Who writes this stuff on record sleeves?

Who writes this stuff on record sleeves?


norman lebrecht

August 12, 2016

From the rear cover of a forthcoming release:

Sophie Pacini is the new voice of the piano today. The charismatic Italian-German musician, a winner of multiple awards, is hailed as the eminent artist of her generation. Her interpretations of the great works of Liszt and Beethoven radiate the full spectrum of colours – combining breathtaking virtuosity with highly nuanced poetry of sound.’

Is there one word here that can be trusted?

Who writes this stuff?



  • Peter Owen says:

    It’s on a par with, “Richly grained, finely textured and structurally coherent.”, which I once encountered in the Gramophone.

  • Hugh G. Reggshone says:

    As the performers, competitions, awards and performances have become virtually interchangeable, so has the syntax of “pseud” writeups like the above.

    One exception perhaps – the expanse and location of naked flesh presented by the female artists in the press gallery and cover photos. This one appears to be decidedly modest in that respect, and may well have to rethink that particular facet in order to keep abreast of the competition.

  • David Osborne says:

    New voice of the piano?

    • Sue says:

      Never heard of Sophie!!! Probably not missing much.

    • Marc says:

      Better yet, check out her concert performance of the “Waldstein” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gd8umypv2Cc). It’s so tame and, shockingly, quite dull. She’s pretty and can play – but not nearly good enough to rank her as advertised. And all that puff about her greatness? It’s the job of her management and the record company to shout from the rooftops about the brilliance of….fill in the blank the artist in question. Such hype is used so casually and unblushingly with every movie/TV show/book/recording/theater piece, etc. that it’s best to simply breeze past it. In this case, Sophie’s choice is an easy one: Spend your money elsewhere.

  • Ray Richardson says:

    I’ve read similar stuff on SD!

  • Ellingtonia says:

    Someone should devise a list of words often used in music reviews that can be used when playing “bullshit bingo” during meetings of musical administrators.

    • Steven Holloway says:

      True, but the problem here is that this is not a review. It’s written for the cover and is supposed to be informative, just as are the inside-flaps of book covers. Today, however, sometimes the CD cover, and almost always the book flap, read like rave reviews. In this case, I suspect a fair amount of sheer ignorance, often now encountered also in the season calendars of orchestras. A careful look at these multiple awards rather clues one in — mostly scholarships with just one victory in a little-known competition. I know the sort of people who write those orchestra calendars, and I’m pretty sure we have the same here.

  • Ravi Narasimhan says:

    Ellingtonia says: “Someone should devise a list of words often used in music reviews that can be used when playing “bullshit bingo” during meetings of musical administrators.”

    How about generation, passion, audience outreach, new music/new composer champion [especially from artist’s home country], social media star, …

    • Frederick West says:

      Not forgetting ‘iconic, narrative, discourse etc. How on earth did the words ‘great’ and ‘Liszt’ end up in the same sentence?

      • Furzwängler says:

        What utter humbuggery. Of course they belong in the same sentence. Are you related to that dire music critic and biographer Ernest Newman?

        • Steven Holloway says:

          The silly plonker is actually descended from Mae West. She said that Liszt was not great, and it was possibly so, but she wasn’t talking about his music. (–:

      • Sue says:

        The same way that “Frederick West says” ends up in the same phrase.

  • Anon says:

    Probably the same people who write the blurb on the back of (generally cheaper) wine bottles; usually people who seem not to have actually tasted the contents, but who do a fine line in flowery adjectives instead.

  • James says:

    Sounds like a Google Translate job. Does it read better in the German, or Italian, edition, I wonder? Mind you, “voice of the piano” is particularly unfortunate.

  • Tully Potter says:

    Well, I suppose you can trust words such as ‘the’, ‘a’, ‘Italian-German’, ‘piano’, ‘great’, ‘works’, ‘Liszt’ and ‘Beethoven’. In accusing a writer of exaggeration, one doesn’t want to fall into exaggeration oneself! TP

  • Robert Roy says:

    If the contents of the disc is good then the ‘puff’ doesn’t matter. No-one buys a cd for the notes…

    (Mind you, I’ve been tempted by some cd covers…

  • Robert Roy says:

    If the contents of the disc are exceptional then the ‘puff’ doesn’t matter. No-one buys a cd for the notes…

    (Mind you, I’ve been tempted by some cd covers…

  • Tim Walton says:

    A sycophantic moron by the look of it.

