But on the other hand….

Last week I cited an example of why I find most interactions of the fannish variety maddening anymore, and thus I don’t bother. Fairness would seem to dictate that I give a rare good example, so here’s something written by a fellow named Nicolai Zwar, whom I know from way back in the days of Usenet! He and I didn’t agree across the board, but his opinions were always worth hearing, because they were usually sensible.

Here he is responding to someone who has opined that they only need to own one version of a given musical work.

[This is a quote to which Nicolai is replying.] David told me the following in 1971: ” With film scores you buy the (one) record, or you don’t. With classical a music piece might have 50 records of the same music opus. I only buy one good, solid performance of the music, I don’t want the other 49 records. I want different records in my collection, not duplicates of the same music.”

A perfectly acceptable practice.

[Nicolai’s words now] Sure, to each its own.

It’s far removed from my listening habits though. If the music has any worth or interest to begin with, it should also be worth to be recorded and performed.

For me, it is about the music, and it is NOT about any given recording of the music. Music is a breathing, living, fluctuating thing.

I don’t like my listening experience of Brahms, Beethoven or Stravinsky to be caged into a single recording. That’s like saying you won’t ever see another version of HAMLET because you have already seen a good one. In case of Beethoven, for example, two of my favorite recordings of the sixth symphony are MILES apart in interpretation. I would not part with either, and I do have several more.

I recently picked up the Salonen recording of Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du printemps… even though I already own several recordings of that piece. Still, when I listened to that, it sounded all fresh and unexpected again.

A musical score is like a play. The written notes are there to be performed. Just because it has been performed very well before does not mean it should not be performed again. Great actors and great directors can do great things with a great play just like great conductors and great orchestras can do great things with a great score. And often, the resulting performances (of either play or score) differ considerably. For me, that is part of the enjoyment of listening to a new recording of a score I already know.

Now I will grant that not all film scores necessarily possess the substance to require several interpretations; lots of it is first and foremost “functional” music, but in case of Rozsa, I’d say: hell, I am very happy if at least some of his works exist in more that one version. They are that good.

Owning multiple recordings of works has never struck me as an odd thing. It’s not just for classical lovers, either; why do so many live concert recordings of various artists exist? Why would you want to hear a concert album of the Beatles, when you already have Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band? This explains it all.

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