Maestros, Masterpieces and Madness: The Secret Life and Shameful Death of the Classical Record Industry by Norman Lebrecht
For the vast majority of its fans around the world, the experience of listening to classical music has been through recording. Indeed, one of the striking aspects of the past century has been the overwhelming popularization of a form of music previously restricted to particular places and people of wealth. "Maestros, Masterpieces and Madness" is an extraordinarily enjoyable, original and revealing account of how a random alliance of engineers, entrepreneurs, conductors and fixers invented a new medium containing the entire back catalogue of Western civilization. The huge array of masterpieces they recorded, now safely digitalized, will last forever. But they also created a mountain of schlock, schmaltz, ego-trips and inconceivably misguided projects. This century of productivity that shaped the minds of millions of people came to an end when the dawn of the internet and the onset of corporate insanity conspired substantially to shut down the industry. Norman Lebrecht compellingly demonstrates that classical recording has reached its end point, but this is not just an expose of decline and fall. It is for the first time, the full story of a minor art form, celebrating the genius of Schnabel, Toscanini, Karajan, Callas, Rattle, Pavarotti and others and the ways that their work has enriched our lives. For the dazzling legacy lives on, even if the means of production has gone. The book ends with a suitable shrine to classical recording: the author's critical selection of the one hundred most important recordings - and the twenty most appalling.