Letter of the Month

Dictators and their fear of the arts

Shostakovich is not the only artist who has had to deal with a dictator, but Angus McPherson’s article (A Fourth to be Reckoned With, August Limelight) highlights the problems, and provided great background when I heard his Symphony No 4 played by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. The arts are often a dangerous field under dictatorships, but at least with music there could be some debate about the meaning of the composition. Writers are another matter. Dostoevsky joined a progressive literary discussion group, which opposed autocracy and serfdom, and was arrested on the orders of the Czar. He was subjected to a mock execution and five years in prison, but later managed to write Crime and Punishment and The Brothers Karamazov. If writers expressed what Shostakovich is saying in his Symphony No 4, they would not survive under a dictator, as the music parodies the grand style beloved by dictators (which Shostakovich called “grandiosomania”). It could set the tone for a Donald Trump rally. James Moore, Kogarah, NSW 

Congratulations James, Letter of the Month wins the ABC Classic album X by Baroque trio Latitude 37, which won a 5-star review from Limelight for its unique approach to early music, with Satie’s Troisième Gnoissienne a stand-out.

Pristine classical streaming

With reference to the excellent September cover story New Spin on Digital Music, I believe numerous Limelight readers would also be interested in the Pristine Classical streaming service which features “historic recordings” including those from Pristine’s own-label catalogue (produced by Andrew Rose and others including Mark Obert-Thorn). That catalogue is a trove of mostly brilliantly engineered re-issues of famous or otherwise noteworthy recordings from the past. My favourites include a compelling Toscanini list, but there’s also Furtwängler, Beecham, Horenstein, Koussevitzky, Stokowski, Walter and the like amongst conductors, and many geniuses amongst instrumental and vocal soloists, across symphony, concerto, chamber, opera, and recital. Jazz and blues fans will find something too. There’s a browser-accessible site for the service at pristinestreaming.com/app/ and a Pristine Classical Player app. The site’s promo mentions “12,000+ unique, remastered classics, 2,500+ composers, ensembles, and artists, 1,000 exclusive Pristine Streaming tracks. Listen in either 320kbps MP3 or high-quality FLAC. FLAC streaming available on the latest versions of Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox or Microsoft Edge.” In my humble (honest) opinion, it’s strongly recommended for those interested in or intrigued by the so-called “golden age” of classical album recording. Thanks and cheers. Brian Cullen, North Carlton, VIC


As a relatively new subscriber, thank you for your magazine. My comment is about classical music played digitally (September 2019). I feel that quantity has replaced quality. The sound generated by my desktop PC can only be described as tinny. It would be good to have access to libraries of classics but I cannot tolerate the sound in comparison to my small cheap system. I presume someone has invented something to improve this situation, but it probably costs, so I’ll stay with my CDs. Margaret Gordon, Marsfield, NSW


Recently I attended the New Constellations concert by the Australian Romantic & Classical Orchestra and was entranced by the performances on original (or replica) instruments of the period, for which the music was composed. Mendelssohn has always been one of my favourite composers, so it was fascinating to experience hearing his first major work as it was intended to sound, as well as enjoying the Brahms. Hopefully my first performance by the Australian Romantic & Classical Orchestra won’t be my last. All the musicians were inspiring, but the animation of guest director Jakob Lehmann was exhilarating! I’d also intended to write earlier regarding all the awards for Counting and Cracking, which were well deserved. It certainly lived up to the hype as the highlight of this year’s Sydney Festival, and was an amazing sensory experience. Ayesha Azeem, Rooty Hill, NSW


In our recent review of David Matthews’ Symphony No 9 (August Limelight), our reviewer related a story that while working as Benjamin Britten’s assistant, Mr Matthews had angered the composer by drawing a cartoon in one of his manuscripts. We have been reliably informed that the entire anecdote is fake news. It never happened. Our admiration for Mr Matthews’ symphony remains unaffected. Limelight Ed

We’d love to hear about the performances you’ve loved (or hated), the music you’re listening to or your favourite artists. Are there any features you’ve enjoyed or anything you’d like to see more of in the magazine?

Our November issue’s Letter of the Month wins Omega Ensemble’s album Unexpected News: Nico Muhly and Philip Glass, featuring Sally Whitwell.

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No more than 200 words please. Letters may be edited for length and clarity. Please include a daytime phone number with your letter. Only selected letters will appear in the November 2019 issue of Limelight, on sale from November 4 or earlier for subscribers.