Records to Die For 2020 Page 4

Larry Greenhill


Felix Mendelssohn: Six Organ Sonatas, Op.65, Andante with Variations in D.
Thomas Murray, organ
Raven Recordings OAR-390 (CD). 1996.

Lincoln Mayorga, William T. Van Pelt, prods. David Griesinger, Edward Kelly, Stephen Fassett, engs.

I learned about this recording from Kal Rubinson's 2017 review of the Kii Audio Three, which used the fourth movement of Organ Sonata No.1—his "go-to for low-frequency articulation and extension"—to evaluate the speaker's bass response.

In 1973, Lincoln Mayorga recruited Thomas Murray to perform the Sonatas on two 19th century pipe organs. In 1996, this Sheffield Town Hall recording was rereleased on CD. It excels in overall balance throughout the audio spectrum, featuring well-articulated bass with surprising extension. The fourth movement of Sonata No.1, on the 1854 E. & G.G. Hook organ, reproduced the music's descending pedal notes and the focused sound of a "single 42Hz throbbing column of air" and even greater extension in the fourth movement of Sonata No.4 in B-Flat. The last chord of Sonata No.2, marked "Fuga," played on the 1857 W.B.D. Simmons organ, includes a solid 31Hz note that pressured my room and rattled objects on shelves. This recording captures the extension, solidity, and superb pitch definition of the deep pedal notes, balanced evenly with the instruments' other ranks. Definitely a Record to Die For. (Vol.40 No.9)


Hans Zimmer And James Newton Howard: The Dark Knight: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Matt Dunkley, Bruce Fowler, Gavin Greenaway, conds.; Peter Lale, principal viola; Mary Scully, principal double bass; Owen Slade, tuba; Maurice Murphy, trumpet; Pete Davies, trombone; Frank Ricotto, Gary Kettel, Paul Clarvis, percussion; Richard Watkins, horn; Hans Zimmer, synthesizers
Warner Sunset/Warner Brothers Records 9362049860-0 (CD). 2008. Various engs.

Edgy, unsettling, disturbing, dysphoric, overpowering, enveloping: Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard's 2008 film score for The Dark Knight has it all and more. Take the album's "Why So Serious" track: It opens with a faint, static-like, ripped 294Hz note, bursts into loud, crashing heavy-metal bursts, falls into a silence punctuated with ticking clock sounds mixed with jarring 31Hz jackhammer synth notes, and ends in a concussive meld of synth pulses and heavy metal chords. The album's "I'm Not a Hero" grows out of a sustained 24.9Hz synth note, then dissolves into dissonant unsettling chords. The liner notes quote producer Christopher Nolan's first impression of the music as "the harshest, most incomprehensible sounds ever to enter my ears," which was able to convey "the sound of the joker, his threat screaming out from the quietest and most delicately painful slides." Distressing and dystopian, The Dark Knight soundtrack's terrifying chaos compels me to listen again and again during reviews, wondering how such disturbing music can be so compelling.

Jon Iverson


Iron Butterfly: In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida
Atco/Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab UDCD 675 (CD). 1968/1996. Jim Hilton, prod., eng.

It's time for this monster molten metal masterpiece to get the respect it deserves. Don't expect this album to be more than it is, hoping for the fluid guitar of Hendrix or the concise hits of the Beatles. Instead, immerse yourself in the newfound freedom and exploration of what was suddenly musically and sonically possible in 1968. The title track is 17 minutes of pure pounding phuzz-tone pleasure, and back in the day every kid I knew could perfectly paddle the drum solo with two fingers on their school desk. Some of us still can. (Vol.20 No.3)


John Paul White: The Hurting Kind
Single Lock Records (Bandcamp Digital Download, CD, LP). 2019. John Paul White, Ben Tanner, prods.

As I wrote in my Stereophile review (Vol.42 No.9), "the songwriting is stellar throughout." With time, I've become more certain of this observation, as I've looked for albums to equal or top it. If you haven't bought it yet, here is your second reminder. It's an R2D4 near–triple threat: great music, great performance, and almost great sound. White is currently credited as part of the resurgence of folk/countrypolitan/ Americana, but when he finally gets his due, he'll be regarded simply as one of our greatest songwriters.

Fred Kaplan


Sonny Rollins: Our Man In Jazz
Sonny Rollins, tenor sax; Don Cherry, cornet; Bob Cranshaw, bass; Billy Higgins, drums
RCA LSP-2612 (LP). 1963. George Avakian and Bob Prince, prods.; Paul Goodman, eng.


