Comments were invited from several of our our reviewers on the first
issue of International Record Review March 2000. These will be of particular
interest to our American readers who seem to be experiencing difficulty in
finding a copy to help them to decide whether or not to take out a subscription.
Subscription on-line is not yet available but there is a downloadable application
e-mail your comments to Len@musicweb-international.com and a selection will appear on
Rob Barnett - Classical Editor MotW
INTERNATIONAL RECORD REVIEW - The Debut edition - March 2000
IRR, it is to be hoped, is a new and long-lasting presence in the classical
CD review market. Publications have over the years come and gone. I have
fond memories of Records and Recordings which died circa 1978. Fanfare
(flourishing since circa 1978) is a mark of excellence but it is produced
once very two months. IRR is a monthly and therefore vies with Gramophone
and BBC Music Magazine. Thankfully it concentrates on the music and is not
about to be taken over by the latest 'dreamboy' or 'dreamgirl' performer.
It will not tackle film music or popular music or world music. This is to
be welcomed though I have a few misgivings about the exclusion of film music.
It does cover equipment (a pity that - there are plenty of other magazines
to address that part of the market).
The first issue seems to have very little advertising and plenty of review
in decent-sized print spread three columns to a page. It is somewhat severe
but I'll settle for that when I see what has overcome Gramophone and others.
The list of reviewers is long and distinguished. I noticed some names listed
who do not have reviews in this issue. I would expect that there will be
a gradual thinning out. For now what a pleasure to see reviews from David
Gutman, David Fanning, Edward Corp, Hugh Canning, David Cairns, Martin Anderson,
Robert Layton, John Warrack, Max Loppert, Michael Oliver and Mortimer Frank.
The list of March releases is excellent (glad to see that Orfeo are releasing
a CD of Miaskovsky Symphonies 2 and 10 - it wasn't listed in this month's
Gramophone). There is a major feature article and a discography on Pierre
Boulez. A list of record company websites has already proved very useful
to me. I would like to know how IRR are going to develop their website.
There are something like 110 pages of CD reviews in this issue. The reviews
are not capsules and thankfully they avoid the oversimplification of star
markings (would that we could shakes this off ourselves!). I looked through
the reviews and was pleased to see discs not reviewed by others: Avshalomoff
(Marco Polo), Bentzon Symphonies and piano concerto (Dacapo), Brian Symphonies
(Marco Polo), some of the ClassicO British Symphonic Collection, Mielck (I
have been meaning to review that for CMOTW for some time now!), a neatly
scathing review of a collection of 'unknown Shostakovich', a splendidly expansive
review of the New York Philharmonic's American Celebration boxed set and
What I didn't like: We could do without the pages of audio review (not
that many but one is too many in my view - I suppose it is expedient
and is to do with advertising revenue). The font chosen is too slender to
make for the easiest of reading although the reflection index of the paper
has been very well judged - just matte enough - just glossy enough!
I was not too taken by the Michael Oliver 'featurette - Too Many Records'.
Michael Oliver has written within the frame he has been given but I would
much have preferred a 'desert island' list of, say, ten works or performances
which deserve to be recorded for the first time or issued for the first time.
The delicate fragrance of Harry Enfield's opera buffs hangs over page 160.
Let's hear more about the music. I want to hear from Mortimer Frank about
deserving unrecorded American works, from Robert Layton about his discoveries
among Scandinavian music and from David Fanning about people like Revutsky,
Dzerzhinsky and any of thousands of Soviet composers whose music gathers
cobwebs in archives throughout the one-time USSR. I didn't like the batch
of anthology reviews at the back. Why not have these in their proper places,
each disc separately reviewed, in the main part of the magazine. Could we
have more reviews? The whole magazine is only 160 pages long.
It strikes me that IRR is well able to take over the one-time role of Gramophone
(it has now arrogated to itself a new role) in pleasurably educating (yes),
in giving us a smattering of other languages, in exciting us with news of
recording sessions (none or very little of that in this issue) and in leading
us towards new discoveries - new composers, new works, linkages we never
thought of and will be delighted by.
And please IRR, for all of our sakes, don't appoint some design guru to restyle
IRR. Apart from the font it looks fine. We don't need pointed little headlines
over each review. We don't need stars. The simplicity of it is fine. We do
not need clever little 'pulled quote' boxes or photos of the composers or
hero-performers. We don't need personality cults whether: reviewers or artists.
The advertising may force you to take the latest Wunderkind coached by EMI
and Polygram but please don't let that develop into a feature culture.
A warm welcome to IRR. Let's see more!
Ian Lace's appreciation
Wot no cover CDs? After all the hype and anticipation the first issue of
International Record Review (IRR) has at last arrived. Note the title; no
mention of CD! We are back with that old word 'record' conjuring up brittle
shellac and the hiss, crackle and pop of LPs. In fact it's like entering
a time warp, proceeding through pages heavy with type, relieved by very few
illustrations to encounter a world that vanished with the 1980s when
Gramophone, at last, had to face up to competition.
At £3:50, this slim magazine (presumably later additions will have more
girth) is some 50p less expensive than the competition
[Gramophone's cover price is £3.40 without
CD - Len]. Presumably to make up for the lack of the attached
CD. (Anyway, does anybody listen to them?) It would seem to be in direct
competition with the likes of Fanfare and the new improved brighter,
whiter Gramophone now gone irredeemably downmarket to compete with
those vulgar superficial 'tabloid' fellas: Classic CD, BBC Music
Magazine and Classic fm Magazine.
