When editor of Seen&Heard,
I inaugurated a section for COMMENT - a platform for occasional ventilation
of hobbyhorses and bees in bonnets http://musicweb-international.com/SandH/Oct99/mahler.htm.
My personal campaigns have included: complaints when words and translations
are not supplied invariably with CDs and at concerts (or that audiences
are plunged into the dark, and left unable to read them); a rooted dislike
of crude, distorted amplification for live music-making, and the hope
that reviewers should at least strive towards a modicum of objectivity,
referring to scores when that is feasible.
I have just enjoyed sitting at my computer, listening
to Grieg's Piano Concerto whilst following the score. Why should that
I had not heard the Grieg concerto for years (I don't
any longer go to many of those concerts in which it is likely to be
played, nor was there a recording of it in my collection) but I enjoyed
it enormously in Lucerne recently, played by
Lars Vogt with the European Union Youth Orchestra
, when I concluded that in my best judgement it had been an
excellent performance. However, I realised that I had never worked on
the score at the piano, and knew it only by sound. Scores have become
expensive, and public libraries have sold off many volumes in their
Remedy was close at hand. This month's BBC Music
Magazine CD-ROM has the Grieg piano concerto (Francois-Frederic
Guy) and Dvorak's cello concertos (Alban Gerhardt) conducted by Neeme
Jarvi, both in - to my ears - distinguished performances. I don't go
in for 'best ever recordings', which fascinate many record collectors,
nor too gladly for the inevitably rather meaningless 'CD of the Year'
lotteries, but these performances easily satisfy Winnicott's 'good enough'
criterion for mothering small children, which has a certain relevance
for CD listening too.
In passing, I would like to take the opportunity to
mention (not for the first time) that the BBC Music Magazine and its
interactive CD-ROMs offer a fount of pleasure, not to say a possibly
embarrassing surfeit of information, with, frequently, classy performances
of usual and less usual music, often live recordings, sometimes special
studio performances. Subscriptions to the magazine offer very good value.
(MusicWeb might like to consider reviewing those releases, alongside
commercial offerings from Record Companies.)
What made the occasion special this week was that at
the same time as we received that BBC Music Magazine CD-ROM, several
CD-ROMs arrived for review from the CD Sheet Music Series distributed
by Theodore Presser Co. at almost absurdly low prices (www.cdsheetmusic.com)
The one which has the complete piano works of Mendelssohn
and Grieg (over 1600 pages) includes, to my pleased surprise, those
with orchestra in 2-piano reductions, so I was able to confirm visually
my aural impressions of the Grieg (I chose to sample that volume first,
instead of, say, the Complete Piano Works of Beethoven, because I already
have most of the latter).
The CD Sheet Music scores look good on the screen,
and are easily printed out, crystal clear, at whatever size you desire,
whether for the armchair or for the music stand.
Their low cost (c. 15$ - 19$ in USA) is possible because
the editions reprinted are older ones, out of copyright, which means
that you can build up a collection of standard works inexpensively.
I have sampled also "Baroque Organ Works - The Ultimate Collection"
- not quite the ultimate for Pachelbel, perhaps, since there is ongoing
research and the editions used are all pre-1922, but it serves very
well if, like me, you do not have a comprehensive sheet music collection
of Buxtehude, Froberger, Handel, Sweelinck & Pachelbel; so does
its companion volume, "J.S.Bach - the complete works for organ". Buy
those and you have at your elbow all the most important organ works
of the period in two compact jewel-cases!
The range of repertoire available on CD Sheet Music
is vast; all reviewers please note and ask Father Christmas for a few
of them! The UK agent is United Music Publishers (UMP).
Another break-through for the new Millennium, so obvious
once it has been done, is Haenssler's way with some of their
re-releases. The inserts with the The Masterpiece Collection
are as basic and rudimentary as we have become accustomed to from many
firms, because words cost more than CDs to print, but all the information
one hopes to find in a CD booklet is available to download from the
website (with choice of language for negotiating the site).
I have checked the system out, using Acrobat Reader
and, as with CD Sheet Music, it is easy to use, whether at concerts
or for listening at home. I will return to review some of these Haenssler
releases in detail shortly.
Meanwhile, whilst typing this report, I have been printing
out Grieg's lesser-known Ballade Op. 24 from Presser's CD
Sheet Music Grieg/Mendelssohn Complete Piano Works, and will
now go downstairs to play it on the piano.
Peter Grahame Woolf