alan little’s weblog

currently listening to …

19th March 2004 permanent link

… a 1996 recording of Beethoven’s 4th and 6th (“Pastoral”) symphonies by my Bro (er, and some other people such as Charles Mackerras and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra). My brother (did I mention he’s in it?) gave me this CD as a present a few years ago; I listened to it a couple of times but it didn’t really sink in just how good it is until I came back to it recently.

Everybody should rush out and buy it, and not (unfortunately) as a way of giving money to my brother - as far as I know as a freelancer he only gets his session fee and no royalties. Not that most musicians make any money from royalties on recordings anyway. No, everybody should buy it anyway, because it’s (a) really good and (b) now available as part of an absurdly cheap complete set. I’ve written before about how good the Liverpool Phil. was in the mid-90s. It might still be, for all I know.

Don’t just take my word for how good this recording is - see what the reviewers on amazon think, or ask the guys on

According to this website (look under “discography”) there are 368 recorded versions of Beethoven’s 3rd Symphony, the Eroica. That’s different recordings, not counting reissues of the same recording. Why bother recording any more, one might – and I sometimes do – ask? Particularly when most of the recordings that are commonly cited as *the* truly great ones are forty, fifty or more years old. Well, in the case of the Eroica there are a couple of quite recent recordings that are often mentioned as being up there with the historical greats – Norrington / South West German Radio Symphony Orchestra(*) 2002 and Savall / Le Concert des Nations 1994.

There probably aren’t quite as many recordings of the Pastoral as there are of the Eroica, but the number must still be well into three figures. And yet if you look at the usenet thread I linked to above, you will see people with very large record collections saying that this 1996 version by my bro (and others) is right up there. Wheher those judgements will last only time will tell, but this does show that the existence of large numbers of great recordings already doesn’t make it impossible to produce another one – it just raises the bar for how good you have to be for anybody to sit up and take notice. Which is not a bad thing. (Whether having a small and aging group of hard core enthusiasts sit up and take notice actually equates to having a significant number of people buy your CD is another question)

(*) Hmm. An old acquaintance of mine from Manchester just started a one year contract with the South West German Radio Symphony Orchestra. Looks like a trip to Stuttgart might be in order some time in the next year.

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