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Re: GG & the Penguin (not Burgess Meredith)

On Mon, 28 Apr 1997, Robert Kunath wrote:

> 	Oh, the Penguin Guide!
> On the whole, I think the editors have wide and
> enthusiastic tastes, and the Guide is unbeatable reading at about 1:30
> a.m. when my brain isn't up to the challenge of anything longer than 300
> words.  But the editors do have what seem to me to be discernible biases
> rooted in their English nationality, a bias often on display in
> _Gramophone_ Magazine, for which the editors of the Penguin Guide do (or
> did) write.  Their love and understanding of the English music scene is
> immense, and I have learned a lot from it (their recommendations for
> Beecham performances are dead on); their views about North American
> performers, by contrast, sometimes seem tinged by a stereotypical view of
> American "shallowness" or "showiness," and a tendency to regard US
> orchestras as exemplars of "soulless perfection."  I am happy to say that
> Gould saw exactly this tendency in the English reviewers--check out his
> superb pastiche "Phonograph" (i.e. _Gramophone_) review of his recording
> of the Liszt arrangement of the Beethoven Symphony No. 5.  The reviews of
> Gould in the Penguin Guide are one of the things that I find irritating:
> they sound stuffy and schoolmasterish ("tiresome vocalise," "far too
> mannered to merit a general recommendation," etc.).

Personally, I enjoy reading the Penguin whenever I want to see how
opinions worthy of "The Idea of South Pole" (remote, cold, provincial) go
up against recordings which I already like.  It's even farther out there
than the Gramophone, and sometimes so polarized from my own opinions that
it becomes funny.  Are their ears frozen, or just their hearts?  Rosettes
are generally for the birds.  (No offense intended to residents of either
Antarctica or England, or to birds.  I just happen to disagree with almost
everything I see the Penguin likes.)

> One does wish that we could hear a
> few parochial North American voices, though: quite a lot of the classical
> music commentary is produced by the English (Gramphone, BBC Music, Classic
> CD, HiFi News and Review are all English, I believe).  It really shouldn't
> be so hard for them to include a reasonable number of North Americans on
> their reviewing staff, especially given that we do buy a significant
> percentage of their magazines.  But at least one stereotype of Americans
> seems to be true: we're more than willing to pay to be patronized!

If you want parochial North American voices (but not necessarily
provincial), sometimes at least as patronizing as their counterparts in
Penguophone, but clearly knowledgeable, crack open an American Record
Guide (currently my favorite review journal).  The writers are generally
more opinionated than those of Fanfare.  I think it's better to keep ARG
and the Penguin separate, because each has its own niche and profile.  ARG
seems to give fair assessments of GG, too: a healthy respect for his
convictions, if not always agreeing with the results. 

Bradley Lehman, bpl@umich.edu       http://www-personal.umich.edu/~bpl/