Monday, 10 April 2017

Good Times for Music Lovers

Young people who like classical music (“young” for me being under 45 years of age) do not realise how lucky they are. Not much more than 100 years ago, you took what you were given in terms of repertoire played in your local area. The advent of broadcast music then helped enormously to widen choice and knowledge of alternatives, as did the arrival of recorded music. But, until the arrival of the World Wide Web, streaming, downloading, and online ordering, choices were still somewhat limited. I have just had a mini-festival of the violin music of Julius Röntgen, played by Ragin Wenk-Wolff, Liza Ferschtman, and by Atsuko Sahara. As it happens, I enjoy the genial music of this Dutch composer who was admired by Brahms and by Grieg. But I would have been hard pressed to listen to different recordings of Röntgen's music even thirty years ago. Nowadays, with a few clicks of a mouse, one can find pretty well any piece of music, somewhere or other. And listen to it, or buy a recording of it made any time after 1900.

The current era is good for those wanting to listen to music, but it is also good for professional musicians who want to be known and heard. Not more than around 60 years ago, there was room for only a handful of pianists, conductors, orchestras or violinists to become well known and famous. When I started collecting recordings back in the 1950s, even popular classics such as the Beethoven symphonies could only be found with a choice of 5-10 versions, according to the place in which one lived. When I wanted a recording of Ginette Neveu playing the Sibelius violin concerto, one of my sisters had to buy it for me in New York, since it was not available in England (the recording companies released recordings territory by territory, in those days, and shopping around, except in person, was pretty difficult).

A good friend pointed me towards a most useful website listing live performances of performances with orchestras ( What riches, and what a plethora of artists I have never heard of! Twice in my life I have been to Braunschweig in Germany, but it was only through the on-demand website that I discovered there is a Braunschweiger Staatsorchester whose conductor is named Albrecht Mayer; together, they turn in an excellent performance of Vaughan Williams' Tallis Fantasia. And then there was a young violinist called Maria Milstein (no relative of Nathan, I suspect) playing the Glazunov violin concerto (very well). Apart from the on-demand website (and many similar) there is also YouTube to introduce unknown players to the general public. We are lucky to have this explosive burst of classical music, new and old.

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