Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Prokofiev 3 Bartók 2

That's not the latest soccer score in the Eastern European League, but a new album by Lang Lang and Simon Rattle conducting the Berlin Philharmonic. I blogged about the cover in this post.

Now Norman Lebrecht has a review up at Sinfini. He gives it two stars out of five. Ironically, that cover shot seems to really capture what is going on in the recording. Norman says:
The Prokofiev Concerto No. 3 is opened by a delicious clarinet solo that is picked up by the rest of the orchestra. Lang Lang bursts into the conversation like a man who’s late for a flight, all haste and not much feel for the atmosphere. There are some wild moments in the andantino, but the finale reverts to non-communication, the orchestra going one way, the pianist the other. The result is not so much disturbing as insipid: a breezy misreading of one of the most scalp-tingling concertos on record.
Yep, and that is just the impression one gets from the cover. This is one of Sinfini's standard length reviews, which means it is about 250 words long. I commented on the extreme brevity of record reviews these days, not just in Sinfini, but other publications as well, in this post.

Also on Sinfini right now is what they call an "in-depth" review of a new recording of the St. Matthew Passion by René Jacobs. This is quite well-done with several sample clips from the recording including one of the bass aria "Komm, süßes Kreuz" with lute obbligato which I hadn't heard before. I knew there was a lute part in the St. John Passion, but not in the St. Matthew. But this "in-depth" review is a mere 498 words! True, they manage to sandwich in a fair amount of comment on the recording and singers, but how you could possibly think that 500 words is "in-depth" is a mystery to me. A standard opinion piece in the newspaper is 800 words and on the Internet you don't need to observe the limitations of print. They must be firmly convinced that readers of classical record reviews, even of pieces like the passions of Bach, will simply not take the time to read more than 500 words. Amazing...

What is really ironic is that a performance of the St. Matthew Passion takes between two and three-quarters and three hours. We have time to listen to the piece but not to read more than 500 words about it? Here is a performance of the whole piece from Köln conducted by Philipp Herreweghe:

UPDATE: Here is part one of my idea of what a record review should be. And here are the three other parts.

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