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We are shocked at the amount of unrecorded first-rate music by the master composers. Fully 30% of the music of Joseph Haydn remains unrecorded, by our estimation. Other than J S Bach one will be hard pressed to find a major Baroque composer who has been comprehensively recorded. How many music lovers can cite a Classical era composer besides Haydn-Mozart-Beethoven? Is that because there were only three from that era who wrote decent music? Of course not, but that's how we've been conditioned. The same low recording rate holds in the Romantic era, and a study of the Medieval, Renaissance, Modern and Contemporary era composers -- and we're talking about masters of that era, not duffers -- reveal that only a tiny fraction of their works have ever been recorded at all!

Last week I cleaned the work lists of Landini and Berio, composers of the first rank almost six centuries apart from one another, and not only are almost all of the works of both these composers unavailable, but most still await their first recordings. Who's going to record them, Sony? EMI? BMG? Don't hold your breath. The big labels can't record this vast body of excellent music because they need to generate hefty revenues to feed their machine. But the paradigm is shifting, and it bodes very well indeed for the music lover. All of these works will be recorded in this pending golden age by specialists who know and love the music, and who are willing to become skilled or ally themselves with people who have the skills in production and marketing to bring these recordings directly to consumers. The middle-men -- the distributors and the retailers -- will be out of the picture.

Let's briefly consider the case of Orlando Lassus, representative of the recorded status of most of the first-rate Medieval and Renaissance composers. He was the best of his age, a colossus. His music is gorgeous, but only a fraction is available on disk, or ever was for that matter. This music doesn't require a unionized 150-piece orchestra and jet-set time-beater to make its point. An enterprising lover of this repertory will team up with the appropriate performers and scholars, and they will start to record this music. There will be a website with seductive samples available for listening, you'll be able to purchase direct from that site or download direct to your hard drive and save a few bucks, the word will get out and if quality is high then people will buy it.

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





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