeo Vives: Doña Francisquita / Bohemios. Teresa Tourné, Pedro Lavirgen, Ana Higueras etc, Orquesta de Conciertos de Madrid, Pablo Sorozábal 1963, 1964  (1991) 077776732220. Reissue EMI 5 74209 2 (2000) 724357420921
Note: reissue has a very elusive presence online, but here is the cover photo:

 

 

 

CZS 7 67325 2  (2 CDs) La Zarzuela 2. Pablo Sorozábal: La tabernera del puerto / La del Manojo De Rosas. Leda Barclay, Alfredo Kraus, Pilar Lorengar, Renato Cesari, Orquesta de Conciertos de Madrid, Sorozábal 1958, 62 (1991) 077776732527. Reissue EMI 5 74158 2 (2000) 724357415828

CDZ 7 67328 2  La Zarzuela 3. Ruperto Chapi: La Revoltosa / Tomas Breton: La Verbena de la Poloma. Teresa Tourne, Renato Cesari, Orquesta de Conciertos de Madrid, Pablo Sorozábal, Federico Moreno Torroba 1963, 1961 (1991) 077776732824. Reissue EMI 5 74162 2 (2000) 724357416221

CDZ 7 67329 2  La Zarzuela 4. Federico Moreno Torroba: Luisa Fernanda. Teresa Tourné, Pedro Lavirgen, Renato Cesari, Orquesta de Conciertos de Madrid, Moreno Torroba 1960 (1991) 077776732923. Reissue EMI 5 74153 2 (2000) 724357415323

CDZ 7 67330 2  La Zarzuela 5. Pablo Sorozábal: Katiuska. Pilar Lorengar, Alfredo Kraus, Renato Cesari, Orquesta de Conciertos de Madrid, Sorozábal 1958 (1991) 077776733029. Reissue EMI 5 74161 2 (2000) 724357416122

CDZ 7 67331 2 La Zarzuela 6. Federico Chueca: Agua Azucarillos y Aguardien / Federico Chueca y Joaquin Valverde: La Gran Via. Teresa Tourné, Ana Higueras, Renato Cesari, Orquesta de Conciertos de Madrid, Pablo Sorozábal 1963 (1991) 077776733128, reissued  EMI 5 74152 2 (2000) 724357415224

CDZ 7 67332 2  La Zarzuela 7. Jose Serrano: La Canción del Olvido. Isabel Castelo, Renato Cesari, Orquesta de Conciertos de Madrid, Pablo Sorozábal 1963 (1991) 077776733227. Reissue EMI 5 74157 2 (2000) 724357415729

CDZ 7 67333 2 La Zarzuela 8. Pablo Luna: Molinos de viento. Teresa Tourné, Renato Cesari, Orquesta de Conciertos de Madrid, Pablo Sorozábal 1963 (1991) 077776733326

 

CDZ 7 67334 2  La Zarzuela 9. José Serrano: La Dolorosa. Teresa Tourné, Pedro Lavirgen, Orquesta de Conciertos de Madrid, Pablo Sorozábal 1966 (1991) 077776733425. Reissue 5 74216 2 (2000) 724357421621

CDZ 7 67335 2 Antologia de la Zarzuela vol. 1 (compilation of excerpts from the above) (1991) 077776733524

Second batch:

7 67428 2 Antologia de la Zarzuela vol. 2 (1991) 077776742820 (is the barcode indicated at the back although it should have been, following EMI’s barcode sequence, 077776742823)

CDZ 7 67429 2  La Zarzuela 10. Jacinto Guerrero: Los Gavilanes. Dolorès Ripollès, Alicia Armencia, Renato Cesari,  Pedro Lavirgen, Orquesta de Conciertos de Madrid,  Federico Moreno Torroba 1961 () probable barcode 077776742929 (not found online, no bacover photo located), should be, following EMI’s barcode sequence, 077776742922, not found online (and so forth for the next releases). Reissued EMI 5 74154 2 (2000) 724357415422 

Note: I’ve seen many indications online that the reissue dated from 1996. Not so, and I don’t know where that date comes from. Backcover photo clearly shows © 2000 and the CD is part of a barcode sequence whose other installments are from 2000 indeed:

