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November 2022

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Hear It Again, Sam
Roger Skoff writes about joys perhaps forgotten.
Article By Roger Skoff


Hear It Again, Sam Roger Skoff writes about joys perhaps forgotten.


  When my daughter was growing up, we used to play a game called "Call it". The rules were simple: When a piece of classical music was on the radio or being played on the system, I would say "Call it", and she would try to tell me as much as she could about what she was hearing. That could be just about anything, but the closer she got to completely identifying the music, the more "points" she got.

For example, she could get points for as little as just knowing that what was playing was a concerto simple enough, if there's a soloist playing with an orchestra that's either continuously in the background or ready to come in after a cadenza. Or she could get them for knowing that a small group of instruments playing together was chamber music.

The most points of all, of course, came when she successfully identified a particular performance of a particular piece of music by a particular player or conductor with a particular orchestra, but just knowing any part of that was worthwhile: If, for example, the music was Anne-Sophie Mutter playing the Beethoven violin concerto, Opus 61, with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Herbert von Karajan, and she nailed it, getting everything right, that was as good as it could get.

But even if she couldn't call all of it, just knowing that it was the Beethoven concerto or even just recognizing the music as by Beethoven or, if not even that, just being able to tell that it was a concerto, or that it was from the early 19th century, or written by a German composer, would still earn points for her, give her something to be proud of, and pique her interest in hearing more music and learning more about it.



That meant that I did a lot of radio listening, too, and bought a lot of records. Some were for her to learn about or just to refresh my own memory. Some were bought because of my very eclectic musical tastes (classical, popular, ethnic, and practically anything else); some were bought just because they were great-sounding (as a deeply hooked audiophile, I would listen to anything at all if it sounded good); and, of course, once I got into the industry, some were bought because they were like Jazz at the Pawnshop, Cantate Domino, Dark Side of the Moon, and so many others that came along from time to time that year's ubiquitous and necessary show-off piece to use in impressing audiophiles and dealers at CES and other Shows.



The result of all that is that, over the decades, I've accumulated a lot of LP records and a lot of CDs, and not surprisingly at all, I haven't heard most of them for years.

What is surprising is the number of both of those kinds of recordings that I've never heard at all. Apparently, I bought them or had them given to me for some reason, but never got around to actually listening to them.

All that is in the process of changing, though. I'm going through my libraries of both kinds of records at random and listening to everything with the only condition being that it must be something that I either haven't heard recently or have never heard at all.

Wow! Did you know that Albrechtsberger had written a Concerto for Jew's Harp, Mandora, and Orchestra? I have it and it's great, and I had forgotten about it entirely! I also have as many as a dozen of each recordings of Vivaldi's The Four Seasons, Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade, and the Shostakovich 15th Symphony each identical in the notes written, and each unique and enjoyable in the way the conductor interprets the music and the orchestra performs it.



I have everything ever recorded by Radu Lupu (IMHO, the greatest classical pianist ever) and The Complete 1950s Bach recordings on Archiv [ARCHIV 77 013-2] of Ralph Kirkpatrick he being, also IMHO, the greatest harpsichordist ever. (Hear his performance of Bach's fifth Brandenburg Concerto and you'll see what I mean).

And my collection is certainly not all classical, either. Picking at random, I also have Music From The Morning Of The World [Elektra/Nonesuch 9 79196-2], which is Balinese Gamelan music. There's also American, Greek. Russian, and Bulgarian folk music, lots of Mexican "rancheras" (I'm a great Lola Beltran fan), most of Pink Floyd, The Beatles, and Yello, lots of Country and Western (I'm also a big Ricky Skaggs and Randy Travis fan), and there's even some gospel music the Staples Singers and the few but classic songs of The Reverend Mister and Mrs. Joseph W. Brooks, for example.



And it's not even all good: There are, thankfully, not all that many, but more than a few recordings in the racks and on the shelves that, whether for their sound quality, their performance, or even their music, itself, were simply a mistake, and which I should never have bought.  Even among those, though, are some that I've come to be pleased with: There's one performance of Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue, for example (I won't name it here, but write to me if you want to know), that, even though it's on a major label, is so appallingly bad, amateurish, and idiosyncratic in its near-total disregard of the intent of the composer that, like certain truly awful movies, it has become for me endearing and, in its own way, a classic.

Try it yourself. Go back to your record collection and just start listening. Do it in whatever order you choose, or in no order at all. Listen to all the things that you bought because you loved them, or the albums that you bought because you heard one song and, while you nearly wore that one out, you've never heard any of the others at all. Listen to all the great stuff that you don't even remember buying.

Sit down, and put on something you haven't heard for a long time or maybe even ever. Close your eyes, relax and....


Enjoy the music!

Roger Skoff















































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