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MusicWeb International
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Rob Barnett
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John Quinn
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20th Anniversary Tributes

Congratulations on turning 20.
MusicWeb International has indeed developed into the most important classical review site on the web, by reviewing more recordings than any other medium in the universe.
It has also become an important classical music resource.
I look forward to the next 20 years with great anticipation.
Best wishes,
Klaus Heymann

MusicWeb-International has without question become our 'go to' review site. We are able to tell our artists that it will be the first place to comment, that it may review the recording more than once, that there will be no limit put on the number of words published. These are all good messages, and uniquely delivered. Thank you.

Adrian Farmer
Director Nimbus

Our industry is at a cross roads and not for the first time. We are all struggling to understand the possibilities, perils and pitfalls of download, streaming and blogs whilst maintaining relationships with core record shops and music magazines. To capitalise on the future we need to harness the business we have whilst finding new customers and leverage new sales opportunities from these emerging platforms.

The classical music world has always strived to do better by invention. At each step from 78 to LP and LP to CD the playing time and sound quality improved significantly. This in turn pushed developments in microphones, studios, tape recorders and editing systems. The industry swelled with each success and customers relished each advancement. But the advent of download and streaming brought about a reverse in playing time and audio quality. Forced to play by rules written for three minute pop tracks we now have to consider how much compression is acceptable and if a ten minute symphonic movement should really sell for the same price as a three minute opera aria.

And running alongside the digital revolution for selling music we are also facing a digital evolution for reaching customers. Marketing used to be so simple. Three magazines and two radio stations reached all of your customers. For better or worse a good lunch and a decent advertising budget secured success. But with physical subscriptions to magazines dwindling, print and postal costs rising and publishers struggling to sustain revenue from on-line editions the magazines face a no win situation. How to review more than four hundred releases every month and yet print fewer pages? It is an unenviable task and I am sure that if truth be told no one would choose to start a printed physical classical music magazine in the 21st century.

If you wanted to start a music magazine today it would have to be web based and on-line. This would give you the ability to search and compare new recordings with back catalogue. It would provide reviewers with the freedom to write paragraphs and pages, not squeeze snippets into a single sentence. You would publish news and reviews weekly not wait six months and shackle yourself to monthly street dates. But above all you would be able to offer a wider, informed and more balanced view to your readers. By encouraging more than one contributor to review the same release you would allow your customers to decide whose argument they best understood or more often agreed with. This would be a music magazine for today's customers.

So can it be true that Musicweb is 20 years old? Was it really that far ahead of its time? The simple answer must be yes and long may it remain!

Antony Smith, Business Director
Nimbus Records, Wyastone Estate Limited

Hyperion thanks MusicWeb International, Len Mullenger, Rob Barnett, and all the writers, for 20 years of dedicated, learned and fascinating criticism. Here's to many more.
Anna Kenyon - Hyperion

Congratulations to Musicweb International for reaching a landmark 20th anniversary. During this time, Musicweb has gone from strength to strength and we’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading and sharing your timely and in-depth reviews of our labels’ recordings. Keep up the good work!

Sara Kalic – on behalf of harmonia mundi UK

"It is the job of a CD reviewer to evaluate, to give praise or blame where necessary, and maybe add a bit of background to the music.

What impresses me about MusicWeb International is that its reviews often go beyond this, putting into words the creative impulse behind the making of a CD, giving the reader the sense of whether it really is for them."

Jeremy Polmear, Oboe Classics

MusicWeb has been a godsend for listeners and publishers. Your comprehensive coverage and level of criticism are the best around! I devour your news each week and am grateful for many suggestions and the acute listening accorded to our releases and news of books and downloads! Wishing you 20+ years!
Allan Evans
Arbiter of Cultural Traditions

Congratulations to MusicWeb on your 20th anniversary from all the staff and artists at Delphian and many thanks for your ongoing support


As the owner and operator of Centaur Records, I cannot tell you how much I appreciate MusicWeb. The fact that MusicWeb is not making decisions about what will and will not be reviewed on the basis of label advertising is of itself a major element of the integrity of the publication. I consider MusicWeb to be by far the best classical review publication in the UK, and one of the best in the world.

