Sunday, August 25, 2019

Petulance from an exhibition


With physical media still accounting for the majority of classical sales, and with attention spans shortening and visual cues becoming more important, it is a mystery as to why graphic design is the poor relation in classical music. It is doubly puzzling when taking into account that today's record label art directors have free rein over sleeve art. Back in the 1970s and 80s when sleeve design and liner notes came within my remit at EMI's International Classical Division, all the top artists had the right of artwork approval written into their contracts. Above is the sleeve for Riccardo Muti's 1979 debut recording with the Philadelphia Orchestra which was created on my watch. The venue for the photo shoot, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, was relevant, and in recognition of Muti's already super-sized ego we made sure not a hair was out of place. But the maestro ran true to form and hated the cover with a passion, and it took considerable persuasion before his approval was given.

The recording venue was the old and decrepit Met Church building in Philadelphia which was built as an opera house in 1908 by Oscar Hammerstein 1 (grandfather of the famous lyricist-librettist). The Met Church was in a very rough part of the city. I remember desperately trying to find a cab for Muti in the rather tough street outside the Met in tropical heat at the end of one session. Muti appreciated my efforts by saying - 'If this had been a Deutsche Grammophon session they would have arranged a limo'. And that is how you come to earn $2,716,488 a year.

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2 comments:

Johannes R. Becher said...

What's strange in Mutti disliking that cover?

Pliable said...

However the market seemed to like that artwork as, unlike many vinyl releases, it survived into the CD era - https://www.amazon.co.uk/Pictures-at-Exhibition-Firebird-Suite/dp/B00000DNG8/ref=sr_1_2?keywords=muti+pictures+exhibition&qid=1566831803&s=music&sr=1-2

But when this outstanding recording was re-released at budget price the original artwork was replaced by the usual visual blancmange - https://www.amazon.co.uk/Mussorgsky-Pictures-Exhibition-Stravinsky-TheRite/dp/B00005NPJJ/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=Pictures+at+Exhibition+muti&qid=1566841537&s=music&sr=1-1