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Barnaby Rayfield was born in Hampshire and studied German at Bristol university. Although not formally trained musically he grew up collecting recordings long before he could attend live concerts and discovered repertoire through favourite artists, like Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Martha Argerich. He specialises predominantly in vocal music from the Baroque to contemporary periods but also has a wide knowledge of orchestral music and the history of recording since 1945.

His language skills and experience and knowledge of opera were invaluable to his time as an opera director. After a successful period with London Opera Players, he later was Staff Director for English Touring Opera for two seasons before producing his own show for the fringe opera festival, Grimeborn. More recently he has turned to writing both programme notes and as a critic. “Of course musicians are superior to critics and non-performing ones like me are scum. But the one thing I have on most musicians is that I listen. A lot. More than most musicians. You do not know what a concert sounds like sitting in the orchestra and it surprises me how many singers barely have a CD in the house, let alone show any curiosity about their predecessors on record. You wouldn't trust a rock star who didn't know their Bowie or Beatles but so many classical musicians have barely heard of Kathleen Ferrier or Fritz Wunderlich. The image of a critic as being a bitter, failed musician is wrong in my case. I never attempted to be one and I absolutely still adore what I write about thirty years after I started taking out multiple recordings of Don Giovanni from the library. So critics have our uses and can bring context, if nothing else.”

Although an avid concert goer, he still sees recordings as an important part of the music industry and is equally engaged with the present recording scene as with the 'golden age' of records. He still buys CDs and has a good quality system but is wary of obsessive HiFi pedantry and believes well engineered albums should sound good as an mp3 on cheap headphones. “Today's microphone technology is extraordinary yet I often think classical albums often sound worse than they used to. It is partly this recent fetish for conveying opulence or replicating the feel of a spacious concert hall in your armchair. I miss the pop-like punch of the Decca and Mercury stereo albums from the 1960s. Those engineers understood that a record is not a concert and one shouldn't pretend to be the other.”

After initial pieces for Concertonet and Muso magazine, Rayfield contributed to the American publication, Fanfare for ten years. He also lectures on music, including on cultural tours to opera festivals. He lives in London with his two cats and sings in a choir.



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