Eh. If the performances & music are good, I can't really complain.
CDs are only too expensive when they stink. It'd be better if they
were longer, but hey... actually I paid the full $19 for the 22-minute
sonata back when it first came out. They've since marked it down,
which I think shows some respect for the consumer.
Anyway, get the new Donna Amato/Sorabji CD on Altarus... it's a lavish
68 minutes long.
Todd Michel McComb
As you may know, Altarus is distributed by:
Albany Music Distributors, Inc.
PO Box 5011
Albany NY 12205
Bill Karzas wjk...@pacificnet.net
Which will in any case not be as good as the short, expensive CDs
mentioned earlier. Equating length of CDs with quality is rather
dangerous. Don't forget, any performer who wants to record Sorabji
usually has to spend inordinate amounts of time going through and
correcting the manuscripts, as there are *numerous* errors in almost all
of them. So in terms of cash per minute of preparation time, one is
actually getting a bargain.
The First Piano Sonata is amazing. I'd have been happy to pay more
(though glad not to!).
Erica N. Schulman en...@psuvm.psu.edu
Department of Chemistry http://stm1.chem.psu.edu/
Pennsylvania State University ~ens/EricaSchulman.html
University Park, PA 16802
You ask for opinions at the end of your posting and I give you mine
frankly: what you have written is extremely unpleasant and does you as
the author no credit; your lamguage smacks of playground tantrums and
the stream of invective is wholly out of proportion to the alleged
offences. Indeed, you throw so many insults and make so many ugly
assertions concerning the motives of people you have never met that
the validity of some of the questions you ask is obscured.
Apparently, this was all brought on by your discovery that two CD's
sold at a special reduced price contained solely the items
I have no business connection with Altarus, but I have bought quite a
number of their issues over the last decade and am reasonably well
acquainted with their Sorabji recordings. I remember reading at the
time of its issue that Marc-Andre Hamelin's Sorabji CD contained the
only work of Sorabji then in his repertoire (the First Sonata - I
believe he has not added any more Sorabji works since that time, and
learning new ones is a very involved process indeed). Altarus felt it
was important to get this remarkable performance into the public
domain and so recorded Hamelin then released the CD at a special mid
price with stickers alerting potential buyers to the single item and
low running time; I believe the separate Yonty Solomon recording
presented a similar situation (I have seen these CD's in several
outlets and they have always had the "warning" stickers on the jewel
cases). Production costs post-recording will be identical for an 80
second or 80 minute disc, whilst recording costs will certainly not be
reduced linearly in proportion to the running time - for a Sorabji
issue, there will also be very substantial preparation involved. It
therefore appears to me that Altarus, a label which has done far more
than any other to promote the works of Sorabji, has taken a sensible
and honourable course in seeking to publish musically rewarding
versions of his exceptionally difficult music.
I *think* the original CDs were intended to be mid-price, as would befit
their "EP" status. If that is so, the ripping-off is being done not by the
original label, but by the importer/distributor. Either Albany has learned
the lesson well from René Goniff (of Harmonia Mundi USA), or they made a
mistake. If it was a mistake, they should apologize immediately ... and on
"Opera is when a guy gets stabbed in the back and instead of bleeding
he sings." -- Ed Gardner
Matthew B. Tepper du...@deltanet.com CIS: 71031,2415
Visit my Berlioz page! http://www.deltanet.com/users/ducky/index.htm
(1) The one-work CDs by Hamelin, Solomon, and Amato are wonderful.
(2) The CDs are grotesquely overpriced.
To clarify, here are the CDs in question and their playing times:
22'06" Sonata No. 1 - Hamelin
26'51" Le jardin parfume - Y. Solomon
17'54" Fantaisie espagnole - Amato
One can praise Altarus for issuing these CDs, while at the same
time regretting the fact that one must pay about $39 for what is
essentially one CD's worth of music. Like Carlos Kleiber's glorious
but overpriced Beethoven Fifth and Seventh Symphonies, the above
works should be combined and reissued as a single CD. As things
stand, these CDs will sell almost exclusively to those who are
already Sorabji fans.
Mr. Hinton, we're all grateful for your efforts in the name of
Sorabji's music, but the original poster has a point (albeit
rather viciously stated). In the U.S., full-price CDs are
available through CD clubs for approximately $8 each. Even at
Tower Records, mainstream issues top out at $15. Paying $12
or $13 for a CD isn't seen as much of a bargain over here,
especially when such discs are 1/3 the length of a standard CD.
In defense of Altarus, it's hard to fault their *original* plan:
get the music on the market as soon as possible. Their generous
timings on Ogdon's 4-CD set of O.C. shows they aren't vicious
gougers (like Sony with their parsimonious repackaging of Glenn
Gould's recordings). On the other hand, one can hope that Altarus
will take a look around and say, "Hmm, y'know I bet we could sell a
lot more of these guys if we packaged the music more economically."