Joni Mitchell: The Hissing of Summer Lawns
Asylum Records 7E-1051 (LP). 1975. Joni Mitchell, prod.; Henry Lewy, eng.

My previous dozen outings in this game, in which I (and others) put life and limb at risk to save a couple of slabs of aluminum or vinyl, have favored undisputed classics or meditative reveries. This time I'm going for more jagged fare: great mainstream artists stepping out more adventurously than usual, music to hum while stepping into a blazing fire.

Our Man in Jazz was recorded live at the Village Gate in July 1962, soon after Sonny Rollins's return from a three-year hiatus during which he firmed up his chops and explored outward-bound music. This is about as outward as he got, teaming up with two players from Ornette Coleman's quartet (Cherry and Higgins), the leading lights of the era's avant-garde.

Today, it's still thrilling stuff, it swings, and the sonics are 3D-vivid. The original LP pressing ranks among the two or three best-sounding live jazz albums ever. (RCA's much later CD reissue, not so much.) (Vol.20 No.3)

Is The Hissing of Summer Lawns a better album than Blue? Probably not, but it's more head-spinning, more breathtaking. Mitchell was diving into her experimental phase, flirting with jazz cadences, Latin rhythms, exotic harmonies, oblique poetry, and this first dive mined the richest treasures. (Hejira, Don Juan's Reckless Daughter, and Mingus would follow.) It triggered enormous controversy at the time. Rolling Stone gave it two reviews—one 4-star, the other 1-star. Prince called it his favorite Joni Mitchell album, and that sums it up. It's lush, jarring, mysterious, at times delirious—and the sound quality (recorded by Lewy, mastered by Bernie Grundman) is among her best, which says a lot. (Vol.14 No.1)

Richard Lehnert


Keith Jarrett: La Fenice
ECM 2601/02 (2 CDs). 2018.


Keith Jarrett: Munich 2016
ECM 2667/68 (2 CDs). 2019.

Both: Keith Jarrett, piano
Keith Jarrett, prod.; Manfred Eicher, exec. prod.; Martin Pearson, eng.; Christoph Stickel, mastering eng.

With these two sets, recorded in 2007 and 2016 and released in 2018 and 2019, Keith Jarrett proves that in the short-form improvisations that have been his practice the last two decades, he can, at his best, say everything he was able to say in the long-form improvs he gave up after 1996, when chronic fatigue syndrome ruled out hour-long stretches of unbroken improvisation. His elegance, restraint, freedom, austerity, richness, breadth of allusion, heartfelt depths, rhapsodic heights, passionate musical intelligence, rigorously disciplined expressiveness, development of forms invented in the moment, and concentrated brilliance—all executed with undiminished perfection of technique—are amazing, at times overwhelming. No one else does anything that comes close. No one ever has.

Jarrett's best solo concerts have always sounded like comprehensive histories of the world told in music, or histories of the musics of the world, or both. Except in their concision, these are no different. The two concerts share the same basic shape, each beginning with the evening's most challenging music: longish, almost tortured explorations of how to further subdivide apparently indivisible atomies of harmony—and, especially, rhythm—in precisely articulated densities of musical information. These are followed by interludes of gospel, long-lined modal sinuosities, haunting folk or hymn tunes, and the entirely unclassifiable. Then, in each set, encores ensue: improvised rags and boogie-woogies, three standards apiece, and, on La Fenice, an aria from Gilbert & Sullivan's The Mikado. The magic of these sets is that Jarrett consistently demonstrates that any apparent boundaries between these musics, genres, and styles are matters of mere musical taxonomy. To him—and, in these recordings, to us—such labels indicate only subcategories of aural delight. The music is no less precious or special for seeming to flow through his body, fingers, and pianos with so little effort and so much generosity. They may be labors of love, but there is no labor in the listening. Each time I finish playing one of them, my facial muscles are stiff from an hour and a half of grinning in continuous delight.

The sound is lush: ECM at its supremely accomplished best, Steinway concert grands purring warmly and chiming clearly by turns, each of Jarrett's meticulous navigations of tonal nuance lovingly rendered. This is music of permanence. (Vol.41 No.12, Vol.43 No.1)

Robert Levine


Hovhaness: Mysterious Mountain
Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, Gerard Schwarz, cond.
Telarc CD-80604 (CD). 2003. Robert Woods, prod.; Jack Romano, eng.

