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CLASSICAL  July 2005

CLASSICAL July 2005

Subject:

Re: Fischer-Dieskau's First Schwanengesang

From:

Karl Miller <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Tue, 26 Jul 2005 12:41:33 -0500

Content-Type:

text/plain

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Anne Ozorio wrote:

>On the contrary, I believe most people aren't easily seduced
>by marketing.

My goodness, I certainly don't believe that.

I believe that marketing in classical music does and has made a significant
difference in what we consider to be excellence.  The image makers have
been busy for many years.

For me, I think of three great conductors of the not so distant past,
Stokowski, Toscanini and Koussevitzky.  All of these men were great
musicians, no doubt about it in my mind, yet when we think of "great
conductors" we are more likely to think of Stokowski and Toscanini.
Why?  I would guess because they had greater exposure in the media.
Stokowski cultivated his image, Sarnoff immortalized Toscanini.  I don't
mean to suggest that they were not great musicians, but I believe their
contributions are often over valued when compared to the contributions
of other great conductors.  I think of the electric performances of
Koussevitzky, Mengelberg, Munch, Furtwangler, Barbirolli...yet when many
think of the greats, their thoughts turn to Toscanini.  On the other
hand, I think of how von Karajan was marketed...yet his star seems to
have faded some...and if that is true, one might ask the question, "why?"
Is it because DG is not interested in marketing his performances at the
moment?

Perhaps it is me, but when I hear a Kissin performance I am bored to
tears.  For me, I cannot help but wonder that the audience goes wild
because the media has told them that Kissin is great.  Of course he has
a fine technique but many pianists have a fine technique.  I don't mean
to single him out, but he is one of the more visable icons these days.
Look at the marketing blitz given Anna Netrebko.  Sure she is a fine
musician, but...I mean, lets face it, her singing isn't the only things
that sells.  I don't fault anyone for using her beauty to market her,
but I cannot help but wonder how well Helen Traubel, or a Kate Smith
would do these days without an extreme make over.  Sure Paderewski was
one of the great musicians of all time, but he also had some great
marketing behind him, even if, in his later years, he looked like though
he and Einstein had the same barber.  Looks aren't everything, but it
seems to help.

When we think great violinists we might very well think Heifetz, yet
what about Szeryng, Wicks, Morini, Fuchs, Kaufman, Spaulding, Odnoposoff,
et al.

I can tell you that in most instances, it is marketing, or a company's
advertizing that will get your artist reviewed.  With a few exceptions,
if you don't advertize, you don't get reviewed.  There is so much out
there, that we rely on critics to tell us what to buy.  You don't buy
it if you don't know about it.  I am reminded of how insidious the whole
thing can be.  One of the critics, writing a review of one of our early
releases, Granados plays Granados, stated something to the effect that
because Harold Schonberg didn't find any truth in the reproducing piano
rolls, there really wasn't any point to listen to what we had produced.
Oddly enough, Schonberg wrote us a letter stating that our tranfers had
finally convinced him that there could be some truth in the rolls, and
wrote something to that effect in his last published review...our release
of Fanny Bloomfield Zeisler.  In short, I think even the critics rely
on other critics to tell them what is good.

And speaking of Fanny...and I am not trying to sell any of our discs,
but for me, here is one of the "greats" of the piano.  She had a huge
technique and an incredible wide range of expression at her disposal.
She performed with some of the great musicians of her time, including
Mahler.  Why isn't she listed as one of the greats?  I believe it was
because she was a woman and because she refused to make any discs and,
as a result, did not have the marketing arm of an RCA behind her.  I
have this fantasy that one day some Hollywood producer will make a movie
of her life (she was probably bipolar, yet managed to raise a family and
have a remarkable career) and all of a sudden she will become, "a legend."
From my perspective, it isn't because she doesn't deserve it, but I
believe it will take some strong marketing to make it happen.

Karl

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