 

 

7 67430 2  La Zarzuella 11. Pablo Sorozabal: Don Manolito. Celia Langa, Renato Cesari, Jorge Algorta, Orquesta de Conciertos de Madrid, Pablo Sorozábal  1959 (1991) 077776743025

7 67431 2  La Zarzuela 12. Pablo Sorozabal: Black, el payaso.  Leda Barclay, Alfredo Kraus, Renato Cesari, Orquesta de Conciertos de Madrid, Pablo Sorozábal 1958 (1991) 077776743124

7 67432 2 La Zarzuela 13. Pablo Sorozabal: Las de Cain. Teresa Tourné, Ana Higueras, Renato Cesari, Julio Catania, Orquesta de Conciertos de Madrid, Pablo Sorozábal 1965 (1991) 077776743223

 

7 67433 2 La Zarzuela 14. Pablo Sorozábal: La eterna cancion. Teresa Tourné, Pedro Lavirgen, Ana Maria Higueras, Renato Cesari, Orquesta de Conciertos de Madrid, Pablo Sorozábal 1965 (1991) 077776743322

 

7 67434 2 La Zarzuela 15. Pablo Sorozabal: Adios A La Bohemia. Pilar Lorengar Renato Cesari, Manuel Gas etc, Orquesta de Conciertos de Madrid, Pablo Sorozábal 1962 (1991) 077776743421 (Note: should have been 077776743424 following EMI’s normal barcode sequence, and that one does yield an entry on Amazon, although without offer. But backcover photo on discogs shows clearly the barcode ending with 421 on back of CD)

7 67443 2 Preludios e Intermedios de Zarzuela : Gimenez, Breton, Chapi, Chueca, Caballero, Barbieri. Orquesta de Coniertos de Madrid, Pablo Sorozabal (1991) 077776744322

The series was continued in 1992:

7 67450 2 La Zarzuela 16. Jacinto Guerrero: Ed Huesped del Sevillano.   Dolores Perez, Carlo Del Monte, Orquesta Lirica Española, Federico Moreno Torroba 1969 (1992) 077776745022

7 67451 2 La Zarzuela 17. Jesùs Guridi: El Caserio. Dolores Perez, Carlo Del Monte, Luis Sagi-Vela, Orquesta Lirica Española, Federico Moreno Torroba 1969 (1992) 077776745121. Reissue 5 74156 2 (2000) 724357415620

7 67452 2 La Zarzuela 18. Amadeo Vivès: Maruxa. Dolores Perez, Josefina Cubeiro, Luis Sagi-Vela, Chano Gonszalo, Orquesta Lirica Española, Federico Moreno Torroba 69 (1992) 077776745220. Reissue 5 74212 2 (2000) 724357421225

7 67453 2 La Zarzuela 19. José Maria Usandizaga: Las Golondrinas. Josefina Cubeiro, Isabel Rivas, Vicente Sardinero Ramon Alonso, Orquesta Lirica Española, Federico Moreno Torroba 69 (1992) 077776745329. Reissue 5 74215 2 (2002) 724357421522

7 67454 2 La Zarzuela 20. Francisco Asenjo Barbieri: El Barberillo de Lavapies. Mari Carmen Ramirez, Dolores Perez, Luis Sagi-Vela, Orquesta Lirica Española, Federico Moreno Torroba 69 (1992) 077776745428. Reissue EMI 5 74163 2 (2000) 724357416320

7 67455 2  La Zarzuela 21. Ruperto Chapi: El Rey Que Rabio. Luis Sagi-Vela, Josefina Cubeira, Orquesta Lirica Española, Federico Moreno Torroba 69 (1992) 077776745527

Fourth batch:

7 67470 2 La Zarzuela 22. Jacinto Guerrero: La Rosa del Azafran / Manuel Fernandez Caballero: Gigantes y Cabezudos. Maria Espinalt, Marcos Redondo, Conchita Panades, José Permanyer, Orquesta Lirica Española, F. Delta / Rafael Ferrer 62 (1992) 077776747026. Reissue 5 74155 2 (2000) 724357415521

