Where do you get your music reviews...

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It is about the music, is it not? So my simple question - where do you get your reviews of music? At $18 each (unless its on-sale, which generally means its so pop its not worth buying), its tough to throw down the dollars (US, Can, AS, or pounds, euros as the case may be) on these little pieces of plastic on a whim.

I admit I get to hear a great deal of music, but unlike a dog, I cannot just sniff it out. Someone has to point it out to me. Sites? Mag's?
Hi Sawzall, here's what I mainly uses:

If I want to know something about a specific record, I try Amazon.com and looks for a review. If it's classical music I'm after, I can look at different recordings of the same piece of music. Some of the reviews are useless, though.

Sometimes I try to (illegaly, I know that!) download a piece through AGsatelite, if I like the music I buy it.

Also I have a classical music encyclopedia. There are recomended recordings for some of the composers which helped me a lot to begin with. - 'Huchinson enc. of classical music'

A new thing I did last month was to seach google for 'high quality recordings', 'great records' and things like that. I found a label name Reference Recordings that produces CD's of high quality. I instantly bourght one and is very pleased with it.

Some of the records I bourght recently:

Dee Dee bridgewater: live at yoshi's. - Best live jazz record I ever heard!

Dick Hyman: Swing is here - Great music, fantastic recording.

Dave Brubeck: Take five - A classic jazz record.

Jan Johanson: Folkvisor - Swedish jazz! Jan is a great pianist and his music is jazz interpetations of old swedish folk musik.

W.A. Mozart: requiem (Teldec) - A good recording of a masterpiece.

J.S Bach: Mass in B-minor. (Deutche Gramofon) H. von Karajan. I have never heard a piece of music from the baroque period with this level of intense feelings.

Just a few hints, hope they can be usefull.
Problem with MP3's

There are a couple of problems with mp3s for me. One, where I work - carrying around mp3s is bad juju. Hell, if I was willing to bootleg, I know where there is a 2 million song title SAN that is not in mp3.

Which is the second issue - just how bad the vast majority of mp3's sound. 256 Layer II is OK to music around. MP3s lose all of the quality of a recording, if any existed.

I grant the issue of reviewers... thats why I asked the question. Who is a good review, who is a sales pitch?
good review and sales pitch is a very blurry line, someone very good at a sales pitch can make it sound like a good review.

mp3 is not meant to be "audiophile" (god i hate that word), its just a demo in effect. there are very very few songs that you cant get on mp3, so use it, dont abuse it, and dont qualm about the quality, cos its better then having to download a 45meg wav file.
Music Reviews

Not quite an anglophile, but I find that the reviews in Gramophone and the BBC magazine to be very good, at least for classical (although I won't buy any opera with Jane Eaglen in it.) For me, putting down a few bucks for one of these magazines saves a lot of money as you certainly can't tell a recording from its cover. (That is, the temptation when you get into Tower Records is to just buy for the hell of it.)

At one time, HiFi News and Record Review had excellent reviews, now it is best called HiFi and Nothing Review.
Sawzall and Mike,
my preferred guitar performances/ musicians:

Andres Segovia: everything Spanish.

Manuel Barrueco: everything Spanish.

Julian Bream: Every, any recording.

John Williams, Every baroque recording, particularly J.S.Bach, particularly the Chaconne (transscribed from the 2nd partita d-minor BWV 1004 for solo violin), transscriptions form Isaac Albeniz' "Iberia" cycle.

Alvaro Pieri: everthing i can lay my hands on, particularly the 5 Bagatelles by William Walton.

www.allmusic.com gives a lot of valuable hints, i second that. Particularly for Jazz to me it seems they put a lot of effort into describing the music (unfortunaltely biased towards CD issues) and hyperlinking everything even fainltly worth being linked to easen finding similar stuff. I agree in 95% with the reviews. Found very few goofs.

may i recommend to search for sites and forums related to a given composer? E.g. there exists a J.S.Bach website where everybody can post his own review. I was utterly pleased to find all my favourite performances reviewed (provided they were (re-)issued on CD) and if i could detect hat the particular reviewer was using a judging similar to mine and my criteria or if he would use wordings and comparisons i also use to use for myself, i found him an me agreeing to almost 100%. So i could judge from the lines this one review is related to my way of perception and the other one is not (i have intentionally avoided the word "taste").

To me reviews never were more that hints saving me a lot of search time and helping me to narrow my choices. But judging and deciding what i keep i did myself, i did not anyone let prescribe what i want to listen to. Corrosive attitude always cuased me to avoide the reviewer from then on.

During my seek for outstanding performances it occurred to me that there are two ways of apporaching music:
do i like it?
do i believe it, buy it emotionally?

The 1st way is a Q of taste, of course, no need to discuss that.
The 2nd way points to quality issues, to level issues. Sub-criteria of the 2nd way are:
* has the music entirety ot does it fall into shreds? (in rude words, do i sense one piece of fabric with colours and patterns beautifully fitting together or do i have a kettle of coloured laundry?)
* is the performance detailed, differentiated, without loosing it's entirety?
* is the music emotionally plausible?
(does Mozart sound like Mozart or like Tchaikovsky and/or Schumann?)
* is the speed, rhythm and phrasing plausible and conclusive, does the music "breathe" in the right way and without hickup?