(I'm going on vacation shortly; please e-mail copies of any
posted replies to ta...@watson.ibm.com. Thanks.)
Todd and Erica make valid points. I do have the Amato, I ordered it at the
same time as the others, but was not irritated by its length so did not
include it in my tirade. I haven't listened to it carefully yet, so I do
not know if Erica is correct about its quality vis-a-vis Hamelin and
Solomon. Hamelin, at least, has a great reputation so I would not be
surprised if she is correct. Erica's point about the danger of equating
length and quality is also a good one. However, the producers of the two
CDs in question must surely have known that they were extremely skimpy, and
I am certain that some interesting filler could have been found for them, or
at least they could have been released together as one CD. FInally, Erica
is 100% correct about the difficulties of recording Sorabji, but Solomon has
made a specialty of Sorabji, and Perfumed Garden is published, I believe.
Surely he has already corrected and worked up several other works. I am
still going to write Altarus and demand A. a refund, and B. that they stop
playing games with collectors.
2) not a ripoff. reviews have pointed out that there are 22 minutes
on the sonata CD, etc.; it is stated company philosophy that time
is not what you are buying, music is; and the disks were not "on sale",
the $12 is what those particular disks cost always. If this were
another company $12 might get you 80 minutes of Beethoven's 5th&
many repetitions of Fur Elise.
If you were lucky, the 5th might be the quartet.
In a better situation I might sympathise, but I really don't.
They're a great company, and this is what's called a "CD single"-
little music, less price, what's there is great (I have the sonata #1
disk and am well pleased, would that Mr. Hamelin would record nos.
2-4 and the symphonies too).
Sorry. I just get annoyed, especially when the info's out there
and you just have to look.
Anyone else bothered by this or am I the only one. Alistair? Erica? Joe?
Dr. Paul Rapoport e-mail: rapo...@mcmaster.ca
SADM (Music) tel: 905 529 7070, ext. 2 4217
McMaster University fax: 905 527 6793
I always like timings. And for newcomers to Sorabji, it is arguably
even more important. Although, unlike the original poster, I don't
think that Altarus is doing it to cheat people. Maybe they think that
it would be less artistic. What can I say, I like numbers.
>I can see the argument that radio stations need the timings in order to
>program properly (of course, if any current classical music station were
>adventurous enough to program material such as Altarus puts out, then it
>would become an issue, as well as being a minor miracle!).
Many non-commercial (i.e. college) radio stations use a database for
searching timings to "fit" listings into tight time slots between split-
second live feeds. If timings are not included on a CD, it must be done
manually, of course. A real pain, and an inconvenience likely to prevent
future consideration of a given label.
Probably a moot point, since non-commercial stations have extremely limited
budgets and are not likely to purchase "boutique" labels.
So Shakespeare's works should be printed without page numbers? Bibles should
have neither toc, nor page numbers, nor concordance?
I truly do not understand how the mere *availability* of track numbers or
timings can distract from or reduce the artistic worth of the performance.
Do you believe that anyone intrepid enough to acquire a recording of Sorabji's
music wold be deterred if he knew how long each movement of each piece was?
By the way, I'm *not* criticizing Altarus for releasing the Sonata #1 by
itself. Somehow I knew it was short by cd (or even lp) standards - I think
I'd read a review which pointed out that the cd was only about 20 minutes.
I'm not thrilled with Altarus standard price - any more than I am that
of Lyrita, Hyperion, or hat Art - but since what I paid at Tower was
substantially reduced from that, I did not feel cheated.
Bruce Recant bre...@worldbank.org
The World Bank
>Speaking as a composer, the very fact that
>such arguments occur fills me with distaste. One is rarely
>informed in advance at concerts that such and such a work will
>play for so many minutes; why should CD liner notes be different?
>Of course there are record companies who believe that their
>products are entirely different from and somehow superior to live
>concerts; there are also those who see the live performance as
>something to strive to capture on CD. Altarus clearly falls into
>the latter group. It is unsurprising, then, that it does not
>supply timings and unnecessary track numbers in its products,
>believing that no useful purpose is served by telling purchasers
>of its CDs any more than concert audience members might expect to
>be told. This is anything but mean-spirited of the company, as a
>glance at any of their elaborately produced liner booklets will
>testify. Those who prefer numbers to music are welcome to rail at
>the absence of timings, etc. As I don't compose by numbers I
>cannot join them. As for the argument that timings are useful for
>the "other purposes" of lecturers, broadcasters, etc., most
>self-respecting members of either profession would check for
>themselves rather than trust to such timings being correct. The
>same goes for index-points; why accept those provided, when, if
>you want to illustrate your own points, you can and should create
I really can't agree with this reasoning. Since CDs can hold from 75-80
minutes of music, one comes to expect that you will get "your money's worth"
when purchasing them. I am quite willing to make exceptions where there
is only one work (especially a new one) which doesn't fill up the whole
disc (though I would suggest that anything less than 50 minutes is being
In my experience, when timings do not appear on a CD that are visible to
the purchaser, this is because the CD is very short (40 minutes or less).
