Online Journal

We are pleased to publish your letters, but cannot include readers' email addresses since this can lead to problems of privacy. All letters should be addressed to me, John Woodford, at [email protected]. In association with Oxford University Press, we are pleased to give away ‘The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Music’ (4th Edition, Michael Kennedy) for each month’s most interesting letter. This valuable resource should be on any musician’s reference shelves.

From Carolyn Fairhaven, Winnipeg, Canada.
I came across the pages of your journal by mistake, but downloaded everything and have sent the pages on to many of my musician friends over here in Canada and the States. What I like about your magazine is that it is easy to use. We also think that the database is an excellent idea and hope that you will consider doing something similar elsewhere. Music here in Canada is, as you English might say, a funny old thing! (No we don't - Ed.) Standards are probably the same as elsewhere, but because many of the provinces are sparsely populated, many people don't get to hear live music. As a piano teacher, I am often lent new recordings that my students have bought from the local record dealers. Often, these have titles such as Tranquility and Cool, but we shouldn't knock them as they have quite an important role. They are introducing people to music they might never otherwise hear. Let's not be too cynical - they might be the record producers' attempt to 'cash in' on the classical market, but they still have a function.

I agree, and we shall see in a future edition a review of a compilation CD from Nimbus which looks precisely at the educational value of such information. In the meantime, the editorial committee would like you to accept a copy of The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Music as a prize for a thought-provoking observation. JW

From Edward Johnson, The Leopold Stokowski Society
I was pleased to see a copy of Jonathan Oshry’s review of the recent Cala CD of Bach-Stokowski Transcriptions ( i, July, 2000). However, to state that Stokowski was “otherwise known as Cockney-born Leonard Stokes” spoils an otherwise excellent piece. It was long ago shown that Stokowski was his real name; the long-discredited “Stokes” legend can be traced back to the time Stokowski appeared in Hollywood films, doubtless being the work of someone from the intelligentsia who thought that he was demeaning himself by starring alongside Deanna Durbin and Mickey Mouse. The facts, however, were readily available and his birth certificates, and indeed those of other members of his family, show Stokowski to have been his genuine name. On the other hand, no-one has come up with any authentic document to verify the “Stokes” nonsense.

Point taken! Mr Johnson has indeed supplied photocopies of Stokowski’s birth certificate, as well as that of his father and the admissions entry for the thirteen year old Leopold Stokowski to the Royal College of Music. It seems, however, that Stokowski liked to shroud himself with an air of mystery; his mid-European accent, so evident from his film appearances, and his denial of his English birth, are somewhat intriguing. Nevertheless, it is not the man but the music that is here important. Stokowski was one of the all-time-great conductors and would that there were others like him still around; even discs made in his later life show a masterful handling of the orchestra and interpretation of very diverse music. Readers are recommended a further disc from Cala, Stokowski: A French Concert (CACD 0525) which contains one of the most exciting performances of Olivier Messiaen’s L’Ascension I have heard. It might not quite fit into the Catholic vein that we are so used to hearing in performance, but is nevertheless powerful and imaginative. JW

From Dave Putson, East Yorkshire.
I would say from your editorial that you just about got it right - even the Tomorrow's World Music for the Future show was awful tripe! Without seeming to be too critical, few musicians in the UK have targets of excellence. I spent my student years in the USA where everyone competes; there's little messing around and even High School musicians are quite excellent, regardless of whether they are playing jazz or classical. There is a more open approach to music and performance, and one reason for my decision to study in the States was the excessive emphasis here on talking rather than doing music - it's about the fun of playing, not about trying to impress people with what you know about musicians. I may not approve of Carl Orff and his right-wing political views, but Carmina Burana is still a "piece of work!" Lets play it.

From Richard Barton, Norfolk.
I am not sure that your review of Hyperion's new recording of Sebastian Knüpfer's is correct. I bought this CD on your recommendation and found the singing to be, to use your words, "wholly inappropriate." Surely, Knüpfer, like Bach would have used boys for his top line; students at the St Thomas School would surely have provided that, with women used only for larger presentations. I am also concerned that you write "blend is not an important issue, even though its sound at times contrasts violently with this country's preferred (and wholly inappropriate) English cathedral tradition." English cathedral choirs provide a uniquely clean top line that is the envy of the ecclesiastical world and as such is the most fitting sound for contrapuntal music.

Whether English cathedral choirs are good or not is not an issue, since what I discussed was written in a different country, tradition and time. That the King’s Consort uses women for its soprano line is perhaps historically inaccurate, but then again, so is the use of modern instruments in some ensemble performances of Baroque music. Where do we stop? Perhaps we shouldn’t make CDs of this music at all, since in Bach’s day the only method of recording it was on paper. We certainly don’t listen to this music with seventeenth-century ears, and the comfort of our front rooms is very different from the seat-less nave of the Thomaskirche! Let’s not get too bogged sown with details—I enjoyed this recording and found the lack of blend in the choir to be individual and not ugly as you seem to imply. JW

From Rebekah Knight, Chester.
Many thanks for the online journal - it looks good and I feel that it is valuable to not only professional musicians, but also to schoolteachers, music lovers and amateurs like myself. I am not certain if your somewhat acidic comments in the editorial are fair, since I was involved in a major event during the BBC's Music 24 occasion. The quartet I play for took part in a large-scale performance of art music that was organized locally. None of the players were professional, but the standard was good and the event well attended. Importantly, there was a sense that what we were doing was well worth the effort - promotion of classical music is important at any level. I hope that are not going to join the ranks of musical snobs that write for the established rags; what you have produced has a fresh feel. Don't destroy it.