7 67471 2 La Zarzuela 23. Soutullo y Vert: La Del Soto Del Parral. Maria Espinalt, Juan Gual, Jeronimo Messeguer, Orquesta Lirica Española, Rafael Ferrer 62 (1992) 077776747125

7 67472 2  La Zarzuela 24. Francisco Alonso: La Parranda / José Serrano: Los Claveles. Lolita Rovira, Marcos Redondo, Maria Espinalt, Pablo Civil, Orquesta Lirica Española, F. Delta / Rafael Ferrer  (1992) 077776747224

4 67473 2  La Zarzuela 25. Amadeo Vivès: La Generala. Maria Espinalt, Lolita Torrento, Jeronimo Villardel, Orquesta Lirica Española, Rafael Ferrer 62 (1992) 077776747323

To all this I’ll add a 4-CD compilation also from 1992:

CZS 7 67580 2 (4 CDs) Antologia de la Zarzuela (1992) 077776758022

There may be more, but that is, for the moment, my contribution to the art of the Zarzuela.

eBay France remains an asinine website – and (no direct link) about Stockhausen

To follow-up on my post from June 2020, “George Friedrich Commerce and Till Owl-Mirror, really???? eBay and their asinine translation dildo“:  A beautiful offer came up on eBay a couple of days ago – if you are a Stockhausen fan, that is, and have some hundreds of dollars to spare: a book, “Conversations with Stockhausen”, by Jonathan Cott, published in 1974 by Picador.

Photo 51 - Karlheinz Stockhausen Experimental compositeur signé livre avec cœur SketchPhoto 4 - Karlheinz Stockhausen Experimental compositeur signé livre avec cœur Sketch

 

What “justifies” the 300$ price-tag (well… not in my eyes) is that the copy boasts a manuscript inscription by the composer, and the offer’s title says it all: “KARLHEINZ STOCKHAUSEN EXPERIMENTAL COMPOSER SIGNED BOOK WITH HEART SKETCH”. And the photo says it even better:

Photo 2 - Karlheinz Stockhausen Experimental compositeur signé livre avec cœur Sketch

Well, okay, fine, if you are in that kind of worshiping and collecting, if you think that owning a scribbled scrap from your idol puts you in contact with the breath of genius, you may go for it. I would probably if it were Bach or Beethoven or Mahler and at that price (wisfhful thinking of course, and it says a lot about the hierarchies in recognition). That’s not my issue (or rather, target of irony) here.

My target is again the translation device that eBay has thought appropriate to impose on its users. I thought it applied only to offers from Germany/in German, but apparently not (this one is from the US and in English). So, in French, the offer’s title gives “Karlheinz Stockhausen Experimental compositeur signé livre avec cœur Sketch”. You need to know French to realize that it so doesn’t make sense that it’s laughable – I had to go to the original English to get what it meant.

Oh well it’s a small thing and I shouldn’t even be wasting my time ridiculing it. If you have a passion for Stockhausen, buy it!

And I shouldn’t be making fun of Stockhausen anyway (I wasn’t) or Stockhausen worshipers, since some years ago, I couldn’t resist buying, from the Stockhausen Foundation, a beautifully wrought music box, part of a limited edition of 12 series, each with (they said) only 40 copies, and each with a different tune composed by Stockhausen, “12 melodies of the star sign” or Zodiac. Of course I bought the box playing my own astrological sign tune. More about those Zodiac Music Boxes on the Stockhausen website.

Can’t remember how much I paid, but I remember they were pricey. But, hey, look, it was worth it, wasn’t it?

My house was burglarized a few weeks ago as I was away from home. Well, they didn’t take any CDs (what would they do with tons of classical music CDs and scores – only a fellow collector might want to do that), and I don’t keep jewels at home, but I was afraid they’d have stolen the music box. No, sigh of relief, they really weren’t connoisseurs, or perhaps they rewinded, played the tune and were chased away by sheer disgust (I’ve read that classical music played in department stores has the same effect).

Checking on the Stockhausen website, I see that most are now sold-out (I was going to buy one or two more to gift to family, but alas!…). Only Taurus and Capricorn are left.

