Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Greatest Classical CD Covers EVER, Part 9

Click here for the complete (ongoing) series...

Frankly, sir, you were misleading in your craiglist ad. I had no idea this was to be a romantic dinner. Now, I bid you adieu.

What's that? Why yes, I have lost a little lately. How did you guess? Thank you. Ha ha, you're right! I will need a new belt soon! Well, I guess I could stay for a coffee...

Come with me. On the canals we will embrace the mysteries of the night. The mask will come off and I will stand before you ready to - excuse me? Are you laughing? ... No, my shirt is not puffy. Please stop laughing. Madam? It is very rude. ... Okay, fine. On your way. Find your own way home.

Another horror show for kids. This one's looks like it could be about a two-headed beast who roams the countryside eating small children (I don't know Mozart that well).

Yes, your wife is very fetching, sir, but I'm actually more interested in the tent trailer. Can't people say what they mean in these bloody craigslist ads?... No, I don't want any wine.

"You see, Number 6, there really is no need for you to leave The Village. We have shops, restaurants and even a small cinema. So really, won't you give it up? Your every move is visible to us via closed-circuit television. Escape by land is hopeless and if you're foolish enough to make a swim for it, Rover will take care of you. You'll save us time and yourself a lot of trouble if you simply tell us why you resigned."

And now, ladies and gentlemen, using only the power of my mind, I shall make this bridge... DISAPPEAR!

The ghost of JP2 is about to karate chop three cinder blocks while Placido watches the action on the Jumbotron. The classical music industry is obsessed with ghosts so their constant appearance on CD covers doesn't even phase me anymore. Although I must admit seeing EMI's latest cover for the Schwarzkopf Four Last Songs threw me for a loop...

Monday, September 28, 2009

Monday Update

Getting hits from people looking for Barbara Bonney pictures. So here's one - give the people what they want, I always say!

Will probably post about it later, but I've been listening to Mahler's Sixth Symphony a lot lately. I sat down and listened with the score which I haven't done for years. I'd stopped using scores while I listened because I thought I was becoming too reliant on them when learning new pieces. Too much eye, not enough ear.

But using a score again was great. The end of the Sixth is merciless, even on paper. Prior to the final collapse, Mahler gives us one last build up, on E, surely this will resolve to A major - even the key signature is telling us A major. But no, we fall into A minor for the last time and the three sharps in the key signature are torn away. I've gotta move on to something a little more upbeat after this one.

The latest Greatest Classical CD Covers EVER will be posted on Wednesday which should be a regular thing. Especially since Wednesday is Comedy Day on the Internet since The Onion, The Laugh Palace and Scrofula's Toybox all post their updates then.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Greatest Classical CD Covers EVER, Part 8

Click here for the complete (ongoing) series...

The strange, alien device appeared over the lake four years ago. Since then, it's been hovering silently. Ol' Jeb said he heard it make a clicking sound six months ago. But I don't believe him.

A candid shot taken from the Kentucky Fried Chicken headquarters tour. A suit and tie is mandatory when viewing the Colonel's portait.

Another trip to Walmart ruined by a trumpet-tooting biker. Is that he's sitting sidesaddle what makes him mild? Plus, since the W isn't actually struck out, I guess the name of this album is really BORN TO BE WMILD. Which is a far better title, actually.

Another damn brass band. I've got enough on my hands dealing with the Canadian Brass and don't have time to deal with these jokers. The cover looks like a young Roger Dean tried to draw a still from Yellow Submarine. "Brazen Cartographies", huh? You know, I've used the dictionary to randomly put words together for song titles too. Know what I came up with? "Nefarious Pemmican."

Beethoven apparently now dwells in the House On Haunted Hill. Sorry, Ludwig. The will clearly states that if I stay the night, the fortune is mine. I'M NOT LEAVING THIS HOUSE.

