Creating AYICM: Reading Music Criticism

So many more composers were active in any given year than just the famous ones.  It didn’t take me long to abandon a completist conception for A Year in Classical Music.  Even in the early 1800s or late 1700s when there were far fewer active composers (given the much smaller world population), there’s no way for me to cover everyone.  No way to even come close.  So in this phase of creating the shows I narrow the works list I’ve compiled down to those pieces of which I can find critically acclaimed recordings.  I consult the Gramophone and Penguin guides to classical recordings, as well as the Third Ear guide and Jim Svejda’s The Insider’s Guide to Classical Recordings.  I look around on amazon.com, arkivmusic.com, and the different dowload sites too, though — occasionally I find a review written by a customer of one of these sites that’s more helpful than those by the professional critics.  Very often there’s more than one highly regarded recording of a piece, and consulting these many sources of music criticism helps me choose between them.  When different critics with different tastes and backgrounds are unanimous in their praise of certain recordings, those are the obvious ones to focus on.  Still, though, reading music criticism typically only narrows the choices down to three or four recordings.  I listen to all of them and decide which one I like best.  In a sense, then, creating A Year in Classical Music is a way for me to try to make a living listening to classical music.  Here’s hoping!  If I can make a career out of it, then by a few decades from now there won’t be much I haven’t heard.  I think that to come as close as you can to listening to all the great classical recordings before you die is a good purpose in life.

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