What took them so long to bring us this cracker?

What took them so long to bring us this cracker?


norman lebrecht

October 15, 2013

Two Portuguese speakers played a recital at the Wigmore Hall in the dog days of last January when the world and its auntie are struggling back to consciousness from the annual binge.

We missed the recital. So did you.

DG didn’t. It was a five-star cracker. But it has taken the label almost two years to bring it out on record…. and with the dreariest bit of wrapping.

Read my review on Sinfinimusic.

wig hall recital


  • anon says:

    But Norman, these musicians are not big name fashion icons like Yuja Wang, so Deutsche Grammophon is not going to make a ton of money on this album. Why rush through the processing when they have all those attractive young pianists to market…? I’m surprised DG bothered to release this at all!

  • Risto Nieminen says:

    Great album!

  • Johannes Gertz says:

    I agree with “anon”; Maria João Pires is not “sexy” enough to sell records today.

    (Read: she’s not under 25, not a 1m80 blonde, not this month’s flavour).

    I submit to you: what difference does it make if DG sell 689 copies or 688 of a CD? They’re losing money no matter what. DG’s team should at least keep their self-respect intact by publishing more records by Pires, and artists of her caliber.

    Anyone whose hearing is not seriously impaired and has heard Pires live in the last 10 years knows that she’s among the best. Hopefully, when the record business has fully collapsed, we’ll stop this nonsense of judging musicians by their head-shots.

  • Donald Wright says:

    Meneses’s age starts with a 5, and Pires’s starts with a 6. Thus these artists are not in the age range where they could be presented by their recording companies in glossy photos with “high-concept” hair, gownless evening straps, or moist and vermillion bedroom lips, as can certain other and much younger artists who make up in appearance what they lack in depth of musical expression. (For the latter, they substitute orgasmic writhing and ecstatic facial scrunching at the keyboard in an effort to convince us that they feel profoundly.) Now, I’m not going to name names, but I’m thinking very loudly of two artists of opposite genders and of an Eastern persuasion whose last names are one syllable each, and rhyme.

    • Carlo Montano says:

      Sorry, I disagree with your analysis here. In my opinion DG can break common public opinion that artists should look sexy, pretty, photogenic etc by presenting them in these kind of CD album image (as Norman posted us recently):


      I am sure if these 2 great artists pose as those sample photos this album will make it to the number 1 Billboard for the next 12 months. Imagine a CD cover with these 2 artists on top of each other on a sofa, everybody will buy this CD in an instant……..:)

    • #Donald: Tonton et Nana!

    • @Donald, again: I was told a story recently by a singer at the Berliner Staatsoper who was at the stage door when a certain Chinese pianist turned up:

      ‘Ich habe einen Termin mit Maestro Barenboim’

      ‘Ihr Name?’

      ‘Lang Lang’

      ‘Ist gut, einmal reicht’.

      Could be apocryphal, but I like it nonetheless.

      • Donald Wright says:

        Ausgezeichnet! I do hope Mr. LL withered on the spot, but I rather doubt it. The capacity to wither requires a fairly hefty dose of self-doubt, which in turn presupposes introspection and depth, two qualities conspicuously absent from LL’s playing. (OK; I’m a monster. 🙂

        P.S. I wasn’t familiar with Tom-Tom et Nana: is there any particular episode I should view for my edification? Thanks!

  • MWnyc says:

    Just FYI, Norman, in the States, “cracker” isn’t a compliment.

    The word’s most common usage over here (other than to denote saltines and the like) is as a very derogatory term for white people – usually prejudiced, ignorant, uneducated, working-class-or-poor (and, more often than not, Southern) white people. It’s basically the equivalent of n****r, though without the latter word’s history of being the accompaniment to violent assault and murder.

    Imagine my confusion, then, when I read the headline, “What took them so long to bring us this cracker?”

  • MWnyc says:

    Yes, Pires is absolutely wonderful.

    There’s a good Q&A with her from last year over on the ArtsJournal blog Condemned to Music.

  • Funny you should publish this now, Mr. Lebrecht as I see their faces all over town at the moment. They’ll be going to Toulouse in late November, too, so if anyone fancies jumping on an Easyjet from Gatwick…


    …you’ll also have a chance to enjoy fine wines and the local delicacies: foie gras and magret de canard. Saw and heard MJP last season in the Mozart G major with Robin Ticciati and the SCO. Excellent artist.

  • Jon says:

    Well I was lucky enough to attend the recital at the Wigmore Hall, which was sold out. Pires is in fact a real draw in London and her concerts are very well attended (indeed, probably better attended than those by younger and perhaps more ‘marketable’ colleagues).

    It would seem from the review that the recording managed to capture some of the magic of the performances by Pires and Meneses, in which case it deserves its good reviews.

    I am slightly surprised though at some of the negative comments about DG. Some of its decisions may have been questionable in recent years, but it still has a very fine roster of serious artists and does release many fine recordings each year. According to its website, in the last 2 years it has released 3 new recordings featuring Pires as well as 4 reissues of older recordings. In the same period, Yuja Wang (who has been mentioned as a comparator) has had just 2 recordings issued. So perhaps the situation isn’t as bad as some are suggesting.

  • David Boxwell says:

    Pires’s DG recording of the slow movement of Chopin’s third sonata provides the music for Manoel de Oliveira’s late masterpiece “The Strange Case of Angelica” (2011). Pires and MO will break your heart . . .

    • Derek Castle says:

      Naughty, naughty, Donald. There’s a wonderful clip of Horowitz on YouTube where he imitates LL long before he was born and says: “I just can’t do this.”

      • Donald Wright says:

        I freely confess to being naughty, Derek. Can you point to the YouTube clip? Thanks!

        • Derek Castle says:

          I think it might be in the documentary “VH the Last Romantic” (where he is interviewed by some awful, sycophantic person from Steinway). I’ll keep looking!