The Penguin Guide to Recorded Classical Music

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The Penguin Guide to Recorded Classical Music (formerly The Penguin Guide to Compact Discs and, from 2002 to 2006, The Penguin Guide to Compact Discs and DVDs) was a widely distributed annual publication from Britain published by Penguin Books that reviewed and rated currently available recordings of classical music. It was written by Ivan March, a music journalist, consultant and former professional musician; Edward Greenfield, music critic of The Guardian and Robert Layton, music writer and lecturer. All three were also reviewers for the UK classical music monthly Gramophone. From 2002, a fourth contributor, Paul Czajkowski, was credited, first as assistant editor and then as co-author.

Background[edit]

In 1951 the British publisher Collins issued a guide to recorded classical music under the title The Record Guide. The authors were Edward Sackville-West and Desmond Shawe-Taylor.[n 1] Supplements were published in 1952 and 1953; a new edition of the guide was published in 1955, and a final supplement was issued the following year.[2] Four years later the Long Playing Record Library (LPRL) published The Stereo Record Guide, edited by Ivan March and written by March, Edward Greenfield and Denis Stevens. Nine editions were published between 1960 and 1974; Robert Layton joined the panel of reviewers in 1968 and Stevens left after that year's two volumes.[3] The LPRL issued two editions of A Guide to the Bargain Classics, in 1962 and 1965.[4]

Penguin guides[edit]

Penguin Books published three editions of The Penguin Guide to the Bargain Classics by March and his co-authors, in 1966, 1970 and 1972.[5] In 1975 they published The Penguin Stereo Record Guide containing 1114 pages and selling for £3.50.[6] From then until 2012, March and his team wrote a succession of Penguin guides.

Title Date Ref
The Penguin Stereo Record Guide 1975 [7]
The Penguin Stereo Record Guide 1977 [8]
The Penguin Cassette Guide 1979 [9]
The New Penguin Guide to Bargain Records and Cassettes 1980 [10]
The New Penguin Stereo Record and Cassette Guide 1982 [11]
The Complete Penguin Stereo Record and Cassette Guide 1984 [12]
The Penguin Guide to Compact Discs, Cassettes and LPs 1986 [13]
The New Penguin Guide to Compact Discs and Cassettes 1989 [14]
The Penguin Guide to Compact Discs 1990 [15]
The Penguin Guide to Compact Discs and Cassettes Yearbook 1991 [16]
The Penguin Guide to Bargain Compact Discs and Cassettes 1992 [17]
The Penguin Guide to Compact Discs Yearbook 1992 [18]
The Penguin Guide to Opera on Compact Disc 1993 [19][n 2]
The Penguin Guide to Compact Discs and Cassettes 1994 [20]
The Penguin Guide to Compact Discs Yearbook 1995 [21]
The Penguin Guide to Compact Discs and Cassettes 1996 [22]
The Penguin Guide to Compact Discs Yearbook 1997 [23]
The Penguin Guide to Bargain Compact Discs 1998 [24]
The Penguin Guide to Compact Discs 1999 [25]
The Penguin Guide to Compact Discs Yearbook 2000 [26]
The Penguin Guide to Compact Discs 2001 [27]
The Penguin Guide to Compact Discs and DVDs Yearbook 2002 [28][n 3]
The Penguin Guide to Compact Discs and DVDs 2003 [30]
The Penguin Guide to Compact Discs and DVDs Yearbook 2004 [31]
The Penguin Guide to Compact Discs and DVDs 2005 [32]
The Penguin Guide to Compact Discs and DVDs Yearbook 2006 [33]
The Penguin Guide to Recorded Classical Music 2008 [34]
The Penguin Guide to Recorded Classical Music 2009 [35]
The Penguin Guide to the 1000 Finest Classical Recordings 2011 [36]

When the guides started it was still possible to include almost all available stereo classical recordings in the coverage.[37] Additional volumes were printed to cover cassettes, and in the 1984 Guide compact discs were added for the first time. By the 1990 revision CDs had come to dominate the market so completely that LPs were omitted altogether from the guide. In some years the main guide was supplemented by yearbooks, adding the latest new recordings and recommended reissues. Several other supplementary volumes were released covering bargain recordings. From 2001 classical music DVDs were incorporated, initially as an appendix, but, from the 2006 edition, in the main body of the reviews. Although these other volumes added further reviews, the authors acknowledged that attempting to cover all releases was impossible, and they focused on what they regarded as the "cream" of available recordings.[37]

Ratings[edit]

The early editions of the guides used a one to three star rating system:

*** "An outstanding performance and recording in every way."
** "A good performance and recording of today's normal high standard."
* "A fair performance, reasonably well or well recorded."

