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This LP is dedicated to Richard Wagner

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Composer Klaus Schulze has said 'I still love my Richard Wagner, who influenced me heavily. The way Wagner’s music introduced me to the use of dynamics, subtlety, drama, and the possible magnitudes of music in general remains unparalleled to me. There can’t be any doubt about it'. Schulze's 1975 release Timewind seen above* carries the message 'This LP is dedicated to Richard Wagner', and the two tracks of truly Wagnerian proportions on the original vinyl release were titled Bayreuth Return and Wahnfried . So why doesn't the name Klaus Schulze mean anything to the vast majority of classical listeners? The answer is because Klaus Schulze, who also uses the the alias Richard Wahnfried, is a creative maverick who was a leading figure in the development of the kosmische musik  known popularly as Krautrock, which he then morphed into the proto-ambient Berlin School of electronica, and is today best known as the Godfather of Techno and the Pope of Electronic

When Alfred Brendel's Steinway played jazz

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After Alfred Brendel  retired from the concert platform in 2008 the Berlin Philharmonic Foundation decided to auction the Steinway d-524780 piano kept for his appearances at the Philharmonie. The successful bidder was Siggi Loch , who after a successful career in producing and managing rock acts reached the position of President of WEA Europe. But in 1992 he moved away from rock music to fulfill his dream of creating his own independent jazz label. Over three decades ACT Music has become one of the most important and respected global jazz labels, and has nurtured the talent of many musicians including Nils Landgren and the sadly-departed Esbj√∂rn Svensson . It is notable that ACT have not succumbed to the 'smooth jazz' virus. Instead, guided by Siggi Loch, the label has continued to probe the cutting-edge of jazz with, for example, Sufi Jazz  and Islam Blues CDs; this was the first World Music project that integrates the classical music of the Ottoman Empire with Western jaz

Music that is an absolute high point of human creativity

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Mickey Lemle's film The Last Dalai Lama? ' includes a sequence of Philip Glass playing and talking about his organ piece ' Mad Rush '. This was written in 1979 for the Dalai Lama's first public address in North America*. His Holiness gave the address in the Cathedral of St. John the Divine , New York City, which is where Philip Glass was filmed for the documentary. In 1965 Philip Glass worked with Ravi Shankar on the score for the film Chappaqua , and in 1989 the two great musicians collaborated again on their Passages project .  Both Philip Glass and Ravi Shanar have auspicious connections with the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. In August 1976 Pandit Shankar curated a dusk 'till dawn concert at St. John the Divine, which culminated in an extended set by the sitar maestro as dawn broke. This sublime performance was recorded and re-released on the Shankar Estate's East Meets West Music label in 2014. For me this is an album 'to die for', an op

Classical music's unquestioning love affair with social media

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I chose two years ago to close my social media accounts . But this recent tweet caught my eye and set me thinking again about classical music's unquestioning love affair with social media.Yesterday Norman Lebrecht reported that Slipped Disc had 24 million readers in 2020. Now, as pointed out here before , and as a Slipped Disc reader points out in a comment, 24 million page visits on Google Analytics is a very different metric to 24 million readers. Page visits includes repeated return visits - which accounts for a high proportion of Slipped Disc traffic - and, as previously explained , more than half of website page visits are not from humans at all, but from automated programs — many of them malicious.  Now Norman, like all of us, has faults. But he is not stupid. So why does he insist on repeatedly bandying around these misleading statistics? 4 million readers in 2020, which is probably a more accurate estimate, is still an impressive metric that confirms Slipped Disc a

Presenting my thirty-three best CDs of 2020

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In 2020 the classical music industry proved the truth of Oscar Wilde's famous dictum that there are only two tragedies in life: one is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it. Those of us who were advocating classical diversity back when other 'experts' were still puffing Dudamel as classical music's saviour watched in dismay as gender and ethnicity replaced merit as a measure of marketability . Similarly, those who of us who two decades ago embraced what was then called 'citizen journalism'  sunk into despair as social media proved the foolishness of crowds , and the classical industry succumbed to the  malignant power of click bait . (Yesterday the industry's cultural commentator of choice demanded that musicians " stop orchestral touring ". Today click bait addiction dictates that the same commentator  urges musicians to sign a petition to make it easier for orchestras to go on "Eurostar tours" and "trips to S

Do they know it's Christmas?

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Philip Glass collaborated with Tenzin Choegyal on the soundtrack for Mickey Lemle' s film The Last Dalai Lama? , and the soundtrack album was released in 2020 on Philip Glass' Orange Mountain Music label. Tenzin Choegyal appeared here in January this year when I wrote enthusiastically about his Songs from the Bardo album made with Laurie Anderson and Jesse Paris Smith*. That is Tenzin Choegyal in the photo above performing Heart Strings , his most memorable and moving contribution to the soundtrack album. For the film Tenzin Choegyal recorded the track with 150 Tibetan children from the Tibetan Children's Village School for refugee children in Dharamsala, India, and in Pokhara and the Kingdom of Mustang in Nepal; Tenzin Choegyal was himself a pupil at the Tibetan Children's Village School in Dharamsala. In their 2020 report on China the international non-governmental organization Human Rights Watch describes how Authorities in Tibetan areas continue to severely r

In praise of well-recorded Beethoven

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Sound is what matters in Beethoven's music. In the Gramophone  Philip Clark wrote about "Ludwig van Beethoven, the composer who, more than any other, changed... the sound of music" while in the New Yorker Alex Ross described how Beethoven was "a phenomenon of dazzling and disconcerting force" and how due to his impact "listening underwent a fundamental change". So, in these socially distanced times when audiences have turned to recordings  for their classical fix, why is sound quality given so little prominence in Beethoven reviews, or reviews of any other composer's music? I pondered on that question yet again when listening to two new Beethoven releases. The piano is one of the hardest instruments to capture convincingly on a recording. Too often the instrument's upper registers reproduce with a tiring brittle edge. This is not a digital artefact as a select few recordings capture the instrument's full range without reminding the liste