Much of Hovhaness's work is so beautiful and accessible that one wonders if it can be any good. His spirituality, as it comes across in his music, is cinematic—think Ben Hur or The Ten Commandments. These three symphonies—Mysterious Mountain, Hymn to Glacier Peak, and Mount St. Helens—all have elements of that religiosity, along with stunning orchestration, magnificent use of counterpoint, and, in the case of the eruption of Mount St. Helens (the symphony's third/final movement), something akin to awe. It might be obvious to score a volcanic eruption with wild timpani, ferocious brass, and what might be heard as panic-stricken strings and winds, but it's still enormously effective, especially when it's not just noise: Hovhaness has sculpted a triple canon in 20 voices for the event. And the central, exquisitely placid central movement, titled "Spirit Lake," features dazzling bells and winds.

Mysterious Mountain too, evokes huge expanses; Hymn to Glacier Peak (No.66) opens with a hymn-like passage and leads to a big brass crescendo, which in turn works its way into a three-flute riff. The work ends in gigantic glory. Post-Romanticism, vitally recorded. (Vol.26 No.7)


Mozart: La Clemenza Di Tito
Mark Padmore (tenor), Alexandrina Pendatchanska, Sunhae Im (soprano), Bernarda Fink, Marie-Claude Chappuis (mezzo-soprano), Sergio Foresti (bass); Freiburg Baroque Orchestra, RIAS-Kammerchor, René Jacobs, cond.
Harmonia Mundi 801923.24 (3 CDs). 1999. Barbara Valentin, prod.; Mark Hohn, eng.

This, Mozart's penultimate opera, retains its stepchild status, mostly because its form—opera seria—is stilted, and so is its plot. Emperor Titus is so magnanimous that he forgives his best friend, Sesto, who tries to kill him, and Vitellia, who, spurned by Tito, goaded Sesto on. Sesto is torn between passion for Vitellia and friendship and loyalty to Tito, and Vitellia is jealous, vindictive, in love, and crazy. They have the opera's most remarkable music: complex arias with wind obbligatos and dramatic accompanied recitatives, all requiring huge ranges and superb coloratura. A minor couple, Annio and Servilia, have music that is merely gorgeous; Tito's arias are all noble and elegant.

Mark Padmore's Tito is fluent and well-accented; Alexandrina Pendatchanska is a spectacular Vitellia, taking the role's 2-1/3–octave range in stride and singing with a Slavic edge to her voice that brings out the jealousy and looniness. Bernarda Fink brings great passion—and superb coloratura—to Sesto.

René Jacobs and his period-instrument Freiburg Baroque Orchestra play with snap, energy, beautiful wind tone, thwapping timpani, fine brass, and crisp strings. There are too many récits, but pianoforte continuo keeps things fresh. The engineers catch every nuance without artificiality. (Vol.29 No.8, Vol.30 No.2, Vol.34 No.2)

tonykaz's picture

an appropriate philosophy for this Day and Age of Fossil Fuels contaminating earths atmosphere.

One quick look around will reveal youth mad as hell at us old geezers, we all know why.

Do we have a probable problem that young people aren't excited to be audiophiles? Might it be our fossil fuel base music storage systems. ( in an Age of Silicone based Storage systems ) ?

Years ago I observed our JA working an Audio Show with an Astel & Kern Audio player. I was proud of him ( still am ). Now, if I get the chance, I'll suggest he get his K.

The leading Automobile Manufactures are announcing the end of Fossil Fueled based Transportation systems. The Audio People should do likewise. ( for our grandchildren's sake )

Tony in Venice

Anton's picture

It's a cloud!

Go yell at it!

tonykaz's picture

It's your inheriting children you need to say that to.

Earth has always been Solar Powered. ( still is )

Four of our United States can supply 100% of the Energy needs of our entire Country -- from Solar alone.

By the way, I'm a guilty one, I came up thru the Diesel Engine Division of General Motors.

Go yell at it sarcasm isn't helpful.

It's time to act responsibly.

Tony in Sunny Venice

tonykaz's picture

It's your inheriting children you need to say that to.

Earth has always been Solar Powered. ( still is )

Four of our States can supply 100% of the Energy needs of our entire Country -- from Solar alone.

By the way, I'm a guilty one, I came up thru the Diesel Engine Division of General Motors.