Researching EMI, and new additions to my collection: rarities from the early EMI catalog

This August I’ve been busying myself with completing my (huge) discography of EMI’s budget series from the late 1980s and 1990s – Studio, Laser, Références, Great Recordings of the Century, Introuvables, Rarissimes, Rouge et Noir, Eminence, Classics for Pleasure, and that’s only a sample, EMI had many branches and a vast catalog to tap from. The research requires using my pet-method – follow the barcode! Just roll the sequence and see what you fish. Typically EMI’s barcode for its budget series in the early years was in the form 077776xxxx2y with 7 6xxxx 2 (preceded by three letters, usually CDM or CZS for the single CDs, CMS or CDS for sets) being the label number (full-priced issues would be 07777xxxxx2y if an individual CD and 07777xxxxx8y if a set. Editions from EMI’s German branch Electrola went by the barcodes 5099925xxx2y with 25 xxx 2 as label number. (I’ll keep it at that for the purpose of this post, to make it – seem – simple. In fact it is, once you get the logic).

Now, there may be a number of reasons why a  barcode doesn’t yield:

  1. In multiple-CD sets, each CD received its individual barcode. For instance, in two-CD set CMS 7 62533 2 from EMI France’s collection “Rouge & Noir” (Cziffra plays works for piano and orchestra), with barcode 077776253329, CD 1 is attributed the barcode 077776253428 and CD 2, 077776253527. So the next release in the series is going to be CMS 7 62536 2, barcode 077776253626, which turns out to be “Menuhin plays Concertos for violin”. Still, the discographer can’t afford to just jump two barcode numbers in his research, because sometimes – rarely, but I’ve seen it – EMI breaks the rule and what should be the barcode of CD1 is attributed to another release. I surmise that it is another branch of EMI that has located would appeared to be an available label number and has used it.
  2. On Amazon, now (it wasn’t always the case – part of the website’s general deterioration over the years), if a product isn’t currently offered, research sometimes (not always) won’t yield on the search engine. Heck, sometimes, for reasons incomprehensible to me, it won’t yield even if it IS currently offered. Solution is to go through your seller account and “add a new product”. If it is listed at all, it’ll show up.
  3. The label number and corresponding barcode have been skipped by the label. It happens, oftentimes. I’m not privvy with the way those big firms function and how they decide to allocate their barcodes to their different branches, I don’t know why they leave barcodes “blank”.
  4. The release exists, the barcode has been used, but it is not listed on your customary websites – either because an early release, made before your customary website was even invented, or (cumulative, not alternative) because it comes from an “exotic” branch of EMI, like EMI Spain, or Finland, or The Netherlands, Greece, and has had a circulation limited to those countries.

So, when the discographer finds a gap, he is confronted with a riddle: is there a gap because the label hasn’t used that barcode, or simply because the website you are searching does not list the CD, which otherwise exists? That’s why, when typically a barcode doesn’t yield on Amazon, to make sure I search on multiple other websites, Melomania, eBay, Discogs, and ultimately Google (see my blogpost from 10 April 2020 for more on my research methods). If it doesn’t yield after all that, than the odds rise that it doesn’t exist, although it’s not yet a certainty: it could simply not be listed anywhere, I’ve seen it, releases that I knew existed only because I had seen references in magazines, no trace showed up online.

And, so, here’s an interesting case that happened recently. CMS 7 63679 2, barcode 077776367927, is a 4 CD-set published in 1990 on the occasion of the bicentennial anniversary of Mozart’s death, a compilation of chamber Music and piano works. So, in principle, no release until label number 79 + 5 = 7 63684 2 barcode 077776368429. But that barcode, which should have been EMI’s next release, didn’t yield either on the Amazons (France, UK, US). So I used my alternative websites, and Google: nothing. So I was ready to pass on that one; still, as a last resort and just to make absolutely sure, I made a Google search on the label number, “EMI 7 63684 2”, not the barcode (problem with researching barcodes is that, on some websites, they are listed with blanks, as they appear on the back cover of the CD, like 07777x xxx2 y, so search on barcode all-attached won’t yield). And, surprise, puzzlement, it yielded: disc listed litterally around the corner from where I live: on Melomania!

