Saturday 19 January 2013

John Adams conducts Harmonielehre

John Adams
John Adams began a mini-residence with the London Symphony Orchestra this week, giving me the opportunity to indulge in a bit of nostalgia:

"One of the seminal musical experiences of my student years came at a John Adams concert, some ten years ago. He was conducting the London Symphony Orchestra in a programme entirely of his own music. His piano concerto, Century Rolls, and the punchy showpiece Lollapalooza made up the first half; a much longer one occupied the second. The title of that concluding piece I knew from browsing CDs in HMV (those were the days), but I wasn’t sure how to pronounce it and I certainly knew nothing of its connection to Arnold Schoenberg. Harmonielehre knocked me for six."

Read my full review of the concert at Classical Source.

Tuesday 15 January 2013

Farewell HMV

Today’s announcement that high street music chain HMV is going into administration is sad news for anyone who’s spent too many hours browsing their aisles of discs, but it isn’t a surprise. This is the culmination of a process that’s been in motion for the best part of a decade. High street vendors have, as we all know, been unable to compete with online prices or to integrate digital media into their shop floor operations. That problem has claimed the scalps of Tower, Zavvi (formerly Virgin) and now HMV, which remained only because it was the biggest player to begin with.

I personally have mixed feelings about their apparent demise. I began as a wide eyed shopper, astounded at the range I discovered in the basement classical department at their flagship Oxford Circus store. One Christmas, I took a job there, in that same department, and carried on for the best part of a year, growing to dislike the organisation more and more. Even then, in 2006, the company was taking ever more desperate steps to increase sales, but they never extended to protecting their most valuable resource: their knowledgeable staff. Staff turnover was astonishing, with few making it past a year. Compounding this was the lack of communication with those running the operation. As shop floor workers, we could all see areas that failed, but had no way of transmitting that information back to the higher levels.

I’m sure what I describe is no different from many other large organisations are run. HMV was the last giant of its sector, though, and the irony is that if their shops vanish, little will be left other than the independent stores they sought to outdo in the first place.