With all the hand-wringing about the decline of the classical recording industry, it’s a pleasure to note that many radio stations, sound archives, and orchestras are offering free online broadcasts. (Usually the bitrate is low, the sound is compressed, and you can hear digital artifacts, but beggars can’t be choosers.) Just in the last few days, some treasures have come across our screens.
First: in a tribute to Paavo Berglund, who died a few weeks ago, Finnish journalist Vesa Siren wrote about the maestro’s last concert, with the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France in 2007 (relying on Google Translate here):
Jean Sibelius’s Fourth Symphony has never sounded more beautiful. “That’s pretty perfect,” Berglund said listening to the recording. “In general, it is so clear and quite bright.” It was the most beautiful possible ending to a 60 year conducting career. To a perfectionist, it was for once complete satisfaction.
Now France Musique has done the sensible thing and re-broadcast the concert; you can hear it online for a couple more weeks here.
Second, the CBC has started posting video and audio clips from their extensive Glenn Gould collections, in conjunction with his upcoming 80th birthday (he died in 1982). These aren’t just performance tapes; for those not steeped in Gouldian lore, the pianist also created many marvelous documentaries for radio and television. (Not all are about music.) For some, such as “The Idea of North,” “Latecomers,” and “The Quiet in the Land,” he devised a technique he called “contrapuntal radio,” with multiple voices speaking in a conceptual fugue.
Some of Gould’s most famous radio documentaries are finally available for the first time, such as “The Prospects of Recording” and “The Bourgeois Hero” (on Richard Strauss). There’s also Gould’s lengthy interview with Gertrud Schoenberg (the composer’s wife). Videos include his bizarre yet earnest performance of Bach’s Cantata No. 54 with Russell Oberlin and the “harpsipiano”; Prokofiev’s Seventh Sonata; his renowned appearance with Yehudi Menuhin; and, of course, “So You Want to Write a Fugue?”
The CBC promises to post new clips each month. Hopefully they’ll post the other Schoenberg documentaries–Gould was always an eloquent advocate of this music–and “The Search for Petula Clark,” where Gould analyzed the tonal language of pop music and the class politics of surburbanizing Canada by looking at the singer of “Downtown” (and taking a few swipes at the Beatles).