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“Music is life, and, like life, inextinguishable.”

Alex Ross has a splendid piece titled Inextinguishable  about Carl Nielsen in the New Yorker (yes, the New Yorker) this week.  I must confess that I had not paid a lot of attention to Nielsen until Alex tagged him as “most underrated” in the comments section here a couple of years.  Since then, a series of wonderful new recordings–including the opera Maskarade and Thomas Dausgaard and the Danish National Symphony Orchestra/DR’s recording of Nielsen’s orchestral works–have been released by the Danish national recording label Dacapo    I have found myself playing them every few days for months now and I always hear something fresh and new.  I owe you one, Alex.  

On the subject of record labels, Pliable points to a review in the Guardian by Andrew Clements which begins with the provocative sentence:  “Considering how much third-rate music has been included in Naxos’s American Classics series, Elliott Carter has so far been poorly served by the budget-price label…” 

Granted some of the stuff that Naxos has packaged in that series has been less than distinguished but operating in a cultural establishment where critics treat every cow patty ever dropped by the likes of Alwyn and Bax and Finzi and Michael Tippitt as if it were fois gras, Clements is hardly in a position to fling merde.


Comment from zeno
Time: February 19, 2008, 10:17 am

“Granted some of the stuff that Naxos has packaged in that series has been less than distinguished” … (JB)

Granted, Jerry, the same could probably be said for the older Louisville Orchestra, CRI, and New World Recordings American classical music projects, but I am very thankful to all of these projects for — piecemeal — attempting to record, produce, and distribute a panorama of American classical music aspiration and achievement over about a 200 year period (a little longer if you count the New World Record’s William Billings project, from ca. 1977).

In my opinion, William Henry Fry’s 19th c. “Santa Claus Symphony” was just as ‘distinguished’ an effort as was CRI’s recordings of, say, some of Walter Piston’s Symphonic works or George Crumb’s “Echoes of Time and the River” or Andrew Imbrie’s Symphony #3. (The Naxos Fry “Santa Claus Symphony” was perhaps the last Naxos recording — besides the Naxos Arthur Foote Quintet which is flogged repeatedly — to be played on Sharon Percy Rockefeller’s Classical WETA-FM, in Arlington, VA.)

(I finally enjoyed David Schiff’s ‘Gimpel the Fool’ on Naxos; and I only wish that some label would release the SFO tape of Andrew Imbrie’s “Angle of Repose” opera, from 1976.)

(Without trying to be controversial, I actually have found Naxos’s American Classics series slightly more ‘distinguished’, in my opinion, than the label’s 21st Century Classics project — though that project has been “distinguished” in its own right, too, I guess.)

Comment from Daniel G.
Time: February 19, 2008, 12:55 pm

Well, I like Finzi.

But I think Naxos’ strategy is what makes it so remarkable: run it up the flag pole to see if it will fly (insert your own metaphor). No label comes close to matching Naxos volume, and at this point in time when taste and quality is VERY subjective, I don’t see any reason for them to stop.

Maybe Clements is just a little jealous that there isn’t a “British Classics” series. Piss off!!