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A view from the trenches,


Enough already about the Immanent Demise of Classical Music. That the major recording companies are finally abandoning classical music is the best news we could possibly have. They can't lead, they won't follow, so they have to get the hell out of the way.

Industry pundits, such as perpetual doomsayer Norman Lebrecht, writing with a keen sense that dire prediction makes more interesting reading than level assessment, are mistaking catastrophe with evolution. There is indeed catastrophe if one equates the survival of classical music performance and recording with the health of the major record companies. The big labels are in big business for big money, that's their job and their shareholders wouldn't have it any other way. But new recordings of the 'standard repertory', that seething mass of fine if overplayed music that has long been the bread-and-butter of the major labels, have long since reached the limit of their appeal.

About 30 years ago the 'original instrument' phenomenon saved the industry's bacon when everybody decided they had to replace their Karajan and Beecham with Leonhardt and Harnoncourt. After collectors had switched over to 'authenticity', along came the CD (just in time) and most of us rebuilt our collections in the new format. Most importantly, this new craze expanded the core repertory to include composers, countries and centuries marginalized since the days of the gramophone, particularly the masters of the French baroque who could finally be witnessed in the splendor of their true colors. But there is no new compelling musical movement afoot to justify re-recording the repertory, and consumers are turning up their noses to the audio advances of SACD and DVD for music. 'Replace Your Collection!' has been the battle-cry that has fueled the industry over the past 40 years, but there is no longer any reason for consumers to replace their collection of CDs, and there is none on the horizon.

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Copyright © 4 April 2002 Gerald Brennan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA





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