Victor E. Sachse

I want to offer my congratulations to MusicWeb International on the occasion their 20th anniversary. Since the very outset of my association with their staff of writers and administrators, it was apparent to me I was dealing with an outfit of the highest standards, and of the greatest necessity. In these times of lowered bars and high praise by the pound, MusicWeb follows a rare compass worthy of respect, and they deserve our thanks.

Robert LaPorta
MSR Classics
Newtown, CT

Congratulations to MusicWeb on their 20th year ... the only online source to review our complete catalog! -- OgreOgress productions

I write from the perspective of a CD publisher as opposed to a buyer: to say that we have been working with MusicWeb for as long as I can recall ( probably all of your 20 years) and overall, we at Divine Art appreciate very highly the service that MW provides and for the usually thoughtful, penetrating and factually accurate reviews and articles that appear – the standard of knowledge and professionalism of your panel is the equal of all and better than most, and the breadth of reviews is also unparalelled and shows no favoritism.

And on a personal level only: we celebrated our 25th anniversary in 2013, did massive press releases and special offers and NOT ONE media person gave it even the slightest mention…. Sadly we all find that the great public is totally apathetic to almost everything..! and you also don’t restrict the reviews to your favourite pet labels unlike some… since we moved our HQ to America even though we still have one of the best catalogues of rarities, new music and British material the so called ‘mainstream’ music mags just ignore us completely.

All the best,

Stephen Sutton
Divine Art

Congratulations to MusicWeb International on reaching 20 years! MWI has been a steady and reliable source of information for a gigantic range of music and recordings. There isn't a better way to begin the day than to have this great source of information alongside one's morning coffee. Bravo Len and MWI!

Becky and David Starobin, Bridge Records, Inc.

Hearty Congratulations from DUX to MusicWeb International, in celebrating its 20th year providing excellent lecture to the professional musicians and music lovers!

We really hope we can continue to have a fruitful relation with MusicWeb.

Long may MusicWe prosper! Keep up the great work and next twenty years!

DUX team

The British Music Society sends its congratulations on your reaching such an anniversary with your website. I wonder if you thought it possible when you first launched. And to have become such a respected source of information for so many people must really give you much to be proud of.

The Society, yourself and the website have been interconnected over quite a few years, as you have been a Society member since the 1990s. The Society also appreciated your direct support when it finally decided to seek to set up a website for itself in the early 2000s and you gave us the space to do so within your own. This arrangement ran well and only ceased in 2010 because decisions about our site required technical support which you were unable to provide from MusicWeb. However, links between us still remain and long may they do so.

20 years passed, but now to look to the future for both our organisations.

All good wishes
Stephen Trowell, Hon. Treasurer, The British Music Society (coupled with my personal ones)

Let me add my voice to the chorus. You are on my favorites bar, and I look at the reviews first thing every morning. I have always been proud that some of my own work used to appear on Musicweb International, especially my Encyclopedia of Popular Music (now at

The description of Musicweb having been ahead of its time is spot on. My wife worked in the magazine industry for many years; her last cover won an award from the industry even as the mag itself was killed! Three cheers for Len and Rob!

Happy New Year!

Donald Clarke

Hullo Len,

Congratulations on MusicWeb's 20th! I have to say, having retired from molecular biology myself, that you have done well by doing good...well, or at least done good. I have been faithfully reading MusicWeb reviews since close to the beginning. I think I got into it through MCML, a highly interesting, international, classical music discussion list-serve that went extinct years ago.

