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Our motto: "Critical thinking in the cheap seats." Unbiased, honest classical music and opera opinions, occasional obituaries and classical news reporting, since 2007. All written content © 2019 by Paul J. Pelkonen. For more about Superconductor, visit this link. For advertising rates, click this link. Follow us on Facebook.

Monday, April 17, 2017

On Recordings, Diversity and Bigger Hard Drives

Or maybe I'm just getting less picky.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
You try sorting this out....
When I was setting out to build a classical music library, it was a very exacting process. Every recording that I bought, with my limited grad school budget, had to be perfect. Of course none of them were. But I well remember an insane bike trip through the Back Bay fens and down Charlesgate to trade my copy of the Bernard Haitink Ring in for the Solti and obsessing over various Aidas before discovering that I liked Claudio Abbado's. Hey, I was 22.

Everything had to be the best, at first what was recommended in books like The Penguin Guide and then later as my tastes actually developed and my ears became more trained, to a standard that I imagined in my own head. I was pretty didactic too in those early years, making endless lists of top tens, favorites and least favorites much like a certain music meme that is currently making the rounds on social media amongst friends in the music industry.

As I've gotten older, things changed. But first, a technological digression.

Earlier this year, I had to take my Mac into the shop after spilling coffee on the keyboard. The good folks at my tech support store (the Mac Support Store, here in Brooklyn, let's give them some love) told me that my hard drive was nearing the end of its life in terms of "boot cycles" and that I had to get a new one. This new drive is happily, twice the size of the original, so I've spent some valuable time (where I could otherwise be writing) uploading a good chunk of my music collection that has been left out of the old hard drive for reasons of space.

It's been an ear-opening experience. It is healthy, I think to listen to different orchestras, different conductors, and even (in the case of Herbert von Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic) different interpretations in different decades of the nine Beethoven symphonies. It is also interesting to have easy, digital access to some of the more obscure operas in my collection: La Muette di Portici by Auber, Dom Sebastien by Donizetti, Maometto II by Rossini. All this listening has expanded my musical horizons further.

The latest addition (as of this weekend) was the cycle of Bach organ works as played by Simon Preston and recorded on ten different organs in Europe. I hear Bach differently than I did when I was younger. I'm now finding it easier to listen "inside" the harmony of pieces, to follow figured bass, and to understand and in some cases even predict where the music may be going. Those skills will apply later in the year when I'm listening to works in the concert hall, and prove to be fundamental to my own further and deeper understanding of how music works.

So yeah. I have a big classical music and opera collection. And yes, I'm spending more time listening to it. I hope at certain points to turn these listening adventures into writing, and I hope you are all still willing to join me for them. And by the way, I tend to now listen to the Haitink recording more than the Solti. Tastes change.

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