The puzzlement, because, if listed on Melomania, it should have responded to a call on the barcode, 077776368429, and it didn’t. Plus, if a 6-CD set, the next EMI listing should have been 684 + 7 = 077776369129; but, no, 685 is filled (2 CDs EMI Références  CHS 7 63685 2 Mozart Idomeneo conducted by John Pritchard in Glyndebourne barcode 077776368528, then CHS 7 63688 2  Mozart Complete Piano Sonatas by Walter Gieseking on 8 CDs).  So that release, 7 63684 2, if truly attested, would have been one of those “pirate” fill-ins that I occasionally encounter? Plus, Melomania’s listing didn’t provide photos, to enable me to understand the apparent incoherence between label number and barcode: Sibelius by Berglund with the Helsinki Orchestra on 6 CDs, could it be a Japanese edition, which sometimes use Western label numbers but Japanese barcodes? More research didn’t help me corroborate that. Could it be a listing for Warner’s recent (2017) reissue of apparently the same recordings, barcode 0190295869151? But if so, why the label number corresponding to EMI’s releases from 1990, and why did it not show up either when I searched 0190295869151 on Melomania’s website (which takes you to a genuine entry for the Warner set). Plus, their mystery EMI listing said 6 CDs, and the Warner reissue has 5. Of course, that “6” could have been a typing mistake from Melomania…

I wasn’t even sure that all performances were with the Helsinki Philharmonic, Melomania’s product info is not always entirely detailed, and Berglund also did an earlier Sibelius cycle with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra…

After spending an unreasonably large amount of time on the research, I was about to give up and inscribe it in my discography as “dubious”, when I made a last-ditch effort and Google searched on “7636842 (all-attached) Sibelius”. And… bingo: a yield, a selling platform in Finland.

With photos! Eurêka!

…but no image of the barcode unfortunately. You can see part of the barcode of one of the CDs comprising the set, but only the last digits, 688, just enough to figure out that it did not correspond to the set’s label number and didn’t give any lead.

So here’s what I did – “pel piacer di porle in lista”, that’s the (only) motivation Don Giovanni (ever) gives (in the “Champagne” Aria) of his lust for conquest, “for the pleasure of adding her to the list”: with the help of Google’s Finnish to English translator, I registered on the Finnish selling platform and got in touch with the seller. He was kind enough to provide the requested info: the set itself bears no barcode, and contains 6 individual barcoded CDs, themselves Finnish releases badly listed on the major Amazons (if listed at all, but Google search them, and they’ll show up):

CDC 7 47443 2 (Symphonies 4& 7) barcode 077774744324,
CDC 7 49052 2 (Symphonies 1 & 6)  077774905220,
CDC 7 49175 2 (Symphonies 3 & 5)  077774917520,
CDC 7 49511 2 (Symphony No. 2, Oceanides, Finlandia) 077774951123,
CDC 7 47496 8 (2 CDs) Kullervo, Our Native Land, The Origin of Fire 077774749688 (that’s the one whose last digits appear on the photo)

And that makes 6 CDs alright. After some agonizing I decided not to buy it (I don’t even know if seller would have accepted to send outside of Finland): as much as I prefer having first editions, the Warner reissue is more complete (it adds Tapiola) and cheaper. And, yes, they managed to cram it all on 5 CDs.

On the other hand, I did buy some (cheap) EMI rarities that my systematic barcode research fished out of the depths of oblivion:

 

 

(so far in my EMI disography I’ve encountered only one other instalment from that “Baroque Special” series)

 

(rare recordings of David Munrow as flautist – he is recalled more as a conductor of early music, and he died tragically early, less than three years after these recordings)

And this, a real rarity from EMI Spain:

 

More in a next post about some other rarities from Spain: Zarzuela! Stay tune.

But all these hours of research (and writing this post!) for a minuscule entry in my discography! No wonder I don’t finish anything!