  • Geoff Cox says:

    ignore the words and listen to this … https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r7h5vCGYCak

    • Mike says:

      Thank you.

      The lack of musical talent is stupendous.

    • Steven Holloway says:

      Thanks for that, Geoff. Perhaps better still, because more telling, see the YT recital performance of the ‘Waldstein’ Sonata. That told me that she is a very, very good pianist indeed. I can see why Martha Argerich has taken her under her wing. She is young, of course, and better still may come. Notable also in these days was her manner on stage, her attire, her modest bows, and swift departure — the antithesis of what we are used to from so many young artists I do not need to name. And so, that ludicrous puffery on the cover of the CD, which includes the ‘Waldstein’, actually does her a disservice.

  • Robert Holmén says:

    Somewhere, there’s an Elaine Benes writing blurbs for classical music.

  • Raymond Clarke says:

    Some of the drivel I’ve seen in record companies’ press releases is so naive that it’s embarrassing to read. But even if it’s justified as constituting effective marketing it should not extend as far as misrepresentation. Warner reissued Claudio Arrau’s 1947 recording of the Brahms First Concerto with a blurb on the back of the CD box describing it as: “a Brahms First Concerto which, late in life, Arrau confessed was his own preferred version amongst his recordings”.

    Now here’s Arrau’s own words on that 1947 recording after he had recently listened to it, as related in his conversation book with Joseph Horowitz (Collins, 1982, p. 174): “It was awful! I was going to say, ‘Who is this pianist?’ … I hated it”.

  • Stepheni says:

    In view of the perilous state of recorded music today and the large number of fine pianists no longer able to make recordings, I am prepared to overlook the blurb and enjoy the music of a very promising newcomer.

  • Stephen says:

    2002 und 2005 1st prize at “Jugend musiziert”.
    2006 1st prize at the Grotrian Steinweg competition, Brunswick.
    2009 1st prize at the Great Scholaship Competition of the Austrian Academies of Music, donated by Hildegard Maschmann
    2009 The Salzburg Mozarteum’s Huebel-scholarship
    2011 Prix Groupe Edmond de Rothschild of the “Sommets Musicaux de Gstaad”
    2011 Förderpreis Deutschlandfunk beim Bremer Musikfest[6]
    2012 Young Artist Prize of the festival “Pietrasanta in concerto”[7]
    2013 Price of “Mozart-Gesellschaft-Dortmund”
    2015 ECHO Klassik Award “Newcomer of the Year 2015”

    • Sue says:

      OK, I take back what I suggested about her being on ‘Britain’s Got Talent”. But, honestly, she’s no better than dozens of pianists I’ve heard in the Chopin and Sydney International Piano competitions quite recently. If MA has taken her under her wing it only shows me that it’s not WHAT you know but WHO you know.

    • Minnie says:

      None of the awards you mentioned are prominent or give international exposure.

      Echo klassik award basically depends on how much money the person sticks into the marketing.[redacted]

  • Theodore McGuiver says:

    My personal favourite is ‘One of the most dynamic (discipline) of his/her generation’. It means bugger all.

  • Stephen says:

    There’s nothing new to this sort of blurb. How about “Callas, the Voice of the Century”? As a vocal actress, undoubtedly but there have been many more beautiful soprano voices.

  • Pianofortissimo says:

    In a sense, liner notes like those demerits the interpreter no matter how good or bad she/he is. Charles Rosen did the right thing – distressed by the revolting humbug printed with one of his first Chopin albums, he wrote the liner notes in his next albums himself.

  • Joel Levine says:

    I opened a program of a small touring production of “Porgy and Bess” and read this – the beginning of the conductor’s bio: “Often compared to Mozart and Bernstein……..”
    The only thing to do was to look up his agent and write her: “He’s no Mozart or Bernstein…..”

  • Ian Pace says:

    Try this, from what purports to be a scholarly book on a contemporary composer:

    ‘Initially the image and sensing of the water lily are transformed into a purely musical expression, but once one has heard the music, the flower takes on new meanings as one becomes aware of its visual, metaphorical, and spiritual essence.’

  • Vlad says:

    Check out her Wikipedia page: it reads like a press release from her agent. And she’s “friendly with Martha”!