Friday, March 19, 2010

Lyrichord in the Pod

I am not a Pod person, and I will probably never listen to music through an iPod. I rely too much on the tangible CD, and I simply have too many of them to even dream of uploading them into my (already disorganized) iTunes). I'm not crazy about hauling around a portable CD player and replacing its batteries, but it doesn't bother me enough to change my ways.

The people at Lyrichord were kind enough to send me CD versions of their series of podcasts, which have been a pleasure for me to hear on my 40-minute walks (by way of my portable CD player). It is also possible to listen to the podcasts through a computer, but it is, after all, the beginning of spring.

Nick Fritsch, the President of Lyrichord, and his friend, the countertenor Jeffrey Dooley have arranged the early music (Medieval through late Baroque) portion of the vast Lyrichord library into distinct instrumental and vocal categories. Their podcasts are set up like musically-illustrated radio interviews, where Dooley, who knows a great deal about 16th, 17th, and 18th-century music, gives a great deal of information about the music that is played on each of the shows. It seems that there is about 20 minutes of talk, and about 25 minutes of music in each podcast. The musical selections are all relatively short, so they can be played in their entirety. What I particularly like is that much of the music on the podcasts comes from the beginning of the early music "revival" in New York during the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, which was a very exciting time for musicians and for record companies. I'm very grateful that Lyrichord has reissued many of the LPs that taught me to love early music when I was a teenager.

There are three terrific shows devoted to countertenors (a subject that Jeffrey Dooley knows a great deal about, being a great countertenor himself), a show about the lute that features recordings made by Joseph Iadone, a self-taught lutenist who began playing the instrument when one was handed to him by Paul Hindemith in a class at Yale. There is a whole series of "hammered and plucked" discussions that reveal far more about harpsichords, harpsichord-like instruments, and harpsichordists than I ever knew (or even imagined). Three of their podcasts are devoted to the baroque period in general, because they just have so many fine recordings of so much music, both known and obscure.

The only podcasts that did not impress me were the ones devoted to the baroque flute and the recorder, and there are a few moments of misinformation here and there that make me cringe (Dooley repeatedly says that Bach, Handel, and Domenico Scarlatti died the same year, when I'm sure he knows that they were all BORN the same year), but there are disproportionately more moments of enlightened and enlightening thought that make up for the little gaffes. It reflects editorial honesty to leave them in.

I think that this podcast series is a great way to open up the contents of Lyrichord's huge library, as well as introduce people new to listening to classical music to many of the lesser-known gems of the Baroque Period. I also imagine that these could be of great help to music appreciation students. I'm certainly going to share the link to the podcast page with mine.

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