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Subject: In the Matter of Gramophone
From: mrmyster <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:mrmyster <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Wed, 26 Nov 2008 11:21:35 -0700
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I come before you to commend the commentary of Jeffrey Sarver whose thoughts and findings
on Gramophone's list of twenty top exactly parallel my own, and whose bravery in casting them
upon  this sharky sea deserves praise!  (He did not pay me for that!) His list of valued
contributors of yore should have included the name of Henry Pleasants, a critic-writer that
I enjoyed reading, perhaps more than any others. I always relished  the point that all the
years the American Mr. P. lived and wrote in Europe and UK, he was a secret agent, a spy 
in wartime and into the 1950s. What a perfect arrangement! To be a music critic and a
spy seems an ideal pairing. Almost as good as Julia Child and her days in espionage
and cuisine!  (Now, there is a comic opera plot!)
   My own added comments are these: Gramophone exists for exactly one reason and for
that reason in vast excess: To Sell Recordings.  It has come a very long way since Compton
Mackenzie - a long way down, in critical discernment and purpose, that is.  I would also share 
this little anecdote: Once I was in a small party with Christopher Keene, the late conductor at 
the New York City Opera, some of you will remember, and we were discussing the so-called
"top five" American symphony orchestras, and remarking how many quite good classical
orchestras there are across the land.   In that context, Keene observed, "any given night in
America there are a dozen or more 'top' orchestras!"  He had just heard the St Louis
Symphony play something big and impressive and was dazzled by it, and the thought that
maybe Cleveland or Boston could play it "better," whatever that means, did not seem 
especially relevant. I thought that a good insight. But that does not necessarily sell
recordings :)
   If you go back to the Gramophone list and were magically able to obtain  an account of 
the top selling orchestras' recordings -- I don't know this for certain, but I'll bet there would
be a remarkable overlap.  I have many times -- though less latterly -- been burned by
purchasing a five star, highly rated recording via Gramophone, only to find it simply
also-ran and not worthy of such claims as made.  Caveat emptor. 


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