Go yell at it sarcasm isn't helpful.

It's time to act responsibly.

Tony in Sunny Venice

Anton's picture

Please stop conflating your hatred of LPs for some sort of environmental virtue signaling.

That's a fail, Tony.

Maybe you can try out: diamond styluses support oppressive governments in Africa.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

According to Google and Wikipedia .... China is the biggest plug-in electrical vehicles market in the world, since 2015 ....... China now has estimated 3 million electric vehicles ........ More than 600,000 electric vehicles were sold in China in 2017 :-) .......

Bogolu Haranath's picture

BTW ...... The total vehicles in USA is 838 for 1,000 people .......... Total vehicles in China is 179 for 1,000 people ....... Latest numbers, Google and Wikipedia :-) ........

Jack L's picture


What can be a more promising retail market than China with 1.4 billion people?

That explains why Tesla built its first plant in Shanghai, China with its initial production target of 250,000 cars a year.

Believe it or not, when the retail markets worldwide melt down by the Covid-19 pandemic, Tesla sales in China hits its record high, sharing 25% of China total EV sales !!!


Jack L

Bogolu Haranath's picture

I presume you are investing in Tesla Inc. ...... You could also invest in BYD, one of Warren Buffett's investments :-) .....

davebugg's picture

Yup. absolutely NO fossil fuels used to produce the products used by the 'youth' for their A/V enjoyment.

sunny bonobo's picture

Yeah, I can just see it now. Records on a lettuce leaf played with a banana stylus.

mgeldert1's picture

Duh...your Age of Silicone systems, as well as the car batteries to 'fuel' your all electric cars are made by, with and maintained using carbon-based fuels. Why anyone would want to prove their lack of intelligence with such a rant on an audio forum is mystifying.

tonykaz's picture

Hmm, you make interesting observations.

Of course, we are transitioning to Solar from our short lived Fossil Energy system.

It's been our Generation that melted the Polar Ice Caps ( which were intact when we started out in 1950s ).

My comments are based on Stereophile's appropriate use of "to die for" terminology, ( I'm not ranting, just observing ).

Your complaining comments might be thought to be a Rant that I won't complain about because everyone's opinion is always appropriate.

Solar Energy Systems are consistently healthy and clean. We will all return to Solar power based life in a Decade or so. I hope you live long enough to live it.

Tony in Venice

ps. I'm the people making those Black Smoke belching Detroit Diesel Engines in the 1950s, mea copa ! ( today, even the clean German Diesels are filthy )

Anton's picture

It doesn't mean what you think it means.

Happy to help!

tonykaz's picture

Thank you,

I realize that the term is commonly used by bubblegum youth to describe desirable.

Considering the writing talents in both of our JA Editors and the Poetic greatness of HR, Mr. Dudley, Tyll, Steve G, Kal R. and a few others, resorting to a "to die for" cliché seems trite.

"to die for" prompts a vision of teenagers at the Mall looking at a $500 Fendi Hobo Purse.

I read Stereophile for it's Literately content with HR telling Hemingway'ish Audio Adventuring.

Nothing in Audio is worth dying for.

Tony in Venice

ps. Thanks for writing, you are always a good person. ( I think )

Smirch's picture

Ice caps were in fact in the 1950's? Not hardly. Polar ice has been melting for 25000 years. It has slowed drastically in the last 2000 years. It's a cycle that repeats. Check out long term historic ocean levels on NOAA. Earth has had long periods without any polar ice. Preserve fossil fuel for future generations and the coming ice age. China is the biggest polluter on earth. But, ya, let's be like them.

tonykaz's picture

I recall a historical account relating to Magnetic North shifting back to Earth's South Pole.

All this stuff is fascinating.

How do we know that China is the leading polluter? I'll suggest that everything Walmart Sells will be in a Land Fill soon after it's purchased. I contend that we are willing enablers of Chinese wrongdoings.

How long could we last if the Garbage trucks stopped for a few weeks. or months?

We don't know how to not-polite.

Tony in Venice Beach, Florida

Smirch's picture

Supposidly, the magnetic poles swap sides about every 17000 years, and they are a little late for their appointment. It should be interesting.

In 2020 alone, China built 3x more
coal-fired plants than the rest of the world, combined..sans scrubbers. We are to blame for that like we're to blame for the drug cartels. Push and pull

Check out Akale Wube's 1st album, a positive mention by Mr. Guttenberg in one of his headphone reviews.

tonykaz's picture

I'm delighted that I'm not the only one ranting about China in these pages.

