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Pauline Lerner

Musical Black Friday

December 11, 2008 at 5:00 AM

The day after Thanksgiving, called Black Friday, is the biggest shopping day of the year in the U.S.  This year, I read that the biggest price wars this holiday season would be online.  To me, that means one thing: buying CDs / mp3s on I logged on to and saw a big black box with white letters that said "Black Friday." Their catalog was broken down into categories for browsing, and I clicked first, under genre, classical, and then, under price, the lowest option ($6.99 and under). Here I found my first real bargain:  The Nutcracker Suite and Excerpts from Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty, for only USD $2.90. This put me in the mood for Russian Romantics, and I was happy when I saw Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition. The CD cover looked very familiar, so I looked through my own CDs, and there it was. I went back to my online search and found another Russian Romantic album, Scherezade, Capriccio Espagnole, Russian Easter Overture. I love it. I grew up listening to these pieces and even played some of them. The community orchestra I was in during my high school years played Scherezade. The concertmaster, who was my violin teacher, played the solo violin parts in this piece, so I have a strong emotional connection with the music. I rarely hear any of the pieces on this recording now. I think classical music has fashions which come and go, just like clothing.

I've recently become interested in chamber music, not just string quartets, but other combinations of instruments, too.  I've discovered that I love chamber music by Brahms. I found a recording called Brahms: Cello Sonatas, played by Jacqueline du Pre and Daniel Barenboim. It was remastered from a recording made long ago, when they were both young, attractive, talented, active, and romantic. The marriage of “Jackie” and “Danny” was awesome to classical music lovers. I found this recording of cello sonatas awesome, too.

Now for something different: I wandered into the section of jazz recordings. I've always liked Miles Davis, so I explored some of his recordings. I already have one of his “definitive” recordings -- Kind of Blue. I found another one, Blue Moods, which I liked much better. The last track, Easy Living, sounded quite well suited for the violin. That’s strange. I never thought that the trumpet and the violin have similar voices. I searched youtube for a performance of this piece on the violin, but I didn't find any. Every time I listen to this piece, I react the same way. I can hear it in my head as a violin piece. I'm going to try playing along with my violin and see how it goes. I hesitated before buying this because the whole recording is only 27 minutes long. I read some of the customer reviews, and they said that the music was so good that it was a good buy even though it’s short. I heartily agree.

For years, I didn’t like Glenn Gould, and I realized that I was probably the only one in the world who felt that way. Now I decided to listen to him play Bach again. Wow! He was fantastic. I listened to him play Bach's The Art of Fugue, Fugues 1-9. Bach never finished this work, but he left sketches of it which have been arranged and played by many soloists and ensembles. The version that I have been listening to is by the Juilliard String Quartet (Bach – Die Kunst Der Fuge, Vol. 1) and it is vastly different from Glenn Gould’s version, which is comparatively light and happy. It sounds to me as though it has wide open spaces with sunlight shining through. I decided to investigate Glenn Gould more. I found "Glenn Gould, Bach Partitas 1-3 and listened. It was like nothing I’ve ever heard before. Hilary Hahn has said that Bach, more than any other composer, leaves room for the performer(s) to put something uniquely personal into the music. I think this is the best way to describe Glenn Gould’s performance. It is like nothing else.

My great musical splurge on Black Friday cost me a little less than $40 and brought me priceless music, which I can listen to over and over again. I think that’s a splendid deal.

From Jodi B
Posted on December 11, 2008 at 1:19 PM

Good for you! I love a great bargain... especially music. I need to finish my shopping this weekend; but we need a tree first, we donated ours before we moved :)

Keep looking for those deals!


From Anne Horvath
Posted on December 11, 2008 at 5:43 PM

I just bought the Grumiaux/Veyrun-Lacroix Op. 1 Handel Sonatas, at Arkivmusic.  Yeah!

From Pauline Lerner
Posted on December 11, 2008 at 11:09 PM

Anne, that sounds like a good one.  I've got Rampal and Veyron-Lacroix playing Bach, and those two are a great team of musicians.  I have to check out Grumiaux and Veyron-Lacroix.

From Anne Horvath
Posted on December 12, 2008 at 2:45 AM

Pauline, I also have Juilliard's Art of the Fugue, and it is amazing.  I also have tons of Gould.  Wow.  He was unique, and his Bach is unbelievably good.  

I have many Grumiaux CDs, but I didn't have the Handel.  I do have the Rachel Barton-Pine/David Schrader/John Mark Rozendaal Handel sonatas, and it is very nice.  I hadn't bought any CDs this fall, which is a first, because I decided to spend time listening to the ones I already own (insert smiley face here).

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