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CLASSICAL  June 2005

CLASSICAL June 2005

Subject:

Re: David Diamond Dead at 89

From:

Karl Miller <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Thu, 23 Jun 2005 08:37:29 -0500

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Richard Pennycuick wrote:

>In the 20+ years since the CD appeared, we've had access to more than
>would have been dreamed of, but as Karl's list of under-represented
>American composers shows, there's much more.  Similar lists for, say,
>British or Czech composers could be compiled.

So very true on both counts.  It seems that the British, Czech and others
have explored their heritage more than the US has.  Sometimes I wonder
if "the problem" is that there have been so many composers in the US.

As I type this I am reminded of the old radio series, Masterworks
from France.  I think of all of the wonderful works contained in those
broadcasts that have never been issued, music by Damase, Migot, Nigg,
et al.

>The difference seems to be that most countries have at least one label
>which is dedicated to recording the nation's composers, eg Supraphon,
>Hungaroton and so on.  But apart from Albany and Cedille, there doesn't
>seem to be much recording of American orchestras by American labels,
>other than the orchestra such as the San Francisco Symphony which has
>its own label.

The costs are too high in this country.  The Seattle Symphony has an
arrangement with the union but even then, it is an expensive proposition.

>I was surprised to discover that the Philadelphia has signed with
>Ondine for three years, the first contract it has had for ten years:
>presumably other American orchestras have had similar hiatuses.
>Unfortunately, the music under consideration doesn't sound especially
>enticing (see http://tinyurl.com/9opk6) but at least the orchestra will
>be showing its wares to a wider audience again.

Thanks for sharing that URL.  I would agree the repertoire discussed is
a "yawn." But what was interesting was the nature of the agreement, with
the musicians adjusting to the realities of the marketplace.  However,
I believe it will be interesting to see if the project works well enough
to sustain itself...

>You need look no further than the Sterling label which has made valuable
>recordings of Swedish composers using Swedish orchestras, and has recently
>taken up the cause of such others as Cliffe, Scharwenka and Suter.  Some
>of the orchestras are from places you've never heard of but for the most
>part, they sound fine.

The Sterling label is a remarkable story...basically a dedicated music
lover.  I am so frustrated at how critical reviewers have been of both
the repertoire Sterling has offered and the level of performance.  The
Berlin Phil.  isn't going to record Scharwenka and Scharwenka wasn't a
"great" composer...but that isn't the point.  The point is that there
is plenty of value to be found in the music and, who can afford the
Berlin Phil, even if they would program the music.

>Naxos has used orchestras from such places as Nashville and San Diego,
>hardly big musical guns but well worth recording.  I know nothing about
>pay scales and other union rules in the US, but one would assume that
>the Nashville orchestra would not cost as much as the Chicago Symphony.
>If a little Swedish label - and I could just as easily have subtituted
>Finnish, Norwegian and so on - can support its composers, surely a little
>American label could.

I am trying to.

Forgive me for going on about this, but I had always wondered the same
sort of things, and now, at least I understand some of the answers.

Because I have found a group of dedicated musicians who are willing to
work without cash up front (members of the Austin Chamber Music Center)
we have been at work doing some chamber music by American composers.
It is a long process which happened quite by accident.  Somehow I got on
their Board and then we discussed the possibility of recording some music
of the Austin composer Kent Kennan.  To make a very long story short,
we got out one disc of his music, mostly first recordings and have almost
enough recorded for two more.  We have one more piece to go on a disc
of the music of Spencer Norton, one of my teachers...perhaps some of you
will remember his Partita for two pianos and orchestra which was released
on CRI.  We are also to embark on a series of discs devoted to the music
of Edward Burlingame Hill.  The few reviews we got of the Kennan said
the music was fine but they didn't play like some top ranked chamber
groups.  Of course they didn't but they did a fine job.  By the way,
just finding ownership of the rights to the music of Norton and Hill
has already been a most time consuming process.

So why not record some orchestral music?  Fortunately, we have a
sympathetic ear in our conductor here in Austin, Peter Bay.  I have a
Grammy award winning engineer (John Eargle) willing to donate his time
to do a disc of the music of Kent Kennan.  So, I have to raise over
$50,000 to make it happen.  I think I can do it, but then it will take
time, the Copland Foundation being a likely source. I also believe I can
get some local support since Kennan was so admired by so many here in
Austin.  Then I have a 40 hour a week job which puts food on the table.

In short, I have great admiration for the accomplishments of Albany,
Cedille, Cambria, Sterling, et al...and the incredible historical label,
Music and Arts...they all exist because there is someone like a Peter
Kermani (Albany), Fred Maroth (Music and Arts), Lance Bowling (Cambria)
et al, who happen to unselfishly love music.

If there are any thoughts out there on how one might be able to do this
more efficiently, and economically, please do feel free to pass them
along.

Karl

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