Hewett, I. (2019) Recordings. In: Brahms in Context. Composers in Context . Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 357-366. ISBN 9781107163416 (hardback) 9781316681374 (e-book)


The recorded legacy of any composer reckoned to be canonical presents an interesting and revealing set of historical tensions. It has its own narrative, which unfolds in a complicated counterpoint with the story of the performing tradition(s) revealed in live performance. This double narrative is inflected by the changing view of the composer within academe, particularly in matters of performance practice, but not only that. Complicating the picture still further is the stubborn material persistence of the recorded medium itself. Live performances vanish the moment they are over, but LPs and CDs hang around for decades on music-lovers’ shelves, enforcing a loyalty to older ways of thinking and feeling, in critics as much as in ordinary listeners. This means that journals which offer critical reviews of recordings, particularly those aimed at musically sophisticated enthusiasts, are peculiarly revealing.

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