Talking about the Lenny Trusler Children’s Foundation, something very important to me…..
Talking about the Lenny Trusler Children’s Foundation, something very important to me…..
An LTCF special promotion
Here is a very nice promotion together with my charity, the Lenny Trusler Children’s Foundation, giving you a chance to buy a beautiful album and help sick babies at the same time.
I first met Callum Smart when I was on the panel for the BBC Young Musician string finals, and despite being only 13 he was the clear winner.
Since then I’ve enjoyed watching him grow into a terrific violinist, being signed by Hazard Chase and becoming the first recipient of a grant from our own Orchid Music Charitable Trust, enabling him to make what was a brilliant debut album.
Of course, I like to think we’d all still believe in Callum even if the whole world disagreed. But it is heartwarming to see his album getting such recognition, a Recommended Choice in Strad Magazine this month being absolutely deserved.
Pats on the back all round, but practice room for Callum.
Too Many Records
By Matthew Trusler
Like a lot of musicians, I have a complicated relationship with CDs, especially since I started my own record label. It’s difficult to switch off and enjoy listening without concentrating.
When I was a youngster listening to music was something I would do purely for fun, and with the invention of the walkman it became a brilliant way to pass a long car journey.
Most often I would listen to pop music, as all my friends did, so anything from Michael Jackson to Snoop Doggy Dog (as he was called in those days) was pumped out through my headphones.
But my earliest experience with recorded music was with Prokofiev. Apparently, so my mum tells me, as a little boy I had my own LP of the Classical Symphony and I listened to it endlessly. I have a very deep love for Prokofiev’s music, and it seems I did from the very beginning.
I wasn’t always able simply to listen to music though - I felt the need to get involved at some point. This first manifested itself when I heard the brilliant soundtrack for The Snowman, which came out when I was six years old. I loved it- I loved the story and I loved the music. So much so that I decided to narrate it myself. It was a bit of a school holiday project - I painstakingly wrote out all the words as they were read on the tape, practised over and over until all my entries were in the right place, and finally got my dad to set up a microphone so I could record my version over the soundtrack. I had a very high voice at that age so I think it must have been a fairly hilarious reading. I actually sent it to Howard Blake, who wrote me a very touching card to say how much he enjoyed it. I then met him a few years ago and told him how cool that was. I think I hoped he was going to say he’d never forgotten this tape he received in 1982 from a small boy, and how he’d always hoped to meet the person behind it, but of course he had no idea what I was talking about.
As I started to grow up, my tape collection expanded and I became really obsessed with certain recordings, all of them violin playing. I’ve always been someone who chooses something, enjoys it intensely for a period of time, and then completely forgets about it. I do this with almost everything - I became a magician once, bought a large number of books on card tricks and stayed up for five nights straight learning them. Then I realised I was rubbish, and sheepishly put my magic box under the bed forever. But this is how I approached listening to music. If I liked a track I would listen over and over again until I hated it.
One recording I really loved was Igor Oistrach playing Bruch’s concerto. I listened to that until the tape wore out, and spent a family holiday indoors trying to learn the piece just to be like Igor. My parents were very pleased but my sister certainly wasn’t.
But then along came the invention of the CD. I remember staying in my teacher’s apartment in Paris and he had this incredible shiny new machine that I’d never seen before - a CD player. That was very exciting and of course within a few years we all had them.
The CD boom was an interesting time, when everything was recorded by everybody. I had certain favourite violinists whose recordings I routinely bought at full price as soon as they came out, and I loved listening to reissues of players like Fritz Kreisler.
But the truth is I’ve never been a CD collector as such. Like so many musicians I know, I mainly listen to music when I have to learn a particular piece, to speed up the process, and due to my two children I have an intimate knowledge of a few recordings such as the Jungle Book soundtrack. My 5 year-old’s tastes have recently moved in an unexpected direction with the purchase of an Amy Winehouse album which she wants played constantly. Pretty much any time I put a CD on the stereo for myself within 90 seconds it is silenced and replaced with Amy Winehouse.
I can’t pick up a CD at a friend’s house without opening it and examining the booklet, the design of the cover, and all the other aspects of a CD which become so important and all-consuming with a record label. But I am fascinated by the process, and in particular the business of bringing a CD to the public - the initial concept, the recording itself, the creation of the physical CD and the distribution and marketing of it. I’m not sure why but I find it really exciting.
