Archive for records

Paul Lewis

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 13, 2010 by Robin Gosnall

With no piano lessons on offer at school and only John Denver records at home, it was against the odds that Paul Lewis rose to become our finest young pianist. He tells Ivan Hewett of the Daily Telegraph how it happened.

So how did he get into music? “Well, I grew up in Liverpool, and in the Seventies there were still proper public music libraries with big record collections. We had one just round the corner, and I spent most of my life there, picking out the piano records. I really loved Wilhelm Kempf and also Alfred Brendel.”

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78s

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 29, 2010 by Robin Gosnall

Has anyone got any old scratchy vintage recordings which they love to death?

I have Alma Rosé. She was the niece of Gustav Mahler, at the time director of the Vienna Opera, and the daughter of Arnold Rosé, concertmaster of the Opera Orchestra and the Vienna Philharmonic. She was detained in Auschwitz and died there, but organised the orchestra.

The disc also has Vasa Prihoda and recordings of Arnold Rosé from 1900. It’s heart-breaking stuff.

I know that many 78s end up in skips, but I’m not crying, there’s plenty of 78s at the record fairs for the few collectors that there are nowadays. If we saved all 78s then there would be nowhere to keep them and they would really be worth nothing. For every hundred 78s in a skip there will be one or two rare ones.

I still buy and listen to vinyl LPs and 45s, I am not a “collector” as such, i.e. I don’t pay exorbitant prices for recordings that are available on CD.

I buy from charity shops and car boot sales and give unwanted or finished with stuff back to the shops. Some of the sound on the early 60s vinyl is unsurpassed, especially Decca, EMI and Mercury, although of course playing them too much is a problem.

The finest sound I have come across is on the first pressings of Decca classical recordings of the late 50s and early 60s, a combination of excellent reproduction and great engineering.

I always end up with many records that are no use to even the charity shops (although they would take them to be polite), “Des O’Connor’s greatest hits”, “Christmas with Andy Williams” type of thing. They usually end up on a skip.

Independent Record Store Day

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 16, 2010 by Robin Gosnall

Independent Record Store Day celebrates these fast-disappearing bastions of alternative culture. Click the link and read leading musicians on what their favourite record shops mean to them.

I have fond memories of Vincent’s, a record shop specialising in classical music, hidden away up Needless Alley in Birmingham city centre.

Why are there no shops like this nowadays?

Back when the classical album was an important sub-set of music buying, the listener was prepared to invest in their recordings. This was in the tacit understanding that paying a premium meant getting a better quality product, and paying those who made that product a living wage.

Then everyone got greedy. Performers began to act like celebrities and demand celebrity salaries. At the same time, buyers started bargain hunting and the whole shooting match began to collapse in upon itself.

The problem going forward is one of educating the next generation. Good, independent record shops (like Vincent’s) had a knowledgeable staff who could make customers progress from genre to genre and deepen the listener’s interest and understanding of the music. I have the guy from a little specialist shop called Musgrave’s Records to thank for taking my teenage interest in Emerson Lake & Palmer into an interest in Aaron Copland and from there pointing me towards Samuel Barber, Albinoni and then onward. Were I simply buying off iTunes or Amazon, my teenage interest in ELP would have gone no further than the limits of prog rock.

His shop closed long ago, because people kept asking for premium products at discount prices.

This is the key problem. Classical music does not sell in the sort of numbers to make price discounting economically viable for most labels. This means the output and scope of a label is either reduced to pop classics (that sell comparatively well), forced to sell back catalogue and not much else or follow the Naxos model of recording the Smolensk Symphony Orchestra or the Latvian Dinner Ladies String Quartet because they are cheap.

The majority of classical recordings currently released sell less than 10,000 at the moment. With those numbers, the costs involved in making a classical recording are difficult to recoup at premium price, but you want to pay as little as possible for these recordings. How do you expect this to last?

Is it any wonder classical labels and classical stores are closing?

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