I have the idea that our Coal people are selling trainloads of Coal to Asia.

Civilisation is a dirty business.

Tony in Venice Florida

sudont's picture

Tony, records, CDs, tape - all are petroleum-based products. Digital files, living on servers and computers, requiring energy and rare earth materials, leave a footprint. Not as bad as your car, though.

Of all the uses of petroleum, records end up in landfills far less often than just about any other plastic item you can think of, including CDs. Can you think of any other plastic item you’ve had for thirty to sixty years? If you want to do your grandchildren a favor, pass down your record collection and hi-fi.

Audiophile equipment lasts a lot longer than iPods and other consumer crap. You might want to inform the youngsters in your life about the wastefulness of iPhones and laptops, and all that other "works-for-five-years-tops" equipment they buy to throw away. Make them aware of the massive amounts of energy required by the server farms that streaming services live on. Teach them how to properly handle records, so that they last a lifetime or two. Teach them the virtues of buying, and especially of repairing, used equipment. I know my McIntosh amplifier will still be making music long after I’m dead. You don’t throw away good audio equipment - you fix it.

tonykaz's picture

I'll content now that all of our Media formats will not continue, we will probably have access to some big music memory thru some globally common interface. ( for a subscription fee )


we'll need a neutral governance system so that old geezers like me won't delete all the head banging metal noise that society seemed to encourage, a few decades ago. And that horrible twangy country music would need a merciful death at the hands of some Cancel commettee.

I'll present 16/44.1 as the most efficient storage strategy to-date. ( that I'm aware of, right or wrong )

Vinyl is beautiful but it's so darn expensive in all ways, who can afford it?

Fresh Engineering is outstanding: Tesla Cars have One Million Mile Capability compared to our engineered ICE cars with an intended 11 year durable good design brief.

The earth has been Solar Powered 4-Evah, we are now figuring out how to use the Sun as an Engine of Civilisation, aren't we?

We only got electricity a few years ago ( from Ben Franklin in France ), fingers crossed, our species might still survive for a few more Centuries .

Tony in Venice Florida ( still above water )

funambulistic's picture

I'm from Texas - what do you think?

BTW, excellent picks - all of them! Thank you for another excellent R2D4!

Bogolu Haranath's picture

According to Google search, Texas leads in the job numbers in the oil and gas industry, in the country ....... Latest figures are more than 400,000 jobs in oil and gas industry in Texas :-) ........

Bogolu Haranath's picture

According to Google search ........ Texas has 15.9 billion barrels of crude oil reserves, which can fill more than 1 million Olympic size swimming pools :-) .......

Texas is also the leading wind energy producing state :-) .........

Bogolu Haranath's picture

The energy information administration estimates that US has 198 billion barrels of recoverable crude oil reserves, in addition to proven crude oil reserves of 36.4 billion barrels ........ Wikipedia :-) ........

Bogolu Haranath's picture

'When we all fall asleep, where do we go?' .......... Billie Eilish :-) ...........

Anton's picture

Just saying.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

That Billie Eilish album is the second most streamed album 2019 according to Spotify, over 6 billion streams :-) .......

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Billie Eilish is singing the title song for the next James Bond movie "No Time to Die." :-) .......

Anton's picture

Google LCD Soundsystem, "Too Much Love" and tell me Eilish's "Bad Guy" is not stolen.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

"Bad Guy" does not get "Too Much Love" ......... Yes, both those songs sound similar :-) .........

partain's picture

....more like borrowed the keys , took it and had it totally restored , and returned it.

The similarity at the beginning is striking.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

'Collage - EP' ........ The Chainsmokers :-) ........

'Closer' is one of the most streamed song of the decade, according to Spotify :-) ........

chuckles304's picture

If I'm awake due to funny noises at 3 a.m. I'm probably tiptoeing around with my Glock 43 looking for the cause.....

Anton's picture

Completely different approaches.

We have kids, so no hallway firearm heroics for me, but I support the second amendment, sir.

I figure if an intruder gets past the alarms, the menagerie of dogs, and makes it upstairs, it's likely very personal!

Cheers and no hope you never face that situation!

jimtavegia's picture

We are in a sad state of affairs. The only thing that bothers me is the national debt and just the interest is $1 trillion a year. I am more concerned about the poor quality of American cars and the poor engineering that will not allow shade tree mechanics to really work on them. My fuel pump is going on my SUV and you must drop the gas tank to remove it. Dang. I don't see an improvement when it used to be in the engine compartment and easily accessible.

