Is it surprising classical music has problems?
When an embedded journalist recommends a recording I run a mile, because there is invariably a hidden agenda. When John McLaughlin Williams recommends a recording I buy it, because John is probably the least embedded person on this planet. Back in December 2010 I ran a post highlighting John's recommendation of Paul Constantinescu's Byzantine Christmas oratorio The Nativity, which he described as a "beautiful, mystical work". In 2010 I wrote that there was currently no recording in the catalogue, and that remains the case. [Update - see comment below.] But after a couple of years searching I tracked down an affordable new copy of the 1977 Bucharest recording originally made by Electrecord, Romania, which was re-released and subsequently deleted by the Olympia label.
It goes without saying that John McLaughlin Williams is quite right in his assessment of Constantinescu's unknown oratorio. Paul Constantinescu (1909-1963) was a pupil of Franz Schmidt in Vienna and his Byzantine oratorio is most definitely beautiful and mystical. But it is also music that is neither easy nor difficult to listen to, which means it is perfectly capable of winning new audiences. Yesterday I suggested that the classical music industry should kick the composer anniversary habit and, instead, give some of the very good neglected music a chance. Paul Constantinescu's neglected The Nativity is very good music indeed and the admirably spacious 1977 Bucharest recording is more than serviceable. It is deeply frustrating that there have been endless re-issues of Britten, Wagner and Verdi in 2013, while gems such as this Byzantine Christmas oratorio remain unavailable (except from scalpers) and unknown. Nobody else is pleading the case for Paul Constantinescu's music because there is nothing in it for the commercial nexus. Is it surprising classical music has problems?
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