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6.11.16

Dip Your Ears, No. 215 (A Grand Steinway Romance)


available at Amazon

A Grand Romance,
Jeffrey Biegel
(Steinway)

From the most aggressively self-promoting, social-media-mongering pianist since the invention of the internet comes this cornucopia of musical miniatures and technical dazzlers from the likes of Moszkowski, Henselt, and Rubinstein. (It is a disc purporting to “[celebrate] the intimacy of the relationship between pianist and public, wiht a sampling of finely honed pieces of the Romantic era.”) If you’ve ever as much as published an Amazon review, nothing shy of a restraining order will spare you the sycophantic flattery of Jeffrey Biegel.

Annoying, needy, and desperate as it is, it would only be poetic justice of the finest kind if he was the absolute pits as a pianist. He disappoints even on that count, because he’s actually quite gifted and so it is with decidedly begrudging emotion that I’ve taken great pleasure in this medley of piano-bonbons. I can’t believe I’m reading myself write this, but compared with the usually wonderful Jenny Lin’s similar-ish (“get happy”) bag of assorted goodies, “A Grand Romance” is the musically far more pleasing and sophisticated venture, without interpretative blemishes and full of surprises.






10 comments:

Jeffrey Biegel said...

Jens, thank you for taking time to listen to this recording. My intention has always been to perpetuate the traditions of the 20th century pianists through this and other recordings, which reflect the singing sound and brilliance of the writing and the pianists who once walked the earth. The technological advances upon us have, in some ways, made us immune to the world of sound as we once knew it pre-technology, pre-smartphones etc. What may appear as self-promotion is rather a crying out to preserve values and appreciation of the craft as we move forward in a very dangerous century.

jfl said...

Dear Jeffrey: Thanks for your friendly response.
Dear everyone else: Quod erat demonstrandum.

Jeffrey Biegel said...

Dear Jens: Thanks!
Dear all: Scito te ipsum.

Rex Immensae Majestatis Chapman said...



This review seemed unnecessarily dyspeptic to me, but what do I know.

Rex Immensae Majestatis Chapman said...

(looks up Latin translation of "Buy the album" for Jeffrey Biegel)

John Bell Young said...

In my 45 years as a music critic for many major publications, I was forbidden, as a matter of policy, to review vanity recordings. That was largely because retailers and distributors rarely if ever carried them, and on those rare occasions when they were reviewed, irate consumers would complain that they could not find them. Things have since changed thanks to the Internet, making it easier for music lovers to purchase whatever they wish and for artists to sell their wares. Personally, I find it puzzling (but not surprising given the customary and usual machinations of the music industry) that Jeffrey Biegel, who has had a long and distinguished career and is a first class pianist, has not landed a contract with a major recording company. Perhaps you are unaware that fewer than 5 percent of those who are graduated from conservatories, hoping to become performers, succeed. Those in control of the industry are rarely if ever musicians,but experts in marketing. These self-appointed officers of taste are nothing more than amateurs, the majority of whom have zero experience as performers, nor any knowledge about the technical, aesthetic, and interpretive disciplines, which are germane to the art. The same can be said for 99% of music critics, most of whom pretend to an authority they do not have, never had, and never will have. Most music critics are in the employ of the entertainment news divisions of media organizations;they are amateurs who may or may not love music, but have no experience whatsoever. Then there are those professional music critics, such as Tomassini of the New York Times, who pretends to be a pianist (and actually had the audacity to post a master class on the front page of the online edition of The New York Times) when he cannot play so much as a C major scale without falling apart.

Worse, until recently only a very few institutions, such as Mannes College, even bothered to offer burgeoning musicians any training in the context of business, negotiation strategies, delegating responsibility, finding agents, marketing, and contract law. Combine all that with the legions of wannabes and morons who run things,and you have a situation wholly unfavorable to those consummate professionals, such as Mr Biegel, who have paid their dues and are deserving of a career. Instead, you have the likes of an incompetent, mentally ill pianist such as David Helfgott, who was paid nearly $100,000 per concert following the film that painted a misleading picture of his troubled life. When my colleagues and I wrote about him and the film in every major paper (I penned a critique for the St. Petersburg Times), we were greeted with the wrath of pop culture devotees in the full glory of their abysmal ignorance.

If I were you, I would be a good deal more circumspect about criticising an artist of Mr Biegels stellar caliber. Rather than presuming to know what compels him to promote his recordings, which no doubt cost him a great deal of money to produce andwhich he has every right to advertise profusely in an effort to recover it, I would, as a responsible critic, concern myself only with the substance and quality of his playing. Hello by what means his recordings are marketed is really none of your concern; as far as I know, you did not contribute a penny to their production.

John Bell Young said...

(don't) As one of the most widely published music critics in this country for nearly half a century, let me give you some advice. Do not presume that because you write for a completely insignificant online publication, with a tiny readership, that you have a monopoly on musical authority, to speak nothing of clout in this business. You do not. If you ever want to write for a major publication or join the big leagues of critics, then critics like me who can help you achieve that goal, presuming it is one. But if your ambition is to write a notice as amateur and grossly unfair as this, to speak nothing of irrelevant, then rest assurwd you will be lucky to find a job writing a menu at McDonalds. Word gets around within the community of critics and publishers.

I can and would be happy to recommend you to any major newspaper in this country; on the basis of my recommendation you will at least be taken seriously and get your foot in the door. Otherwise, consider the alternative: being ignored, or essentially blacklisted. That would be a pity, because you write very well indeed. Unlike you, I spent decades helping artists wherever and whenever I could,using my position to open doors for them in a very competitive profession. I suggest you do the same - that is, if you want to survive in the business of music criticism. Of course, there are a few artists who deserve criticism of the most severe kind, and not necessarily due to their musicianship or lack of it. Those artists, among whom is more than onewho outspoken bigot,do not belong on American stages. Such people are offensive and are an insult to the public. If I were you, I would reserve invective for performers such as that.

jfl said...

Dear Mr. -- which is it: Bell Young or Young? -- thanks much for your long, if partially supercilious response on this completely insignificant online publication. You make some valid points (marred, alas, by a few unnecessary assumptions and patronizing comments that somewhat overshoot your goal) and I don't disagree with you all that greatly, except this point:

"by what means his recordings are marketed is really none of your concern"

It is, when one is accosted on the internet. It is, when one takes aesthetic offense. It is almost as much as I have either a perfectly legitimate right (or none at all) to take offense to, say, his phrasing in a Mozart sonata. It is part of the whole package, intended or not, fair or not. It makes an impression -- sadly a greater one, in many cases, than the playing itself -- that has an effect. From what I hear in fellow music critic and presenter circles (perhaps a small international sample, but a sample none the less ), it's an impression that induces massive eye-rolling.

I am fully aware of how difficult and capricious the music industry is, and what types of gatekeepers one meets and what it means to finance one's own CD. And that traditional marketing & PR may not work for some artists and perhaps your friend, Mr. Biegel, is among them. But just as you have a right to criticize my etiquette, of which you make liberal, I have a right to criticize others' etiquette, no? Meanwhile I need to step away from the keyboard, as I see the next customer approaching the Drive-Thru.

John Bell Young said...

What's the matter, Jens, you miserable fuck? Running Scared? You should be. Have a nice day I have to make a phone call

John Bell Young said...

What's the matter,Jens, you miserable fuck? Running scared? You should be.Ivhave to make a call. Have a nice life, punk, what's left of it.