And now time for some more music.

mmole's picture

...breathe easier. The interest on the national debt this fiscal year is "only" $479 billion.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

That is approximately the GDP of UAE :-) .......

Bogolu Haranath's picture

BTW ....... The GDP of California is $2.9 trillion ..... which is number one in USA :-) ......

jimtavegia's picture

Here you go. Read'em and weep.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

US total national assets $145 trillion :-) ........

mmole's picture

.... I've been reading you for years. I love your take on music, particularly your adventures in semi-pro recording.

Not so much on economics:

All the best.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Read 'Financial position of the United States' in Wikipedia :-) ........

Anton's picture

What's that deficit been doing the past 3 years compared the previous 5 years?

mmole's picture

I think we are simply misusing our terminology. The deficit, that is, the difference between income brought into our treasury and the amount we spend in fiscal 2020 is indeed projected to be $1.1 trillion. We thus need to borrow money to make ends meet. The interest accumulated on this annual borrowing over the years is currently $479 billion.

But yes please, let's get back to the music. In that spirit here's 2 of my R2D4s"

Aldo Parisot-Bach "Suite #5 for Cello Alone/Kodaly-"Sonata for Cello Alone--Counterpoint/Esoteric 5563.

Geri Allen-"Flying Toward the Sound"--Motema MTM 52.

Anton's picture

As I get a little more mature, my appreciation for Bach on cello grows!!!

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Why not change the name to 'Albums to Die for' A2D4? ....... Just a suggestion :-) .........

mmole's picture

...then they would lose the cute "Star Wars" reference (no it's not R2D2, it's R2D4).

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Another suggestion I have is, D2D4, Downloads to Die for ....... That would be more futuristic ....... More 'Star Wars' like :-) .......

Bogolu Haranath's picture

BTW ....... R2D4 is the grandson of R2D2 ....... R2D4 is gonna be featured in the next 'Star Wars' movie along with his dad R2D3 :-) ........

volvic's picture

Some of which I have, others not and very interesting for future purchase. As JA mentions the Rattle Beethoven set, I have been mulling its purchase, just a little hesitant, as I have many Rattle performances and very few of them move me. As Carlos Kleiber used to say "I was never rattled by Simon".

avanti1960's picture

is To Die For. Would you consider quarterly or semiannually?

thank you

Ortofan's picture

... a fan of Chopin?

Bogolu Haranath's picture

However, they are fans of 'Chopped' (Food network) :-) ........

Kal Rubinson's picture

Valentina's not chopped liver.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Valentina (hot sauce)? :-) ........

Bogolu Haranath's picture

I was just kidding :-) ......

John Atkinson's picture
Ortofan wrote:
... a fan of Chopin?

Decades ago I couldn't get enough of Chopin's music. But for reasons I am not really clear about, I play very little today, though Schubert's, Beethoven's, and Rachmaninoff's piano music are in constant rotation.

Ortofan wrote:

I'll check out this album.

John Atkinson
Technical Editor, Stereophile

Anton's picture

I think you outgrew Chopin!

No kidding.

Just like the humor that made us roll over and cry when we were younger fails to do so now, I think we grow as listeners.

I disdain TV, but I read a neat article about how the average series now contains something like 5 times the number of characters and plot lines compared to our viewing fare 40 years ago.

Same thing with developing palates in many hobbies that can grow along with our brains.

We master the material, then move on...our hobby and passions educate us, I guess.


Which leads to this non sequitur: Chopin didn't write his music thinking we'd be able to reproduce it and play it to death. None of the composers did.

If not for the recorded medium, we might never have outgrown Chopin! Or that disgusting Magic Flute thing that some other composer created.

Which leads to the next non sequitur: If these works weren't created with our ability to play them into submission or a state of disregard in the composer's mind, should we play them so much?

If we we weren't meant to play Beethoven's Ninth 5,000 times, are we creating (or recreating) something false?

If we outgrow Chopin, is it his fault, or ours?

I'm glad you posted what you did!

Ortofan's picture

... so objectionable, why would the BSO choose to end its season at Tanglewood nearly every year with a performance of that work?

If you believe that you've "outgrown" Chopin, then avoid Tanglewood on July 12th when Emanuel Ax will be the soloist for the Piano Concerto No. 2.

