Are Tippett's Piano Sonatas too cheap?

Michael Tippett's four Piano Sonatas are among the masterpieces of the twentieth century piano repertoire. The First is wonderfully accessible with its irresistible bluesy finale. The other three are tougher, but they are easy-peasy compared with, for instance, Elliott Carter's piano music.

I grew to love them through Paul Crossley's recordings on CRD, made in 1984/5 with the involvement of the composer and still sounding superb. Yesterday I heard the new Naxos recording of the First Sonata (coupled with the Second and Third) played by Peter Donohoe, and it is quite magnificent. If you don't know these brilliant Sonatas there is simply no excuse not to buy this super-budget priced new release.

But this ultra-low price, and highly recommendable, CD does illustrate the Catch-22 that the recording industry finds itself in. Steven Osbourne's new recordings of Tippett's four sonatas and piano concerto are scheduled for future release by Hyperion. I am sure Steven Osborne's interpretaions are going to be superb, I heard him play them live in Norwich last summer and they were quite exceptional. It will be a great shame if the sales of the Hyperion CDs are pre-empted by the Naxos releases - and I fear inevitably they will be. And if this happens will it deter Hyperion from releasing other contemporary music which is not duplicated by Naxos? - such as their commendable recording of Antony Pitts' Seven Letters which I wrote about in July last year?

I wish I knew the answer to the question I keep asking - Is classical recorded music too cheap?

Portrait of Sir Michael Tippett by June Mendoza, see my article My friends pictured within for more about this artist.
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If you enjoyed this post take An Overgrown Path to Tippett can still empty a concert hall


Berend de Boer said…
If superb recordings get cheap enough, people won't bother trying to determine which one is best before buying. Just buy both. Saves a lot of listening time in the shop.

Classical music can never be too cheap!
Anonymous said…
A wonderful pianist named Ananda Sukarlan was born in Indonesia, studied in The Netherlands and moved to Spain in 1995. In 1993 he worked with, and recorded, a beautiful version of Tippett's First Sonata, with much approval of the late composer. The cd, called "The Pentatonic Connection," also contains fantastic pieces such as Geoffrey King's "Pithecanthropus Variations," Margaret Lucy Wilkins's "Studies in Black and White," and Oliver Knussen's "Piano Variations."

The cd was produced by a BUDGET label in The Netherlands called "Erasmus." I am not sure, but after reading both of your excellent articles on the danger of the cheap prices of cd's these days, I fear that the reason I no longer hear of this Dutch label might, indeed, be that it stopped for budgetary concerns (maybe their cd's were "too cheap"?). In any case, the cd of Ananda Sukarlan can be "pre-ordered" through The Catalogue Number is WVH139. The ASIN is B000025GKS.

Tippett would have been very pleased to promote this recording (and this pianist)!
Pliable said…
An anonymous writer left the following comment.

 You have little understanding of economics and try to compare a commodity with an experience.

I have no problem at all with opinions being posted that are contrary to mine, and Berend's comment above is an excellent example of constructive disagreement which is very welcome. But I am now going to ask that the writers of comments like the anonymous one above identify themselves, otherwise they will be deleted - as this one was.

There is a good reason for this. I have previously had to delete and ban the abusive and destructive comments of one particular individual about the subject of free file downloads, and at least he identified himself. I don't now want these, or similar, appearing under the cloak of anonymity.

The comments facility on this blog is used by the very great majority of readers for constructive debate. I want to keep it that way.

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