I find MusicWeb particularly valuable as a key to composers I hadn't previously known: "rediscovered" masters like Bortkiewicz, Röntgen, etc., and more particularly the tremendous array of modern and near-modern composers whose work is now available on CD. By the way, this is a remarkable aspect of contemporary music recording. In the days of LPs (or even 78s), composers like or Erik Chisholm or Jean-Michel Damase or Bent Sørensen COULD have been recorded, but they weren't. In today's CD world, they and hundreds of others are.


Jon Gallant Dr. Phage

Thank you, as always, for all your emails and news.

Congratulations on your anniversary and wonderful success. You are making such a wonderful contribution to music.

Thank you also for giving the Milford Trust space and scope in our promotion of Robin. We really do appreciate this very much.

Rob and I have, recently, being communicating about the state of other musical bodies in our country. It is wonderful to have you there and the stability you give to British Music.

All good wishes for your success in the years ahead.


Rather unnerving to find l have no idea how long l have been receiving bulletins - years - as l get older they seem to merge seamlessly together !

l have always found the reviews very reliable and engaging - even when l don't agree. If that sounds daft l mean that your reviewers always give good reasons for their judgements so that you know where they are coming from. The one line summery is a brilliant idea.

In terms of buying l am particularly glad to have discovered Arkiv (very good for discs no longer available in the UK) and Pristine. l am very selective now having built a large collection and done much exploring - now it is more refining and snapping up the odd new Morton Feldman disc (always well reviewed by you). l have a local specialist shop (Prelude, Norwich) where l used to work part-time so my buying gets done there.

l have stopped taking magazines so rely on your bulletins and look forward to scrolling down the list - what will l find?

l can't think offhand of any reviews l would like to pick out l am afraid - perhaps the last Morton Feldman one as he is a rare bird but much loved by those who know his work.

wishing you all the best

Michael Dulieu

Your newsletter has replaced 3 magazines for me – IRR, Gramophone and BBCmusic magazine – it’s more succinct, better written and more discerning (and cheaper).  It constantly adds to my amazon wish list – currently running to 328 items – and the odd tricky to find product.

You are loved!

Philip Chadwick

I don’t know how long I have been with MusicWeb. Ten years maybe?

I find MusicWeb and International Record Review an excellent combination.

One is good for a quick update every week, the other for a good long read once a month.

I like the way both these sources give the vital information about whether a CD gives texts with vocal works – well, 99% of the time - and respond graciously when I complain that it’s been overlooked.

Both of you manage to avoid the ghastly gushing ‘passionate about classic music’ guff that is prevalent elsewhere. (I abandoned The Gramophone and BBC Music Mag long ago.)

Searching MusicWeb’s archive of reviews is extremely useful.

The 'MWI recommends' feature is an excellent innovation. Trouble is that some works now have as many as 10 recommendations, which tends to destroy the point of the selection. Keep it to a maximum of six, I’d say; there are various ways you could do that.

Bart O’Brien

The oldest record from MusicWeb International I found on my computer is a review from January 2004 but I'm sure that I have started consulting your website quite some time before that.

Ever since, I've been checking the reviews faithfully (almost) every day and I still find them very useful. I learn about new recordings of music I'm already familiar with and, in addition, about composers and pieces of music I didn't know anything about. Quite often, a favorable review at MusicWeb has been the main factor in my decisions to purchase yet another CD/DVD/BD even though I'm running out of shelf space ...

I should also mention your Gerard Hoffnung corner - the books and the CDs are pure delight.

With many thanks
Michael Calmano, svd

About 6 years or maybe longer I get every week the results of new CD's. On my search on internet about composers and their compositions I found the website. Every week on Thursday I check my inbox for the message.

I think in 1995 I buy the New Grove dictionary of Music etc.  I was dissapointed that it was edited 1980, so I started to make my own database about Composers and their compositions. Your webside helps me with data about the Composers, duration of compositions, new compositions and new CD's.

My favorite composer is Dimitri Shostakovitch. I have almost every Music composed by him on CD. On DVD I have also some music.