I think I've figured out what's going on here. In the background, we have a shot of some Manson family members chatting with some of the crew who shot that "I'd Like To Buy The World A Coke" commercial in the '70s. Over top of that is a somewhat later picture of the Laurie Partridge Fan Club. Overseeing it all is a marble sculpture of the head of Hugh Downs' brother Darrel. Now that I see this written down, it does make a lot more sense.

Theme music from that awful game show where contestants wore shock collars and were "buzzed" with ever-increasing voltages every time they got an answer wrong. Think the Milgram Experiment was disturbing? Try it with a hooting studio audience! The final 18 minutes of the album is silence punctuated with occasional buzzes of increasing loudness. Ignoring every moral instinct, most audients will listen all the way through because the liner notes told them to.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Last Night's Tosca

A stupid technical problem means I missed recording almost all of the first act of last night's Met Tosca. I did get the rest.  The production is controversial - if you're going to finish the second act with no cross and no candles, expect people to get ornery (which they did last night). Here's the NY Times review.

I hate when I screw up recordings like this. It happened last year with one of Mattila's Salomes. I wrote to the Met channel on Sirius asking about replays and they basically said they replay one live presentation from each production during the off-season and maybe that performance will be the one selected. As it turns out, they did replay the one I missed. There are more Tosca broadcasts to come (and the HD simulcast to movie theatres) so I should really calm down.

More Krazy Kovers tomorrow....

Monday, September 21, 2009


The Met's season kicks off tonight with Karita Mattila in Tosca. You can listen for free here. The show starts at 6:30 ET (6:00 on Sirius). Anything Mattila is in is mandatory listening. I'd buy a CD of her warming up. Or yelling at a metermaid, even.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

I Blame American Idol

There's something to be said about having the courage to go out and perform in public. It's not an easy thing. I should know: my one attempt was an ill-fated junior high streaking stunt that resulted in 3 years of military school.

But if you are going to get up there, you owe it to your audience to be somewhat prepared. Take a look at this video where the spirit of Florence Foster Jenkins possesses a poor singer and turns a Mozart aria into a freakout hellride. While the voice will disturb, the arm gestures will inspire.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Weekend Reading

A nice find online today: a large archive of opera reviews by Michael Tanner. Dipped into a number of them just now and came away with something good from pretty much each one of them.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Greatest Classical CD Covers EVER, Part 7

Click here for the complete (ongoing) series...

A gazelle urinating on a naked pregnant woman. If you know the opera, you know that this isn't as crazy as it sounds.

Check out the space-age jacket! Time traveller Arthur Fiedler steps out of the Time Tunnel from the year 2512 to instruct the world's youth in classical music before it's too late. This is like Star Trek IV when Spock had to rescue those singing whales from the Klingons.

Dominy, a kind reader, reminded me of this one. Jonathan's really gotta grow a pair. Being scared of a pantomime wolf! I would not run if one of those came prancing after me. I'd smack his mask around and jump him. These pantomime guys are all talk. Trust me.

At least when Elgar haunted the countryside, things didn't get out of hand. A few spooky noises, sure, but nothing to get upset about. Certainly no overturned barns or floating beds or anything. Unlike RVW who's been tearing it up out there like its Poltergeist 2. I admit I was one of those who demanded the Ghostbusters be run out of town when they made me uncomfortable. But now we need them! They're heroes to this city. I'm sorry for everything! Save us! Come back! COME BACK!

Hands down the most badass composer ever. What aspect of this cover isn't terrifying? And a look through his works catalog reveals what a menace this guy was. The Punch Your Face Cantata, Op. 120? "The Future Is Pain" Variations? The "Kick Your Ass Down The Stairs" Lieder? Sheesh. And what about the ad campaign for his last cd where he was punching that hanging cow carcass? Better to just buy this CD and stay out of his way.

This looks like a picture torn from a 1970s photo album. "Oh, and here's Uncle Vladislav. He was odd. He'd sit at that piano at every family gathering and become furious if anyone asked him to play. I honestly don't know if he actually could play the piano or not...."