I would suggest that in most cases the reason this timing information is
not supplied is because the company does not want the purchaser to know.
Check out my home page: http://mindlink.net/a4369/mq.html -- Included is
stuff about the X-Files, Beach Boys, Hawaii Five-O, Frank Zappa and more!
COOL! I take a few days off for Christmas and come back to find this
wonderful thread. First off, Alistair, I have a letter from you from back
in about 1975, after I had written KSS begging him to lift his ban on
performance, (I got his address from Rubbra). You told me that he appeared
to be bending, but it was not (then) currently in the cards. I was bitterly
disappointed not to hear from KSS himself, but glad enough to hear
something from anyone, even his "literary executor." Now I have two
missives from you! Also, thanks for the math lesson. To make the obvious
seem profound, I can pick up wonderful Naxos albums for $5, and while I am
not so naive as to think that all CDs should be $5, certainly there is room
for improvement. Next, I ordered these CDs sight unseen though the agency
of the Schwann catalog, so all of the terribly selfrighteous statements
about how I could have seen the stickers are somewhat off base. I had no
way of readily ascertaining what I was getting into, nor did I realize how
old the performances were. I understand other comments about wishing to
rush things into the public eye, but my statements regarding Yonty SOlomon
certainly having something else in his repertory certain are not undermined
by this consideration. ALso, if they are so interested into rushing new
things into the marketplace, why choose "Perfumed Garden" which was already
available from Mr. Habermann.
Also, Mr. Glover, if you wish to accuse me of intemperate language,
I stand guilty as charged. I was angry, I am still angry, and I still
consider the person who made this decision guilty of what Booth Tarkington
would refer to as "criminal economy." I consider it a victory that I didn't
use profanity, which was certainly coursing through my consciousness as the
realization of the ripoff fully dawned upon me. Anyway, if I had the post
to write over again, I probably would have used milder language, but the
fact is that the language I used worked exactly as intended, to draw
attention to my intense irritation. Couching it in mealy mouthed terms as
favored by the delicately natured would not have made my point with the
definiteness I required in the circumstances. Making my point as strongly as
I did was far more likely to bring it to the attention of those whom I
wished to chastise, the powers at Altarus, and if Mr. Hinton's pique is to
be credited, it will probably get to them. Toodle-loo, y'all, and don't
forget to write.
Let me put this another way: I prefer to have information which I can
ignore rather than have to go extra lengths to find information which I
wish to have.
As for CDs reproducing a concert experience, complete with lack of
timings: Alistair, you don't really think that this is logical, do you?!
You may be correct, but are you right? (Sorry, in-joke, for which
Alistair will no doubt hurl torrents of Sorabjian indignation at me...)
To switch tracks (sorry!) for a moment, Altarus also issued Ronald
Stevenson's incomparable Passacaglia, an 80-minute single-span movement
for piano, with no tracks at all (other than the de facto one necessitated
by changing from disc 1 to disc 2!). This makes finding certain passages
without a score next to impossible. The existence of tracks does not
demean a recording but is part of the way the producer perceives the
production and the way the listener may, if she so wishes, use it. The
main thrust of this is, while I respect Altarus's unique wish to operate
this way, it does not help the end-user.
I wish also, lest there be any confusion, to dissociate myself from any
sentiment that Altarus's lack of timings are an attempt to hide in the
sense of cheat. The lack of timings etc. is a kind of artistic statement.
Anyone who thinks there is any attempt at deception from Altarus is
gravely misled. Marc-Andre' Hamelin's Sorabji Sonata No. 1 was issued as
a single at a lower price, with a notice that it was a short CD. Enough
Many years ago, when it started up, BIS records put the essential
information about the pieces on the inside of its LP cases, i.e. not on
the outside of the covers. I pointed out to BIS's owner that this made an
impossible situation in North America, where everything was
shrink-wrapped. Browsers could never tell what was on an LP! At first
Robert von Bahr did not comprehend, because in most European stores you
could take the LP out of its rack, go to the inside (i.e. between the
covers), and read the contents. He was adamant that he would not change
the way he did things, but eventually he came around. For good reason,
Now, I am not perfect, and I claim no great experience as a recordings
producer. But I merely hope that Altarus comes around on the matter of
timings and tracks.
But in any case, this company is supremely important for its issues of
piano music. That is the main thing, against which the timings discussion
(which I started) must be measured!