Online classical music reviews

February 11, 2009

I am something of a classical music junkie.  It used to be that I’d buy one or more discs each week, and though I have reigned in that habit during the last few years, I still keep an eye on the new releases from my favourite record labels.  There are, of course, a number of long-standing print publications devoted to reviews of classical music CDs — Gramophone, Fanfare, American Record Guide, etc. — but none of them has established a very strong online presence.  Meanwhile there have sprung up several good online-only sources for reviews.  These are my favourites:

ClassicsToday.com: The volume of reviews at this site is not large — usually two or three new reviews each day — but the quality is consistently high.  The reviewers give every indication of having listened carefully, and with discernment, to the music that they review.  Each review also includes two helpful numerical scores for the disc: one for the quality of the performance, and one for the quality of the sound engineering. The site has been around for a decade or more, and their well-organized archive of reviews is a superb resource.
(There is also a sister project called ClassicsTodayFrance which appears to be even more discriminating in its judgments, but, as you would expect, the reviews are all in French.)

AllMusic: The encyclopedic site AllMusic is mostly dominated by popular music, but they do have a lively and informed corner devoted to classical music.  (It is actually called “Classical Corner”.)  They have a team of reviewers for classical music discs, and again the quality is consistently high.  Their reviews appear in weekly batches (on Mondays), with each batch containing roughly 50 reviews.  In line with the general reviewing policy at AllMusic, each disc is also given a “star” rating out of five.  Unfortunately, the weekly batches are only archived for four weeks; after that the reviews are buried in the massive AllMusic data haystack, and finding them is like hunting for the proverbial needle.

Ionarts: This is a recently discovery for me.  It is not a dedicated CD review site as the others are, but a general music and arts blog to which reviews are occasionally posted, mostly by the excellent Charles T. Downey.  He chooses to review interesting discs, and his discussions of them I have found to be informative and enjoyable.

Those are the best of them, in my judgment.  There are several others as well which I will mention briefly.  Classical.Net posts reviews, and pretty good ones, but on an irregular — or at least unspecified — schedule that makes it difficult to track.  The British site MusicWeb International is the clearing house for classical CD reviews; they produce dozens of reviews each day, including many discs issued on obscure labels.  I don’t frequent their site very often because the quality of the reviews is variable (they seem to like almost everything), they have a bias for British music, and their site is ugly and cluttered.  Still, sometimes they are the only ones who review a certain disc that interests me, so I am glad they are there.

If I have missed a source that you consider worthwhile, I’d be happy to hear of it.

7 Responses to “Online classical music reviews”

  1. Christina A. Says:

    Unsolicited and un-paid non-commercial endorsement….

    Craig, I just use your blog as my guide in where to find good classical music reviews and new ideas of what to search out!

    For those of you fellow readers who have not met Craig in person, his music collection is astounding as is his literary library! He guided me over the phone through a frantic trip to my local music store this Christmas to pick out a few CDs for my husband’s stocking and his knowledge was truly encyclopedic.

  2. cburrell Says:

    Thanks, Christina. You are very kind. I do hope that your hubby is enjoying the music we picked out for him.


  3. […] to classical music recordings February 17, 2009 Last week I wrote about several good online sites for classical music reviews.  As helpful as they are, those […]

  4. FK Says:

    Hi Craig

    Found your blog while toying around with Google Blog Search. Nice place you have here.

    If I may be permitted to add to your list of classical music resources, you might want to check out my blog: http://www.aneverymanforhimself.com

    I review classical CDs for those new to the genre, and I also have over 450 links to useful classical music sites.

    Say ‘hi’ if you drop by.

    FK

  5. cburrell Says:

    Thanks very much, FK. You’ve got a good thing going at your site. I recommend that people take a look.

  6. FK Says:

    Very kind of you to say so, and thanks for your endorsement.

    (By the way, I’ve add your blog to my Google Reader subscriptions.)

    FK

  7. cburrell Says:

    Welcome aboard, FK. I will caution you that music reviews are a relatively small part of what goes on here. I’d like to do more, but time does not always permit it. Nevertheless, I hope you will at least occasionally enjoy reading what I manage to cough up.


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