It is encouraging to see how editor Harriet Smith has recruited so much review
talent. Certainly she seems to have got the wind up the competition because
it has been reported that reviewers from at least one existing publication,
who are tempted to stray over to the enemy camp will face instant dismissal.
For a new publication that is hardly off the launch pad that is praise indeed.
Furthermore, International Record Review's subscription department is also
proudly claiming that it is being inundated with subscription orders. All
this would seem to augur well for the fledgling.
Clearly this magazine is not for the Classic fm enthusiast, the collector
of collections, the fan of Pavarotti, or the part-time music lover who utters
"Reynaldo who?" The in-depth reviews thankfully unshackled by other magazine's
ridiculously inhibiting 100-200 word brevities (I ought to know I suffered
them, myself, for nearly ten years) are written enthusiastically by people
who really know and enthuse about their subjects. Take for example, Robert
Matthew Walker's two-column review of Marco Polo's new recording of Havergal
Brian's Symphonies 11 and 15 etc. Robert's knowledge and boundless crusading
spirit is palpable and you are persuaded that this neglected English composer
really has something significant to say. It is also good to see the irascible
Michael Tanner on the team too. He will no doubt bring fire and controversy
to these pages.
It is useful to have the month's releases given on an early page and a very
useful addition is the list of web site addresses for the record companies.
Just as useful would be their e-mail addresses. The only feature article
after six pages of news items is the DG special, release-driven profile of
Pierre Boulez together with a discography, again, I suspect, DG driven. I
hope that the new editorial team will assert some independence over their
forthcoming features list rather than letting the record companies lead them
by the nose.
Life goes on and times change. We all have less time at our disposal and
we need to prioritise how we spend it. Our attention must be enticed quickly;
away from competing distractions. In this context, not all the developments
in recorded music publications are to be lamented. I would suggest that
incorporating other publications' policy of adding thumb-nail illustrations
of CD covers to the top of the reviews would not only add a vital eye-appeal
to the reviews pages, breaking up acres of solid type but it would also be
of assistance to buyers searching in-shop racks.
On the whole the new magazine has created an excellent impression. I wish
Ian Lace- Editor Film Music on the Web
It is a very strange experience to read the first issue of this 'new' magazine,
as if one had somehow awoke in an almost identical parallel universe, in
which the only difference to our familiar reality is that Gramophone is here
called International Record Review. Even the new title is comfortably
anachronistic, for who in the last year of the 20th century still refers
to CDs, the contemplation of which is the buisness of IRR, as 'records'?
No one I know. The adverts are the same as in Gramophone, there is news at
the front, followed by a feature article, and hi-fi coverage at the back.
Presumably one can not copyright something as nebulous as the format of a
magazine. Many of the words within are written by very familiar names, though
rightly IRR prides itself upon the status of its critics. The level of expert
knowledge is very high.
Of course there are differences. The cover price is lower, partly no doubt
because IRR sensibly ensues the superfluous cover CD
[Gramophone's cover price is £3.40 without
CD - Len]. The timings of CDs are listed in hours and minutes
(1 hour, 6 minutes), rather than in minutes alone. The reviews are longer,
offering more depth. Perhaps rather more depth than many readers will want,
but then they are already catered for. If I see a problem, it is in a lack
of enthusiasm, strange to say of a first issue. Nick Morgan demonstrates
his love of Chabrier with whole hearted commitment, conveying his joy in
the music in a way that makes me want to hear the CD. Elsewhere such delight
is sometimes absent. We listen to music for pleasure, to illuminate the joys
and sorrows of what it is to be alive, to be human, to worship, to dance,
to party, because music touches the soul like nothing else. The reviews in
IRR impart a lot of information with considerable erudition, but so often
at the peril of embalming, dissecting, ossifying. They do not communicate
the life of the music. Striking the balance between the intellectual appreciation
of a recording and expressing the way listening to it makes us feel is a
difficult thing. Perhaps I just enjoy the experience of music too much to
require every detail scrutinised so rigorously, but to me what this debut
issue offers is a fine description of the bark with only the occasional
exhilarating panorama of the majestic forest.
Congratulations on Issue One of International Record Review. I like what
I see and my subscription is in the post. Once Letters to the Editor start
to arrive and small ads begin to appear at the back of the magazine, then
reader loyalty will become properly established and the IRR will be looked
forward to as a friend every month ,just as any specialist publication should
But I foresee a problem that I feel needs an airing.
I live in Deepest Dorset. We do not have a Tower Records, an HMV Shop or
Virgin Records within what I would consider to be a reasonable distance.
There is an MVC outlet in Weymouth (23 miles each way and a slow drive in
the holiday months). We have a W.H.Smith store six miles away but IRR seem
to choose not to sell through them. Fortunately, I knew that the magazine
was to be published in March, so I managed to acquire a copy.
Suppose, though, that I had not learned of a new magazine on the market?
IRR wants subscribers - they are out there - how do the two groups meet?
There must be lots of potential readers out in the sticks, all over the U.K.
who do not yet know that IRR exists. Until it is possible to buy a copy over
the counter in the small market towns and even in the larger villages of
the country, then I suggest their targeting is not complete.
No doubt all that I have said has been discussed by the Sales team already,
but may I ask them to re-think their policy? Please remember those of us
living away from the larger centres of population, who wish them well but
need a little help in order to ensure IRR succeeds.