From 10 or 12 years old I (now 70) listen and collected classical music. A lot I recorded first on tape and now on CD or DVD.

My collection is mostly orchestral works.  It is Dutch Classical music, Piano Concerto's and other orchestral music, from 8 players and more.

Through the years I notice that the reviews be come less CD's.  But still there are more new CD's then I can buy.

Hope that I for the next 20 years can enjoy your website.

Ruud Janssen

I studied music in university, but did not graduate. I work in the mortgage industry, but was a church choir director for many years, and currently direct a handbell choir. I've always tried to keep current with the classical recording industry, owning many old Penguin guides.

I don't remember when I found Music Web International, but it is one of my Microsoft "favorites" and I check it daily. Because of the time difference, I almost always check it the night before. I love seeing the new things, but especially the reviews of re-issues, either by major labels or "boutique" labels. At my time of life, I'm finally able to acquire well loved performances that were on budget labels in the 1970's.

I'm gratified when you pay attention to free downloads, such as those found at, for example.

You have also brought to my attention, many unknown (to me) British composers. I especially enjoyed a feature about a recording session in Malmo, Sweden. I also enjoy the features about older conductors, who worked on the fringe of the recording industry. It's interesting to read about the careers of people who are only names on old lists, or old budget labels.

Thanks for the good work.

John Polhamus

Extraordinary and invaluable resource.

Harvey Clark Greisman

[From one of our reviewers]

Being a reviewer has allowed me to hear recordings I wouldn't ever see in local shops, some of which have been revelatory performances. Highlights for me have been the Bach Cello Suites with Luigi Piovano, the Schubert late A minor sonata with Inesa Sinkevych, the Elgar cello concerto with Zuill Bailey, the violin concerto with Marat Bisengaliev and the Faure chamber works with piano with Eric Lesage.

Listening for reviewing is different from regular listening in several ways. I take notes when reviewing, and try to always listen through the same stereo. As a former amateur musician I know how enormously difficult it is to play an instrument professionally; without being Pollyanna-ish, therefore, I try to look for positives in each performance. If this is unsuccessful and I just can't warm to a performance, I will try to explain why. No reviewer is going to know how they will respond to a recording until they hear it.

One needs to be aware that performances can be imprinting. I first heard the Elgar cello concerto in the famous Jacqueline du Pre recording. Now, whenever I hear it played, I am comparing it to Jackie. There is, of course, an infinite number of valid approaches that a performer can take to a work, and I feel it is important to try to approach each on its own terms. I find it helpful to ask oneself what is the story that the performer is relating through the music; this often reveals what they are trying to achieve in the performance. It is relevant, however, to use a performance with which one is familiar as a point of reference in one's review. This gives readers an idea of where the recording under review sits in relation to other possibly more well-known ones. I find it a very enriching experience to think about these kinds of things in terms of how I view a piece of music.

Some performers have been critical of reviewers as lacking the knowledge required to review their work. Of course reviewers have their recognised areas of expertise; I wouldn't offer to review a Ring cycle because there are people who would do it a lot better than I could. So there is a sorting and sifting process, largely accomplished by the site managers, in the artful matching of discs to reviewers. I feel, however, that the role of the interested amateur is an important one for reviewing. Performers aren't just performing for people with PhDs in music, or who play an instrument or sing to a high level. The art of the performer is surely to bring the music to life, for any and all listeners who are prepared to listen to them sympathetically. We are just trying to report on their efforts to do that. I can report also that I have never had any editorial intervention with the content of a review, only with checking of details such as the spelling of a performer's name. So agree with us or not, what we say is what we think, and no-one can cast any reflection on the integrity of a review on MWI.

