Six Records from my Collection

Six Records from my Collection
Sean Gabb
25th August 2017

Earlier today, I sent out a defence of freedom of speech. That discharges my duty for the moment as a libertarian. So now to something completely different.

When I was a boy, we had a large house but very little money to improve or maintain it. No central heating. At least a strong moral pressure for baths to be cold. And my bedroom had no electricity. Since I’ve always been obsessed by music, my solution to this problem was to go off, when I was twelve, to the local street market and buy an acoustic gramophone – an HMV Model 102 from about 1925. For the next few years, until I discovered how to run a spur from the nearest ring main, I collected hundreds of gramophone records, most from before the second world war, some from the nineteenth century. And I would sit, shivering and wrapped in a blanket, listening to the treasures they contained. Continue reading

Thoughts on the Schubert Piano Sonata in B flat major, D.960

Thoughts on the Schubert Piano Sonata in B flat major, D.960
By Richard Blake
(1st May 2016)

If I add up the hours I have spent listening to music and the hours spent doing anything else, the list of my published works gives an unbalanced view of my interests. Even when I am not listening to music, there is something playing in my head. There is music playing in my dreams. Every memory in over half a century of life is associated with some piece of music. I first noticed the obsession when I was five, and I walked into a room in my grandmother’s house where the wireless was playing the Blue Danube. Somehow, I already knew the piece, as I could recognise where the A major introduction was heading. I felt pleased with myself when the principal waltz theme confirmed that I was right. I now realise that, as I sat on the floor and listened to the whole piece, I was totally and hopelessly lost. Continue reading

David Bowie Dead

David Bowie is dead. The announcer on Radio 3 was almost sobbing yesterday morning when he broke the news. It filled up half of all the television news yesterday, and is on the front page of all the newspapers today.

I have never knowingly listened to any of his music. I paid no detailed attention to the television and newspaper outpourings of grief. But I am curious. Do his achievements justify so much coverage? Was he a great musical genius? Or was he, like everyone else praised by the modern arbiters of taste in this country, somewhere between the mediocre and the piffling? Was he the musical equivalent of Carol Ann Duffy and Lucian Freud? Or have I spent all these years ignoring something wonderful?

Ferdinand Ries, Piano Concerto No.5 in D. op.120

Update: I’ve had an idle few evenings, and have spent them listening to the various items on the hard disk of my notebook computer. I wholly agree with what I said three years ago about Ferdinand Ries. His PC in D op 120 is both grand and lyrical. I now know a great deal more than I did about the contemporaries of LvB, and am glad of my greater knowledge. SIG

PS – The YouTube video to which I linked has been removed. Here instead is a sample. Worth buying, I suggest.

Until recently, one of the shortcomings of the market in recorded music was that a buyer could be led into believing that the great composers were the only composers of their age. Of course, Beethoven wasn’t the only composer in Vienna during the first twenty years of the nineteenth symphony. He was the head of one school among several, and his own students were often men of reputation. Until recently, though, men like Ferdinand Ries were often just names. This is a pity. He’s no Beethoven, but his works are generally graceful and well-constructed. Here is the first movement of his Piano Concerto No.5 in D, op.120.

Product Review: Jongo A2 Bluetooth/Wifi Adaptor for Music System

Pure Jongo A2 Wireless Hi-Fi Adapter with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth

I have a niceish CD/FM/DAB/USB system I bought on E-Bay six years ago. I thought of upgrading it a few months ago, when I realised I hadn’t played a CD for years and that I mostly listened either to Radio 3 or to MP3 files played from a memory stick. I thought of something swish and expensive. Then I read about this. It helped that the device was advertised as British – though assembled in China – which tugged on my patriotic instinct.

The advantages of the device are that is was cheap, and easy to plug into my music system, and that I can stream the whole of my vast music collection straight from hard disk on the computer upstairs to my existing system, and control it via the notebook computer here in my writing room. A further advantage is that, if I ever buy something old but very grand from the 1980s, I shall be able to plug this in there as well.

The disadvantage is that you might as well put the instruction guide straight into the paper recycling box along with the packaging. I’m no fool with IT, but this left me scratching my head. I found it was easy to connect via Bluetooth to my mobile telephone, and to play music files from there. But, though I can get it to show on my notebook computer, I still can’t get the device to work with Windows 7.

For using it with the wireless network, I eventually puzzled out this procedure:

Get someone to press the WPS button on your router at the same time as you press the WPS button on the bottom of this device.

The red light then flashes green, and then turns green.

Follow these instructions from Microsoft to enable streaming.

That’s it. I haven’t yet shut down for the night and checked to see if it works the next morning. But the sound is wonderful. As said, I will eventually find something top of the range from the past that has no USB input, and that may not even play CDs, but that has phono inputs, and I shall be able to turn it into a modern streaming audio system.

I feel almost guilty to give it only three stars. On the other hand, there are only so many hours in my lifetime, and spending one of them on getting something to work that should have worked out of the box is rather poor in this day and age.