Brackets round one or more of the stars indicated some reservations about its inclusion and readers were advised to refer to the text.[38]

Later editions included a four-star category for a select few recordings, "chosen to indicate music-making in which artists are inspired to excel even their own highest standards or which are offering something quite revelatory about the music. Usually the collector can expect matching quality from the recording team or, where a recording is historical, an outstanding transfer that reveals how fine the original sound was for its period."[38]

From the outset the authors included an additional annotation – a rosette. "Unlike our general evaluations, in which we have tried to be consistent, a Rosette is a quite arbitrary compliment by a member of the reviewing team to a recorded performance which he finds shows special illumination, magic, a spiritual quality, or even outstanding production values that place it in a very special class."[39]

Reputation[edit]

In 2011 Ron Cerabona wrote in The Canberra Times, "I owe Penguin a lot: I've discovered a lot of wonderful music through it", but, "If you want to start a flame war on a classical music newsgroup, all you have to do is bring up the allegation of British bias in Penguin (and/or Gramophone)".[40] From a British perspective Terry Grimley wrote in The Birmingham Post in 2005:

Anyone who has taken a moderate interest in recordings of classical music over the last three decades is likely to owe a debt to the Penguin Guide. Widely regarded as the bible of classical recordings, it has actually been sorting the musical wheat from the chaff for 45 years, having begun life as the Stereo Record Guide in 1960.[41]

In the same year The Independent commented that the guide "may be faulted in detail, yet no similar publication matches its consistency and authority in the mainstream classics"[42] In the US, The Denver Post commented, "It is no secret that, even in the classical field, more compact discs are made than any one person can reasonably expect to be able to listen to. What's a poor collector to do? One answer for years has been The Penguin Guide to Compact Discs".[43] In a survey of guides to recorded music in 1997 The Charlotte Observer called the Penguin Guide:

An indispensable bible of recorded classical music, not exhaustive (what book could be?) but more complete than any other I know. The British authors favor British orchestras and performers too much, and they sometimes omit recordings that can be bought in the United States but not in Britain. Yet they're fair, enthusiastic and (in my experience) trustworthy 90 percent of the time. They also distinguish among price ranges of discs, which is rare.[44]

Notes, references and sources[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Sackville-West and Shawe-Taylor were assisted in the second edition by William Mann and Andrew Porter.[1]
  2. ^ Opera synopses researched and written by Katherine March.[19]
  3. ^ Paul Czajkowski is credited from this edition onwards.[29]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Sackville-West, Shawe-Taylor, Porter and Mann, title page
  2. ^ WorldCat OCLC 1075763959 (1951); OCLC 916676657 (1952); OCLC 4794672 (1953); OCLC 459570468 (1955); and OCLC 711843885 (1956)
  3. ^ March et al, (1968) and (1972), title pages
  4. ^ WorldCat OCLC 59015635 and OCLC 946472304
  5. ^ WorldCat OCLC 645663957; OCLC 383178237 and OCLC 925134630
  6. ^ "Books Received". The Musical Times. 117 (1595): 38. 1976. JSTOR 958931.
  7. ^ WorldCat OCLC 873295384
  8. ^ WorldCat OCLC 458761132
  9. ^ WorldCat OCLC 471678082
  10. ^ WorldCat OCLC 487543345
  11. ^ WorldCat OCLC 925166926
  12. ^ WorldCat OCLC 11530826
  13. ^ WorldCat OCLC 937600553
  14. ^ WorldCat OCLC 610375009
  15. ^ WorldCat OCLC 1039472308
  16. ^ WorldCat OCLC 896570060
  17. ^ WorldCat OCLC 1015745889
  18. ^ WorldCat OCLC 1037194564
  19. ^ a b WorldCat OCLC 0140469575
  20. ^ WorldCat OCLC 1127815206
  21. ^ WorldCat OCLC 34279885
  22. ^ WorldCat OCLC 1038154606
  23. ^ WorldCat OCLC 39224688
  24. ^ WorldCat OCLC 932380316
  25. ^ WorldCat OCLC 475499350
  26. ^ WorldCat OCLC 964858368
  27. ^ WorldCat OCLC 473879658
  28. ^ WorldCat OCLC 1011857837
  29. ^ "Ivan March – Penguin Guide", WorldCat. Retrieved 10 June 2020
  30. ^ WorldCat OCLC 52456162
  31. ^ WorldCat OCLC 439270609
  32. ^ WorldCat OCLC 1101322600
  33. ^ WorldCat OCLC 1027542739
  34. ^ WorldCat OCLC 993173576
  35. ^ WorldCat OCLC 776479885
  36. ^ WorldCat OCLC 793685846
  37. ^ a b March et al (2005), p. xi
  38. ^ a b March et al (2007), first (unnumbered) page of Preface; first page of Introduction
  39. ^ March et al (2007) first page of Introduction
  40. ^ Cerabona, Ron. "Praying that the Penguin lives on", The Canberra Times, 24 April 2011, p. 22
  41. ^ Grimley, Terry. "Musical Penguin just gets fatter", The Birmingham Post, 19 December 2005 (subscription required)
  42. ^ Gutman, David. "Music books reviewed", The Independent, 2 December 2005
  43. ^ Giffin Glenn. "Penguin guide to classical CDs better than ever", The Denver Post, 2 January 2001 (subscription required)
  44. ^ Toppman, Lawrence. " Last in a series on building a basic classical music library", The Charlotte Observer, 28 September 1997, p. 1F

Sources[edit]

  • March, Ivan; Edward Greenfield; Denis Stevens; Robert Layton (1968). The Stereo Record Guide: Volume V. London: Penguin.
  • March, Ivan; Edward Greenfield; Robert Layton (1972). The Stereo Record Guide: Volume VII. London: Penguin.
  • March, Ivan; Edward Greenfield; Robert Layton; Paul Czajkowski (2005). The Penguin Guide to Compact Discs and DVDs. London: Penguin.
  • March, Ivan; Edward Greenfield; Robert Layton; Paul Czajkowski (2007). The Penguin Guide to Recorded Classical Music. London: Penguin.
  • Sackville-West, Edward; Desmond Shawe-Taylor; William Mann; Andrew Porter (1955). The Record Guide. London: Collins. OCLC 948002674.

External links[edit]