Guy Aron

I do thoroughly enjoy reading your reviews, particularly where they can provide a couple of views on the same disc. I've discovered a few delightful but not well known works through your site (notably Howard Blake's excellent piano concerto... I cannot fathom why more of his concert music is not available on disc when quite a number of his contemporaries, such as Christopher Gunning - who is no slouch himself - seem to receive a nicely representative selection of their works recorded). The biggest single impact though, has to be your Mahler symphony survey which helped me pick out my Mahler library. You're entirely to blame for me now having up to half a dozen versions of a particular symphony... particularly the 5th which remains one of my favourite single works.

Hope that helps! Keep up the good work.

Cheers, Tom Daish

As humble follower of the reviews, I didn't feel I had much to contribute to an Anniversary edition, but I should at least respond to let you know how useful they are to me.

MI has been a standard habit of mine for some years now - not the whole twenty, I'm fairly sure. I was pleased not long after 'joining' to win a prize consisting of a boxed set of Sibelius, though I no longer remember what the competition was.

I always look through the whole list of reviews for a particular week, naturally with my eye open for favourite composers, but also for relatively unknown names in contemporary music (there are so many now).

Although I cannot purchase CDs very frequently, I do try to do it via MI when possible. Altogether, the site is a valuable way for me to keep up with what is going on in the musical world.

James Whalley

Well Len, or should I say..
Dear Len,

Because you have created and managed one of the best and most useful sites on the web. I probably found you about ten years ago when I finally got my first good computer and a broadband connection. An old second-hand computer and dial-up drove me crazy late in the last century, so I gave up after a
few months. (I did get plenty of reading done while I waited for things to download though)

I am a ex-teacher living in our national capital who tried the music business with a few friends, after early retirement. We had a few good years but I ended up losing my teacher’s superannuation in the end to help pay off our debts.  Had a great time doing it though and I didn’t lose my home, as my friends did.

I was a collector of LPs from my mid teens and still have several thousand and two turntables. I have
been an enthusiastic reader of the “Gramophone” for all of those years and now have MWI, as well!!
I sold a couple of thousand LPs for a very important charity called “Lifeline” where I was a volunteer worker for many years. I play mainly CDs now though, I must confess.

My collection is 80% Classical, 10% Jazz, 5% Rock and 5% World Music. Classical extends from Medieval to late 20th Cent+ ; Rock and Jazz, more based around music from earlier times in my life. Not an uncommon phenomenon, I believe. Not judgemental, just links with times, places and people.. and listening time limits.

I found your site while hunting for a review of something and knew straight away that I had stumbled across a site that I would need to visit frequently. Your regular downloads have made that wonderfully easy.

There is much useful and interesting information and the organization and internal links make it easy to find our way around. Even though I am only on a Government Pension, I manage, and am even inspired to save for a purchase from time to time by something I find on MWI.

For example, I have recently obtained the Coleman Hawkins-Sir Charles Thompson date that I have always wanted since I heard the 10 inch LP of a friend many years ago. I have also ordered the CD issue of the Bach violin sonatas with Menuhin-Gauntlet-Malcolm which were my first LP set of them and still a favourite.

So, yes, you are proving a service that is really very much appreciated. I, and I am sure, many others now say, “thank you”. Congratulations on reaching 20. Please let us celebrate your 30th together.

One suggestion, which may have been taken care of anyway: some reviewers seem to review music or
performers with which they are not very sympathetic. They certainly don’t have to like that particular disc or performance, but when a regular negative attitude keeps coming through their reviews, perhaps they would be better advised to write about other things they are prepared to enjoy more.

As you may have gathered, I am a happy, but rather ”unwealthy’’ music lover and don’t even use credit cards or buy anything off the web. If I ever come into some money though, I will be happy to give you more than verbal support.

Keep up the good, no great, work.

Kevin Jardine

I love it! I don’t read every review but I do look at all of them and read those of works which interest me and often let myself be guided by your reviewers in deciding what to buy – or not.

My favourite reviews are the long review articles, for example on the Bruckner and Mahler symphonies or, more recently, those of Kalevi Aho.

I would love it if you could add a facility for readers to comment on reviews. Sometimes I have comments, occasionally even corrections.

