David Lang’s The Little Match Girl Passion, which won the Pulitzer last year, was released today on a Harmonia Mundi recording. Paul Hillier’s Theatre of Voices, who co-commissioned the piece with Carnegie Hall, perform the piece beautifully, and there are nice details in this studio recording that were only hinted at in the live recording which Carnegie Hall made available after the premiere. You can hear streaming audio here, buy through Amazon here, or support the evil iTunes empire here.
My most devoted fans (hi Mom!) will remember that I interviewed David about Match Girl, the Pulitzer, and other things last November.
But as glad as I am that this gorgeous piece is finally available, I can’t pass up the opportunity to use it to illustrate a serious problem with the industry as a whole. Match Girl was premiered at Carnegie Hall on October 25, 2007. It won the Pulitzer in April, 2008. The world had to wait more than a year and a half after the premiere, and an entire Pulitzer cycle came and went before a studio recording was released. The problem is mitigated somewhat by the fact that Carnegie Hall has had the live recording available for streaming on its website, but not everything gets that treatment. Newsweek was able to get exclusive permission to stream Steve Reich’s Double Sextet for a week or so after it won the Pulitzer this year, but in Seth Colter’s accompaning interview he asks Reich when a Double Sextet recording will be released and Reich says “Yeah, that’s just part of the recording business. When you have a 24-minute piece, the official recording hinges on finishing and recording two other pieces to go with it [on a CD]. I’m working on two other pieces right now, and have to finish writing the second one, actually. I’ve got a piece for all rock-and-roll people already completed, and it’s going to premiere later this year.” In the meantime, as far as I know there’s no legal way to hear a recording of the whole of Double Sextet.
I don’t mean to point fingers. The massive delays between premiere and recording are endemic to the industry as a whole, and I’m not blaming David Lang, or Paul Hillier, or Harmonia Mundi, or Steve Reich, or Eighth Blackbird, or Naxos. We all own this problem, and we should really find a way to solve it.
Okay, rant ended. Go buy and/or listen to Match Girl. And while you’re at it, I recommend accidentally playing the Double Sextet clip on Reich’s MySpace page and the “When it is time for me to go” section of Match Girl at the same time. Play the Reich twice in a row for the full effect.