We are primarily a journal for professional musicians and teachers, and feel that someone needs to speak out on behalf of the mediocrity that pervades our profession. Obviously, this does not include amateurs, even though they form an important part of English musical culture. However, we cannot condone the dumbing-down of the profession. Highly trained musicians across the globe are, for want of a better word, prostituting their talents just to put food on the table. Many rely on record producers, some of whom are musically illiterate and have no real wish to promote art music-for them it is nothing other than a means of becoming rich quickly. This is not what the graduates of music colleges worked for, and it is unfair to push those who are students into a profession devoid of standards. Performing music is exciting at whatever level, whether it be as amateurs or professionals-let's not make it a drag! JW

From Peter Kennedy, London.
Many years ago, I attended the Royal College of Music as a piano student. After this I decided to change tack, and became a copy writer for a large advertising agency. I decided to do this because I'd had enough of music and wanted to do it for pleasure rather than a living. I also think I wasn't very good! Nevertheless, I have kept my interest in music, and have built up a large collection of CDs of (as you call it) art music and jazz. Do you have any plans to review music that is other than mainstream classical? I would love to read reviews of new music and jazz. If it is well played, there is even a place for reviewing rock music. I would like to see a balance here that publications like the BBC Music Magazine lack.

At the moment, we are small fry and despite the interest and belief in our product from the smaller recording houses, some of the larger companies, which generally produce rock and jazz labels, seem to be not very interested in submitting things for review. Some have even said that they want nothing to do with the Internet because what is produced is generally amateurish and of little value - in time, they might come to realise that for many people it is a valuable communications tool. Web publishing is in its infancy and we are breaking new ground in its development. Let's hope they see its potential soon - you never know, we might then be able to expand our reviews section. JW

From Danielle Scheck, London.
In last month's issue, I was interested to read comments from your music critics, but I am often wary of such so-called musicians who too often prove to be musically ignorant and gleefully spend their time destroying good performances and well-written literature. What is's policy regarding the choice of critics - how can I believe that your reviewers are writing fairly about CDs and books?

I don't like the word 'critic,' since this immediately suggests invective and our editorial team find this terminology negative. Instead, we prefer 'reviewer.' I cannot guarantee that everyone who writes for the journal is writing fairly, and I am not prepared to question them since they are chosen for their particular knowledge and skills, and I can guarantee that they are all specialists in their particular fields. They are entitled to an opinion, but we require that they focus on a work's merits rather than its weaknesses. Everything has its problems and although it is the reviewer's job to highlight these, we do not believe in wanton sadism. As for our choice of reviewer, we have a policy that only experienced musicians, academics and teachers of standing should write for our pages - we have standards and are careful that each are suitably qualified. Overall, you are reading value judgements. Although these are nothing other than personal opinions, they are a good guideline for people who are looking for new musical resources. I shall forward to you a copy of our in-house policy for reviewing. JW

From Siobhan Knight, Carlisle.
Help! I remember that several years ago a television advert for a car had an amazingly eerie soundtrack which was Baroque and written in the same vein as the opening of Pergolesi's Stabat Mater. If I remember correctly, a choir sang it to a single vocal syllable. I cannot remember the make of car, but the bass was conjunct, in quavers, with two-part suspensions in minims in the treble. It was also in a minor key. Sorry I cannot be much more help than that, but perhaps one of your Online Journal readers will remember it and will be able to tell me what it was-it would be a very useful for my music appreciation sessions. Many thanks to your readers in advance.

This is a good one! Answers would be gratefully received from any reader who might remember this. Please feel free to use the pages of our Online Journal for any of your queries - it is here for your benefit. JW

From Simon Kemp, Oxfordshire
I wanted to say you have a great magazine. There is not much out there for teachers or people in this 'area' of the business so it is really appreciated. All of the content was superb. Keep it up.

Many thanks, Simon, for the vote of confidence. As things progress, we are certain that we will be able to bring you more articles, news and reviews. In the meantime, the editorial board are interested in articles on any matter to do with music being submitted. These can be of any length, but if you are thinking of writing one especially for this journal, it might be wise to contact me first at [email protected]. Articles, which can be of any length, should be sent in either rich text or Microsoft Word format and should also be double spaced. It would be useful to know something about the contributor, so please include a few lines of biography as well as (if possible) as scanned photograph. Hard copies of articles or accompanying musical examples, photos, etc., can be sent to the office at the following address:

John Woodford
Submissions Editor
PO Box 32
M21 8YT

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