The higher the music "scored" on these four sub-criteria, the more often i could listen to it without emotional wear-out. And it turned out that on the long run, the 1st and the 2nd way were the same for me. But to my surprise (and quite opposite to my education) my preferences gained from the 2nd way turned out not to be my personal taste only, they were the the preferences of the grey beards who had forgotten more about recorded music than i ever will know. Concerning the 2nd way, there was few disagreement about the "best" performance being the benchmark for all other performances. This does not man of course that there always was the one-and-only interpretation, often there were 2 or 3 different ones, having a differing style and stressing different aspects. And within those perfomrnaces, it was the 1st way, it was the Q who preferred which just to his personal taste.

I described my opinion concerning the overall-plausibility to my old listening teacher, Mrs.Hoehn, who ran a shellac and vinyl antiquariate back then. She would know any valuable recordings, be it engraved on wooden discs :), on edison cylinders, on shellac or on vinyl and she rubbed my nose into many of them. Me, finding that her hints were utterly compatible to my "taste", tried out anything and sometimes took the luxury to partially disagree (mostly on 20th century composers). Anyway, i told he my finding, expecting her to disagree (she was an antagonistic mind) but to my surprise she stood mute and started to discuss the topic with one of her main customers next time i was in her shop. A busy Friday afternoon as more music maniacs dropped in and when she had to close, we all agreed the 2nd way is the common denominator to spot top-notch performances. Hardly 6 month later, every of her customers knew about it and had it tried out and it could happen another guy told me this as "hot news", not knowing who had had this idea and she would lean over her counter and smile about human vanity :)

Feel i have to give some examples and again, consider they are my personal preferences:

Beethoven string quartets:
Budapest String Quartet. To me it is a Q of taste which recording to prefer, the shellac recording from 1940 (available as CD-re-issue), the mono vinyl from the early 50ies or the stereo vinyl from the 60ies. Different preferences for different opuses, i mainly prefer the 2nd recording.
But BSQ or any other SQ ensemble is a question of level, not of taste to me. Admitted, there are some coming close for the one or the other SQ opus, the Koeckert Quartett and the Barylli Quartet e.g.

Beethoven piano sonatas:
Wilhelm Backhaus plays Beethoven for beginners; his play enters your mind thru the back orifice. 6 hours later you find yourself humming some pop song and it tunrs out your are humming some complex Beethoven melody, maybe a side theme. one or two sonatas are goofs, but you will find out yourself at once which.

Arthur Schnabel plays LvB in a very expressionistic style, juicy and with utter intensity. He is technically flawed as a pianist, one can hear him struggle now and then. "My problem, not Beethoven's" he used to say, insisting on keeping Beethoven's fast paces (which were considered insane back then). Schnabel's shading of tones and chords is unequalled. Hence the emotional impact is immense. IMO.

Solomon (Solomon Cutner) did not record all sonatas, a series of small strokes paralyzed his hands more and more and finally prevented him from playing at all. However, the available performances each are gems. His play has intimacy along with almost unbearable dourness, and his phasing in unequalled in clarity, detail and plausiblity. It is just right.
This becomes most apparent on the Hammerklavier sonata op.106 and the last sonata op.111, noone plays these sonatas better IMO.

Wilhelm Kempff is my choice for the piano concertos but not for the sonatas.

J.S.Bach, violin sonatas & partitas
Henryk Szeryng is my undisputed preference (stick with the stereo recording on Deutsche Grammophon) although he plays it with a straight bow. His tone is sometimes warm and telling, sometimes of utter sharpness, depending. His pace and phrasing is w/o any flaw and of utter clarity, he builds the tension up, he never interupts it, the rhythmic architecture stays intact.

Almost as good is Otto Büchner and he plays it with an arced bow. His phrasing has not the same clarity and distinctness, apart from that, same level with Szeryng.
But he lets the violin sound like an organ on chords and it becomes obvious the music is meant to be played that way. The same synchronity happens it the pieces are played on the guitar and the John Williams guitar recording of the Chaconne i recommeded above "works" way better than 999 out of 1000 :) violin performances with straight bow; it is on par with Szeryng and Büchner.

The straight bow does not permit to vary the tension of the horsehair during play.
Chords can only be played very loud and/or as arpeggios (one tone after the other)
The arced bow does permit so;
hence the hair can touch 1 to 4 strings simultaneously depending on the hair tension,
Chords can can be played on all 4 strings and with low or varying volume, too.

Enuff examples, but there are more hints in stock, questions invited.

methinks the critique uttered here on critics and reviews is mainly justified as few journlists strive to enlighten the reader and give descriptive hints. Most ofthe printed music talk is either advertizing or something very corrosive. Isn't it fun to rip something into pieces? To the journaille maybe, but not to me.
(Journaille is a German derogatory term, mounted together from journalist and canaille)

Recently, my adored critc hero ceased to be my hero. I always considered Joachim Kaiser as a major guide to outstanding perfomances and musicians, particularly pianists. But a two weeks ago i listened to his radio Xmission on the Bavarian Broadcast BR4. He was enthusing about a new-born star, a Chinese pianist who certainly was not bad, i could hear that. Kaiser claimed this guy to be considerably deeper, more dense and differtentiated than Vladimir Horowitz on some Romantic works. I happen to know these works, and the Chinese guy was doing a technically flawless but utterly uninvolving job (dare i say boring?, yes, i did not mention his name) whereas Horowitz, well, he is just a magician on these pieces, 10000 Volts emotioanly. Kaiser did not give the public a chance to comare and decide, he just smashed Horowitz verbally and pushed the Chinese pianist.

A critic is man who creates nothing and therby feels qualified to judge the work of creative men. There is logic in this; he is unbiased -- he hates all creative people equally.
(Robert A.Heinlein, Notebooks of Lazarus Long)

I like you but you are a critic and therefore I'm afraid I cant talk to you.
(John Coltrane to a "Downbeat" journalist
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