Sometimes I forget to do this, and then I wonder why: When a guest conductor, musician or group is coming to town, I like to go fishing for recordings. And I get a lot more bites than you might think.
A lot has been written about a crisis in classical music recording, with fewer and fewer orchestras having recording contracts with major labels, discs being harder to move, etc. That’s one end. On the other hand, with the use of less-expensive digital recording technology available and wider distribution than previously imagined, it seems there’s more music available from more artists than ever before.
Take the Lexington Philharmonic’s lineup.
This year, there aren’t any blockbuster soloists or conductors on the schedule. But we have heard performances from people we’d like to hear more of.
Last week, after talking to guest conductor Alexander Platt, who led Friday night’s concert, I came back to the office and popped his name into Napster; sure enough, two albums popped up.
The first was the world premiere recording of Robert Kurka’s opera The Good Soldier Schweik, and what a find. The recording with the Chicago Opera Theatre, which Platt directs, is clearly sung, buoyantly conducted and entertaining. It made me want to see the show, although I also think I got a great sense of the show from the disc.
The other disc paired Platt with two other past Lexington visitors: violinist Rachel Barton Pine, who opened the Phil’s 2003-04 season, and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, which played the Singletary Center’s concert series in 1999. Its Scottish Fantasies for Violin and Orchestra turned out to be a lovely disc of music by Max Bruch, Pablo de Sarasate and others.
If you liked piano soloist Natasha Paremski’s Ludwig van Beethoven work on Friday night, you might want to check out her 2003 Frederic Chopin disc with the Moscow Philharmonic and conductor Dmitry Yablonsky.
Three of the Philharmonic’s other soloists this season also have discs for sale. Pianist John Nakamatsu, who opened the season with a dazzling performance of Johannes Brahms’ First Piano Concerto, has eight discs out, from a CD of his award-winning performance at the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition to relatively new concertos by Lukas Foss, to a recent disc of George Gershwin. You can find several CDs by October’s soloist, Pablo Sainz Villegas, on his Web site.
And if you are looking ahead, February’s piano soloist, Sara Buechner, has a number of discs out, including a new one of music for piano and violin by Rudolf Friml. You can find Buechner's discography at her site.
(An aside: If you are a performing and/or recording artist today, you should have a Web site. It might seem a bit arrogant if you’re just starting out, but for many reasons, including dealing with presenters and journalists and giving potential fans a place to go, having a Web site just makes good sense.)
Recordings also are good ways to reconnect with folks who have moved on. Violinist Nathan Cole, now with the Chicago Symphony, just released a terrific solo CD, Rapid Approach. Earlier this month, I found UK graduate Gregory Turay’s performance in the San Francisco Opera’s Merry Widow on DVD. And if you couldn’t get to Washington Opera to see Turay in William Bolcom’s A View From the Bridge, you can at least buy the CD.
I could go on, but suffice to say, if you see an artist you like or want to check one out before you buy a ticket, there’s a good chance you can find him or her on CD.
And this being the season that it is, if you’ve shared a great concert experience with someone recently, a CD of the artist’s work could make a lovely holiday gift.