Obviously as a musician being recorded and having those recordings available for anyone anywhere to hear is hugely important. That process is changing constantly, and with YouTube in particular it has fractured into trying to create 3 minute clips that grab people’s attention immediately. But putting together a 70 minute programme that holds their attention, and which you really want pressed into thousands of CDs and which, in theory, lasts forever is an entirely different challenge. Most musicians I know love this part of the job.
I have a slightly love/hate relationship with the part CDs have played in how we expect music to sound today. One of my biggest influences as a player was the extraordinary Ruggiero Ricci, who taught me unofficially for many years. Ricci was one of the most recorded violinists there had ever been, and his original version of the complete Paganini Caprices was the first ever recorded in full. I remember how dazzled I was by that recording, made at a time when editing wasn’t a possibility and he had to play five caprices at a time, in one take. I can’t really imagine anyone recording like that now, which is a terrific shame as we are much too accustomed to hearing a kind of digital perfection which isn’t actually a reality. Live performance is reality, and it sometimes seems we have given up on trying to capture the essence of it when making CDs.
But back to my CD non-collection. At this moment it is literally hidden in a cupboard for fear of anyone ever seeing it. I have a good friend who owns 20,000 CDs, and he can tell you all about every single one. I have about 50 in that cupboard, and I have honestly no idea how Jordan Knight got in there. But how different life must have been when recorded music wasn’t available to be a soundtrack to every train journey, every run, every beach holiday. In some ways the silence must have been rather lovely, but that’s not the way our world sounds now.
This article originally appeared in International Record Review, 2013.
A short film about my record label, Orchid Classics www.orchidclassics.com
There are 6 days left to listen to this concert, broadcast live from Glasgow yesterday, of Tchaikovsky and Copland trios.
Starting Orchid…..A blog post by Matthew
When I look back on it, the very first thoughts I had of starting a company were not particularly steeped in the intellectual pursuit of high art.
I think I was interested in the fact that it might be quite cool to have my own record label, a thought that had mutated from one years earlier that I’d like to own a chain of night clubs. (My old school friend does that now and frankly it looks exhausting.)
The tipping point came when I sat next to a record executive at a function one afternoon, drank far too much and came home saying I was going to do that too.
I immediately called my brother-in-law, whom I seem to remember had been drinking too, and told him I would require some of his money.
What followed was a lot of dreaming, a bit of very unrealistic planning involving some hilarious projections for our intended venture, and the search for a first project began.
As we got started I became more and more aware that what I really wanted was to create a community of artists, people whose work I loved and admired, and that it would be a huge thrill to be part of the process where the projects these artists had put so much into were brought into the world for everyone to see.
But at every step I moved happily onwards, quite unaware of the sheer effort required to develop a structure worthy of a serious album release, let alone the degree of expert knowledge needed to administrate such a thing.
It was a slow first few years I must say, but we managed to get four albums out, each one a huge labour of love and an equally large loser of money.
I remember a rich man asking me a succession of business questions relating to my company, which was fair enough as I was asking him for his money, but I thought he was completely mad. I think I muttered something like “but this is the arts my good man” before he sent me away with a cheque, almost certainly just to get me out of his house.
But he was right of course, and it was only when we persuaded a couple of very serious business people to buy into our idea that it became really clear how different things would be with such professionals involved.
And I wasn’t the only one concerned.
I remember explaining the ethos behind our company to Lawrence Power, who very politely asked if there were any grown ups involved.
Systematically building up a distribution network to cover all the major territories of the world, creating the necessary PR connections, organising everything from stock holding to royalty accounting, profit and loss reports and release schedules, it has been a mesmerising learning curve for me to see what it takes to create a serious business, and a master class by those involved who have done this before.
In those years since we took Orchid off my kitchen table and into an actual office, I have worked with huge pleasure to find those artists and projects that I felt really meant something, and that I’d be proud to be a part of.
As we release our 40th album this month with the wonderful 18 year old violinist Callum Smart’s debut recital disc, I can say honestly what a thrill it is to be involved in it.
And while I do enjoy our board meetings, where I pretend to understand the numbers and even make the odd reference to the need for a hostile takeover (I’ve always thought they sounded like fun,) my favourite thing about it all is that it remains what it always has been- an artistically led enterprise, where finding the most creative and brilliant people to be part of our family is the chief purpose.
And for that, I thank the grown ups.
The New Orchid Classics Blog
Check out the new Orchid blog, and come back often for pictures, videos, blog posts by our artists and lots more.