What a horror show. Missing arms, bandaged stumps and a man's severed genitalia flying by. And this is a series of opera for children! I admit that shielding your kids too much isn't good, but their playschool doesn't have to be the Grand Guignol.

Reissued at last

I've been wanting to buy Brendel's digital cycle of the Beethoven sonatas ever since it was completed but the price always put me off. At the time, it was nearly $200 and there were a lot of other disc purchases happening then. But now, at long last, it comes out next month at budget price.

In a Gramophone review from December, 1996, Rob Cowan says of Op. 109:
"Since it is the critic's job to pontificate what does one do when a performance is so satisfying that after it even a single well-honed sentence seems an irrelevance? Retire, possibly, and devote oneself to a more useful and benign trade such as growing vegetables." A critic who knows his place.

More Classical Covers on the way

Someone on Twitter has twitterized me and Tim Smith at the Baltimore Sun have been sending people my way. Thank you and brace yourselves for the latest edition of It's A Bad, Bad, Bad, Bad Crazy Classical Cover which should be appearing later today.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


With the arrival of shredding, the Internet is at long last being put to good use. Shredding is the process of taking footage of a musical performance and replacing it with different, newly created music. Here's a brilliant example using a performance by KISS.

Classical performances are also being shredded. And is there one more deserving of shredding than the fake performance from Obama's inauguration? This one has it all - great performances, hilarious reaction shots and crowd noise and brilliant use of silence. Watch the whole thing (the clarinet player seems to completely forget how to play by the end of it).

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Save some shelf space

The first issue I ever bought was from September 1991. I'd experienced the Ring for the first time the previous year (Solti's Rheingold from the library and the complete Met cycle on 4 consecutive nights on PBS in June) and was mainly a reader of Classic CD. I switched to the Gramophone a few years before they finally went under and was glad to see them go. They'd done a format change where they were trying to be everything to everybody (I'm sorry, but I'm not interested in world music reviews) and they were employing sub-par reviewers. I still remember my rage upon reading a reviewer complain about a recording of Beethoven's 9th which didn't feature an exposition repeat in the first movement. Since Beethoven DOESN'T CALL FOR ONE, I doubt the fool HAD EVER HEARD A RECORDING THAT DID DO THE NONEXISTENT REPEAT. (I'm still angry about it).

It is weird to look back a few decades, especially the ads. Check out this one from the June 1973 issue. It's for the latest release in Haitink's Concertgebouw Bruckner cycle which in its current incarnation is sitting on my CD shelf behind me.

I wonder what someone back then would have thought if he could see the classical listener of today.

1973 Man: So you're from the future? Tell me, did Bernard Haitink finish his Bruckner cycle?

2009 Man: Why yes he did. As a matter of fact, I have it here in my rucksack. It's on these shiny discs. See how they're smaller than a 45 RPM record?

1973 Man: So you still use discs? Aren't you from 36 years in the future?

2009 Man: Well, I have this. It's called an iPod. There's over 1000 hours of music on it.

1973 Man: Well, that's interesting. It may be a good idea to have it on some kind of tiny chip which maybe you could plug into your arm or something.

2009 Man: Yeah, we don't have that yet.

1973 Man: Well, in any event, I'm sure it's useful for when you're flying to the moon on a vacation.

2009 Man: Uh, we don't do that.

1973 Man: Why not? The moonbase up there is for scientific use only? Must be a lot of military guys up there too.

2009 Man: No, actually, we haven't been back since 1972.

1973 Man: But cancer's cured, right?

2009 Man: Well, no. But we're getting there.

1973 Man: Flying cars? Jet packs? No?...... GIMME THAT IPOD.

2009 Man: No, let me go!

(they scuffle. 2009 Man is knocked unconscious to the ground.)

1973 Man: Know something, little gadget. You're going to make me MILLIONS.

And that's how the iPod was invented.