New Projects for the New Year
Here at Musicweb, we realise that the main reason
for people visiting our site is to read the reviews of CDs, DVDs,
books and live performances. We could simply focus on this, but we
do try to expand the range of information offered and improve
what there is already.
To this end, our Musicweb New Year's Resolutions are
- the development of two different review indexes: one covering
all reviews categorised by the record label, the other
covering reviews of selected masterworks
- the development of some additional Themed Release pages,
in parallel with the indexes
- an ongoing series of articles highlighting some of the interesting
articles found across the diverse range of blogs related to
- the editing team's personal choices of their favourite recordings
of all time
The absence of an index for the huge archive
of reviews on this site (more than 20,000 at time of writing)
was one of the first questions I asked of Len Mullenger
when I joined the website team at the start of 2006. His answer
was that when the site was in its infancy, he didn't have sufficient
time or support to build up indexes, and by the time he did
have assistance (Patrick Waller and myself), it was too late
because there were too many reviews on the site.
I wasn't entirely convinced, and began a trial
indexing by composer each new review for a week. Quickly I realised
that the task was, as Len has said, not feasible. The compilation
discs, where there might be forty different tracks by as many
composers, were what did the damage to the proverbial
I did indulge my interest in Ralph Vaughan Williams
and create a full
by work, of reviews of his music. However, expanding that to
every composer was clearly not an option.
Still, the absence of an index did continue to sit uncomfortably
in the back of my mind. It took a comment by one of our reviewers
as part of an in-house survey on a totally separate matter -
"I wish there was an easier way to find the reviews on Musicweb"
me to reconsider the index issue.
While a full composer & artist index was out of the question,
it came to me that there was a less ambitious means of indexing
the reviews that was perhaps possible: by the catalogue number
and record label. A private trial of one month's reviews convinced
me that it was definitely feasible, and I was able to announce
to a very surprised editing team what I had begun.
By way of example, I offer part of the index for the Naxos label.
The listings are not fancy, because that would take too long. As
you can see below, a number of fairly
obvious abbreviations have been used in the disc description, again
to reduce the time involved.
||D Scarlatti sons v8
||Sibelius songs v1
||Sibelius songs v2
||Turina pno wks v4
Each major label with a significant
number of reviews has its own page, while those with only a few
discs reviewed are
combined alphabetically. Some of the labels which
are reviewed very often, eg Naxos and EMI, have had their pages
In the near future, there will be a link to the index from the
left margin list, but for the moment, you can access it from
The label index will allow you to easily
find whether a particular disc has been reviewed on Musicweb,
not help you find all the reviews of a particular composition.
The site's dedicated search engines - Google and Freefind - are
well and truly necessary, but not entirely satisfactory for finding
certainly commonly recorded works.
As a trivial aside, I would love to know what it is about the
letters A & C with regard to record companies.
There are more classical labels beginning with these letters
than any other by a long way!
As I began to work on the label index, it occurred to me that
I could create, in parallel, a small-scale, selective index for certain
oft-recorded works, which would be hard to track
down by the search engines.
I am thinking of symphonies, piano concertos and the like by the great
composers, such as Beethoven and Mozart. I can think of nothing that
could be entered into Google
or FreeFind that would efficiently find all reviews of Beethoven's Fifth
Operas do not fit into this category because they have an unique title:
typing "Tosca" into
the search engine is likely to find all the reviews (though there will
also be numerous other mentions as well). Similarly, generically named
works (eg symphony) by less often recorded composers (eg Ferdinand Ries)
will be able to be found via the search engines without too many "useless"
Again, an example to show you how it will work: the aforementioned Beethoven's
|London PO/Adrian Boult
|Munich PO/Sergiu Celibidache
|Cologne RSO/Erich Kleiber
|Berlin PO/Hans Knappertsbusch
|San Francisco SO/Pierre Monteux
||Music & Arts CD1192
|New York PO/Victor de Sabata
|Concertgebouw O/George Szell
The Masterwork index, too, will
be linked from the sidebar: it is accessible using the link below.
On inspection, you may think that the choice
of works isn't broad enough, that a particular favourite of yours
for which I apologise, but I can't possibly include all of them!
As compiler, I have decided to work backwards from the present
date, whilst incorporating new reviews each day into the index.
At this point,
all of 2007, as well as the few so far this year, has been done.
New Themed Release pages
The label index will not replace our set of Themed
since in almost all cases, releases
from a label encompass far more than a single
set of related recordings.
However, the process of creating the label
index will make it possible to create at least one new
Themed Release page: the EMI
British Composers series. Because this series has no
special numbering - unlike Naxos American Classics - and
to be no webpage at EMI allocated to listing the entire
series - unlike the Great Recordings of the Century - it
been possible to compile reviews of these recordings before
now. The downside is that it will only grow at the same
pace as the indexes, but grow, it will.
Historical pages are still in development,
with their completion date extended by the new projects.
For the uninitiated, a blog - abbreviated from weblog -
is simply a website featuring a collection of someone's writings
on any subject
at all. In the old days, it would have been called a journal
or diary. In a newspaper, it would be known as an "op. ed."
which I now know to be an abbreviation of "opposite editorial"
its placement in the paper.
to Wikipedia, a blog displays the articles in reverse chronological
most recent being
the first on the page. In most cases, the reader has the opportunity
to register their own comments
and responses to each article on the blog.
It was my original intention
to create a link page to blogs related to classical music, as I did with the
Music Online and World Orchestra pages.
that I had been beaten to the punch. Chris Foley, a Canadian music academic and
author of the Collaborative
Piano Blog, has already compiled a very slick page
with links to the more than 200 (!) classical music blogs he has found. Not
only does his link
page provide access to the blogs, but it also has regularly updated content
from a number of the more popular ones.
Being a glutton for punishment, I didn't simply say "good, that's one less
job to do". On a regular basis, I intend to write an article surveying some
the more generally interesting articles I see on these blogs. It will be called
Recently in the Blogs, and in
the best traditions of blogs, will build on itself,
with previous "issues" being pushed down the page. I would like to
say it will appear weekly, but that is probably asking too much, so let's compromise
on at least monthly!
It will not be a critique on the content, rather a guide for time-challenged
readers who aren't able to look at every blog. My choice of the blog articles
will be based on their general interest, as some are quite specific to a particular
city or orchestra.
On a related matter, as you are probably aware, some of our reviewers
- Patrick Waller, Robert Hugill and John Quinn - have taken the
to record their thoughts about their musical experiences in
pieces called Reviewer's Logs. While links to these
can be found on the What's New page along with all the
articles published on Musicweb, it
was felt that their efforts deserved a separate page where
their writings could be found more easily. You can access this
page here and
via the sidebar in due course.
Our Classic Classics
Making "best of" lists is a very popular pastime.
The BBC radio programme Desert Island Discs has run
for 65 years based on that idea. The editing team - Len Mullenger,
Patrick Waller, Bill Kenny and I - decided to do something
similar, though on a rather larger scale (clearly the mp3 players
been supplied with to take to the desert island are solar-powered
and well stocked with gigabytes!)
Each of us has chosen the recordings which have provided us with
the greatest pleasure across the years of our collecting and
listening. These have been combined into a long list which we
call Our Classic Classics.
You may not agree with the selections, but we are sure that you
find them interesting.
David J Barker