Anton's picture

I can easily live the rest of my life without hearing Beethoven’s ninth again and still not lose its impact. How many more times do you need?

My point was asking how many freaking times do you need to hear a reproduction of it before it settles with you.

Hey, go for it all you like, but it ain’t what Beethoven had in mind!

You may wanna hear Whitney Houston’s ‘I will always love you’ a million times for all I care!

My question was, when is enough enough?

Ortofan's picture

... among recordings of recently composed music, then you can easily move forward from repeated listening to more ancient offerings.

Do take note, though, of the age of the music from the recordings listed here. The majority of it is from the 1960s, along with the four prior decades. Some even dates back to 1650.

Perhaps the various contributors to this article will see fit to respond to your plaint of "when is enough, enough?"

Bogolu Haranath's picture

We also did never outgrew Beatles ...... For next 50 years, we will be listening to Beatles, for a millionth time ...... I'm waiting for a review of Beatles album in Doby Atmos in Stereophile :-) .......

Anton's picture

My two year old wanted Winnie The Pooh ad infinitum, Abbey Road can rest in piece.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Ortofan posting 'words of wisdom, let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be' :-) .........

John Atkinson's picture
Anton wrote:
Chopin didn't write his music thinking we'd be able to reproduce it and play it to death. None of the composers did . . . Which leads to the next non sequitur: If these works weren't created with our ability to play them into submission or a state of disregard in the composer's mind, should we play them so much?

This is an excellent point, Anton. I have heard Mahler's Symphony No.2 live three times: once with Haitink, who took me on a journey and left me destroyed yet exhilarated; once with Klaus Tennstedt, who was merely excellent; and once with Seiji Ozawa, who was okay but left me unmoved. I have, I think, 5 different recordings of this symphony, but I can't bear to play even one of these performances more than once a year. To do so would be musical gluttony.

John Atkinson
Technical Editor, Stereophile

Ortofan's picture

... performed by the Vienna Philharmonic and conducted by Zubin Mehta from 1975 on Decca?

John Atkinson's picture
Ortofan wrote:
Do you have the recording of Mahler's Symphony No.2 performed by the Vienna Philharmonic and conducted by Zubin Mehta from 1975 on Decca?

No, I will look for it on Tidal. The most recent version I bought was with Benjamin Zander and the Philharmonia Orchestra on Linn Records.

John Atkinson
Technical Editor, Stereophile

Kal Rubinson's picture

I used to be a glutton for the M2 (I still collect them) but that was decades ago before I had a chance to hear it live. I have heard at least two great live performances (Maazel, Bernstein) as well as a few quite excellent ones.

Recordings suffer from not being live (regardless of how well they are recorded). When new ones appear, I feel compelled to try them but even decent ones fail to offer any "sense of occasion." This is not a work meant for "every day" listening so when I do want to play it (and that may occur every year or two), it must be special or I quickly switch over to one that is. The urge must be satisfied. It is usually an older classic performance although Abbado/Lucerne on BluRay is the most recent one that works for me.

I'll still go out of my way for any live performance.

volvic's picture

I just played one of my versions with Klemperer and Ferrier and said to myself after it was finished, "we'll revisit this again in 6 months".

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

I haven't "outgrown" Chopin because I never really grew into it; other music has always spoken to me more. Ditto to music filled with Russian angst. I could have gotten press tix to Seattle Opera's current Eugene Oregin, but I skipped it. Charlie Parker's Yardbird, which is up next, is another matter entirely.

Ortofan's picture

... piano? If not, perhaps that explains your apparent indifference to the music of Chopin.

As for the Seattle Opera production of Charlie Parker's Yardbird, would you rather choose a performance with Joshua Stewart or Frederick Ballentine as the lead?

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Is that spelling 'Eugene Onegin' (opera)? (see, Wikipedia) :-) ..........

Kal Rubinson's picture

Apparently, not in Oregon.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

I was wondering whether it was 'Oregano' or 'Ore-Ida' ;-) ........

Bogolu Haranath's picture

It could be Seattle 'angst' ....... Seattle recently lost their NFL play-off game, after a successful winning season :-) ........

Ortofan's picture

... the UK.
They seem to be investigating the genetic modification of canola.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Seems like they have a lot of 'angst' over environmental issues :-) ........