 

Alain Damiens contemporary solo clarinet on Adda (1988)

Posted a new review of another old CD from Adda: Alain Damiens playing solo clarinet pieces by Stravinsky, Boulez, Denisov, Stockhausen, Donatoni, Berio, Adda 581066 (1988) and Accord reissues (link will take you directly to review). Can’t say I immensely enjoyed the recital: works for contemporary solo clarinet tend to be catalogs of effects, more “narrative” (clarinet telling a story, and it’s up to the listener to invent which one) than “pure music”. But at least it gave me the opportunity to listen very carefully to Berio’s Sequenza, Stockhausen’s “In Freundschaft” and Boulez’ “Domaines”, so I’m now a better human being.

Quick listen, quick review

Posted a review of Cimarosa’s six Flute Quartets on Adda 581031, from 1988. Adda was an entreprising but short-lived French label from the late 1980s and early 1990s, which I collect. Also, Cimarosa, other than the comic operas for which he retains today a semblance of existence in the minds of the music lovers, wrote marvelous keyboard sonatas, which are a sort of gap between Scarlatti and Haydn – I’ve reviewed a number of recordings on Amazon and need to import them over here. But his flute quartets are inconspicuous, background music. Quick listen, quick review.

Other than that, I’ve been busying myself lately with various discographies, in particular EMI’s budget and mid-price collections from the 1980s and 1990s, and, these last few days, my great work-in-progress: a chronological discography of Toscanini, 1920 to 1954- I don’t know that I’ll be able to complete that one before I die (even leaving out of my survey, as I do, the sonically-subpar Italian pirate issues), and it would be a pity (for the Toscanini fans; I may find some relief in the thought that there are less and less of those).

Another botched entry on Amazon

Looking for a rarity on Amazon.com, Joseph Hector Fiocco’s (1703-1741) Lamentations by Ensemble Concerto under Roberto Gini, a recording from 1992, 2 CDs on the obscure Italian label Giulia, GS 201021, barcode 8011662200204.

FIOCCO - Gini - Lamentations pour la Semaine SainteFIOCCO - Gini - Lamentations pour la Semaine Sainte

 

 

Searching the barcode on Amazon’s search engine takes me instead to Bach Violin Sonatas by London Baroque on EMI Reflexe (link will open a new tab to my discography), label number CDC 7 49203 2 barcode 077774920322 – an entry in itself entirely botched, scanty product info, no product image:

Things are slightly better on Amazon.uk. At least you get the label and indication of the works played.

Here are the front and back cover photo of that EMI Reflexe CD, since the Amazons do not provide it:

 

 

 

Why such a mess? Well, again, because the impenetrable and all-dominating “system”, in its great wisdom (or rather, human error by the ignorant dunces who enter that information), associated two entirely different barcodes, for two entirely different recordings, discs, labels, to one entry:

The result of that situation: if you buy, you don’t know what you get: Bach by London Baroque on EMI Reflexe or Fiocco on Giulia. And that’s through no major fault of the sellers: they just scan the barcode of the disc they have to sell and it is automatically added to the offers. I don’t even blame them for not checking if the entry accords with the CD at hand: I understand that they are mass sellers and don’t have the time for such petty details.

Not that it matters anyway: at 40 £ best price, the offers on Amazon.uk are ludicrously expensive even if you were sure you were buying the Fiocco (and no better on Amazon.fr), and the one at 9.95 on Amazon.com is evidently for the EMI Reflexe CD, as per the seller’s description of the CD condition: “The ‘Made in Japan” audio CD will play flawlessly, guaranteed, despite a number of very light surface marks. Includes a somewhat scuffed jewel case with, in VG or better condition, the pictured cover insert and the rear inlay. NO cut-out or ex-library marks. The track listing for this CD is as follows: 1-4) Sonata, BWV 1021; 5-8) Sonata, BWV 1023; 9) Cantabile, ma un poco adagio, BWV 1019a; 10-12) Sonata, BWV 1022; 13) Fuga, BWV 1026; 14-16) Sonata, BWV 1024. Featured performers are Ingrid Seifert, Charles Medlam and John Toll.”

The entry on Melomania is perfect:

I’m not even going to bother to try and fix things with Amazon. It’s not worth the energy and time I’d have to spend – and more likely, waste.