Stephen Barber

[In the menu at the top of the page you will find a link to our Bulletin Board which is there for exactly that purpose - Len]

I have been reading Music Web International for probably 15 years or so. I look forward to the new crop of reviews on a regular basis and I think I sent in a donation at least once in that time. I must do so again. I read not only the new reviews but often dip into your archives for past reviews which help me in deciding on purchases. I am especially interested in 20th/21st century British composers with a particular affinity for Ralph Vaughan Williams.

Best Regards,
Greg Parks

I have been a regular reader for some years and always look to your site for the latest information on music releases and concert reviews as well. (I live in Chicago). I use your site most to research certain recordings and artists I am interested in and I appreciate the reviews' insights and takeaways. Your site is very objective in its approach and very valuable in its breadth of content. Please continue to inform us as you do currently!

Living in America, I realize that release timing and availability is often an issue. It does seem that the UK has an advantage over the States in this regard. So that too is a reason to read as I have had discs sent to me from overseas as a result.

I still believe strongly in discs over digital, as having them in hand and in a collection is something I value. I think one of the most important functions of your site may well be to speak as a single voice for new repertory/re-released recordings. Given your site's high traffic it would be very satisfying to know that many others may also want to have--and your site could drive to release---all of Sir Colin Davis' Amsterdam Haydn Symphonies remastered, more live Sawallisch from the Munich archive, the Bohm Munich Ariadne, Sinopoli/Dresden live archive, Varady and Dernesch material, Aribert Reimann works...on and on. I think your voice may well heard by those who haven't always listened.

In closing, I would very much like to know if the DG Thielemann Elektra is worth acquiring--specifically, are the Dresdeners reason enough to get the discs? Apart from the other artists, do they blaze away?...I'd like to know so that I can run out and get the recording. The online samples aren't enough to make the judgement.

Bob Pokorny

If memory serves, I bought my first modem in 1995 and among my first explorations on the web were sites connected with music, and so I imagine I would have found Musicweb then: certainly it's been my home page for many years. I've been reading Gramophone since the early 60s, and Fanfare since the mid-80s, together with a number of other music magazines which have since fallen by the wayside. I've been collecting CDs since they first became available, and am always on the lookout for music I haven't heard before rather than new versions of works I already know, although I sometimes do buy multiple versions of the same work. I read probably 50% of the Musicweb reviews, including some which might be of interest to a friend who does not use a computer.

My main interest is in orchestral music of all periods, although in later life I've become increasingly interested in chamber and instrumental music. I download some music and my main source of physical discs is Crotchet in Birmingham which as well as providing excellent service sells more cheaply than I can buy in Australia. Musicweb provides me with well-researched reviews, and quite often alerts me to a CD I hadn't known about from other sources, and so I can and do buy CDs because of a good review or simply knowing the disc is available. I also keep an eye on the other articles, especially the discographies and the reminiscences of performers of the past by Christopher Howell.

Because I've been collecting LPs and CDs for over fifty years, I have a pretty wide knowledge of music within my genres of interest and occasionally have sent a note to Rob Barnett to pass on to the writer in question, including information about records which were once available in this country but may not have been released in the UK.

Please be assured that I value Musicweb highly. I won't be around to celebrate its next twenty years, but I hope it continues for at least that long!

Best wishes

Richard Pennycuick

Dear Len and reviewers, After a drift away from the Classics I returned to these core musical works some 4 years ago. Music Web International was the 1st site I stumbled upon to guide my rediscovery. I've visited you nearly evert day since. Your fearless, honest and independent reviews and researched articles and references have helped me build a library of just over 1200 albums. For this unique service alone I am very grateful, to say nothing of all that I learnt from you and the pleasure I've gaibed and shared with family and friends. Long may you continue and prosper richly.

With my best 'birthday' wishes for your 20th. Mark Percival. Brisbane. Australia.