Mars2k's picture

Speaking of great vinyl. Thank you Bill.
Bill Wisener of Bill's Records passed on Sat Jan 11 in his store. Bill's was a remarkable Dallas institution the same could be said for Bill really. He will be missed.

funambulistic's picture

The end of an era - but I like that he died in his store as he was there 24/7 it seems. Then again, with how much junk was there, no one probably noticed for several hours. I used to go all the time when he was in Richardson and it was all spread out, but after the move to Dallas, everything just got squished together and it was not fun for me any more. RIP Bill!

rschryer's picture

...good to be listened to every 6 months, or a year, or two years, as some posters here seem to suggest, then what's so good about it?


Kal Rubinson's picture

The answer is that the exquisite emotional experience which we relish from such a piece of music (we were not talking about recordings, per se) would ebb with repetition. [Mae West would not understand it. ;-)]

Fortunately, there is a sufficient number of such pieces to fill the gaps.

rschryer's picture

But my criteria for what constitutes good music is that I want to return to it often.

The idea to me that music can be so exquisite to listen to one can't bear to listen to it for another year seems counterintuitive, and not particularly fun.

No intent to offend, just trying to wrap my head around it.

Kal Rubinson's picture

I don't think that you are taking this exactly the way it is meant. You say:

"The idea to me that music can be so exquisite to listen to one can't bear to listen to it for another year seems counterintuitive, and not particularly fun."

First, "fun" is not the adjective I would apply to a work of music that runs more than an hour and that inspires a range of deep and lasting emotions.

Second, it is certainly possible to listen to it again and enjoy it as I have done many times when, for example, preparing a review of the music or using the music in a review of equipment. However, though I still love it, it never packs the same punch on repetition as it will after some interval.

Third, there's a lame and somewhat trivial analogy. Think of the enjoyment of a most wonderful and lavish meal prepared by a master chef on night one. Would you order the same meal at the same restaurant on the very next night? If you did, do you think you would get the same thrill? I'd be looking for something else on night two but, be assured, I'd like to come back in a couple of weeks or months in the hope of recapturing a great experience.

Fourth, "fun," to continue belaboring the same analogy, is more like my favorite gelato. I don't have it every day......but I could. There's lots of music like that.

fbailiey's picture

Hi Kal - you are employing the fallacy of the senses all leading to similar behavior. Humans like to hear a favorite piece of music over and over, more than eat the same meal or watch the same favorite movie. Different behaviors for different senses. Agree with rschyer that what you do sounds like work, not reward.

Kal Rubinson's picture

I think not. We are not talking about common rewards. I offered my analogy in reference to experiences that demand more attention (and offer greater rewards) than a simple song or a simple meal. There are many who will not appreciate those experiences because they do not have the esthetic history to do so. Plop most people down in a concert hall at a performance of the Mahler 2nd and they will be itching to leave within minutes (just as felt at Cirque du Soleil).

It's not work. It's near ecstasy.

fbailiey's picture

If I understand you correctly, your hypothesis is that music that is only enjoyed as an acquired taste, can only be enjoyed once in a while.

Kal Rubinson's picture

Are you trying to be perverse? Do you understand the difference between a pop jingle and a large, complex work of art? What about between a Mac-and-fries and omakase sushi from a master chef?

Also, I distinctly stated that I could enjoy such special pieces of music more than once in a while but with reduced impact. It's called habituation and I do not want to habituate to their greatness. I want to be thrilled every time.

Can we now move on?

Anton's picture


I remember the first time I heard Beethoven's Fifth...elementary school, trip to a symphony...Holy Crap! I jumped! It was the most dramatic thing I had ever heard.

Then, 'BUM bum bum BUMMMMM' got snapped up for TV commercials, showed up on TV became absolutely unavoidable in the 60s.

Complete habituation to the point that it is now a negative when I hear it. Can't get the groove back.

There are obviously no rules, but I do enjoy having a few pieces that I am 'ritualistic' about and intentionally play rarely.

In the TMI category, there are also some plain old Christmas albums I only play once a year, a few dishes we make only for certain special keeps the frisson for us.

Like I said, there are no rules about this, we are all just comparing notes and experiences.

The past few months have been tough: try being an audiophile in 2020 who is sick of Abbey Road. (If I ever have to listen through "Hell Freezes Over" again, it will also be too soon.)

Thanks so much for your input, Kal.

Kal Rubinson's picture

Well, I did work on Aplysia briefly. Thanks for your comments.