Sony Classical can’t tell one John Williams from another

Sony Classical can’t tell one John Williams from another


norman lebrecht

February 08, 2020

This is ever so slightly beyond pathetic.

Sony Classical UK have tried to take down this embarrassing tweet, exposing ignorance, arrogance and other unseemly parts.


Not the birthday boy

UPDATE: Why Sony’s howler is a sign of our times


  • Greg Bottini says:

    Record companies used to be run by music lovers and musicians.
    Now thy are run (into the ground) by bean-counters and twitterers.

    • Record Company Survivor says:

      When we’re record companies ever run by music lovers and musicians? Having worked at 3 major labels in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s (including Sony), I can confidently report that classical recording companies have been staffed and run by egomaniacal, clueless nincompoops for decades. This John Williams fiasco is therefore no surprise – I recall a memo circulated by a Sony executive who was concerned about the poor sales of Walter Bruno’s recordings…

      • Cubs Fan says:

        The Sorias who ran Angel Records in the US were deeply committed to classical music. Goddard Lieberson ran Columbia records, using the pop branch to fund classical. I know/knew execs who ran Nonesuch, New World Records, Westminster Gold – they loved it so much. The people who started those smaller companies like Telarc, Vox, Everest sure did it for the love music. So I imagine did the founders of Chandos, Hyperion, Naxos and BIS. The record producers of yesterday like John Pfeiffer, Mohn McClure, John Culshaw, Charles Gerhardt should all have monuments built. We owe these people so much!

        • Record Company Survivor says:

          Indeed, the boutique record labels that you mention were and are still run by knowledgeable music lovers. But the large, corporate-owned labels have not seen the likes of the Soria’s or Godard Lieberson’s for decades. And when they did have the occasional knowledgeable executive, there was always the higher-up corporate executive with a fragile ego who felt threatened by the smarty-pants classical expert, so he would either silence or fire him.

      • M2N2K says:

        If I remember correctly, “Walter Bruno” was the “name” of the conductor on some of P.D.Q. Bach’s recordings that sold rather well in 1970s and 1980s.

  • Bruce says:

    Oh my god.

  • Armchair Bard says:

    That’s an intern in one big heap of trouble; but also perhaps well placed for a job on Radio 3…

    (Actually, what I find really unconscionable is the failure to mention JW’s renowned tenure as master of the music at St Peter ad Vincula in the Tower of London. And, of course, Williams played the inspector in Dial M for Murder. The man had a versatility Sony’s tweet hardly even begins to hint at.)

    • V.Lind says:

      Not to mention John McLaughlin Williams, conductor and violinist and occasional contributor to this forum.

      And the Chairman of English football.

  • Gustavo says:

    Happy birthday to the one and only John Towner Williams!

    • V.Lind says:

      ‘cept I rather think he has long since celebrated his last birthday…but wasn’t he wonderful?

      • Adam Stern says:

        Indeed. He once did a rare evil turn in one of the few Alfred Hitchcock TV episodes that “Hitch” directed himself: “Back for Christmas.” He was terrific. — Oh, and remember Williams’ oh-so-polished TV ads for one of the first compilations of classical music greatest-hits sound bytes… “I’m sure you recognize this lovely melody as ‘Stranger in Paradise.’ But, did you know it’s actually the ‘Polovtsian Dance No. 2’ by Borodin?”

  • Brian says:

    It shows that you can’t put your social media in the hands of a twenty-something who seemingly knows nothing about the “product” they’re pitching (or can’t be bothered to do their homework).

    Unfortunately for whoever made this error, he or she is probably in a heap of trouble this weekend.

    • V.Lind says:

      I doubt it. The spinners will take care of it all on Twitter.

      “Knows nothing…can’t be bothered to do their homework…” — increasingly, the definition of a generation. A friend who teaches the SENIOR year of journalism students at a university swears none of his students would ever contemplate using a BOOK for research. They know nothing and do not see why they should — and this is supposed to be a profession that attracts the curious and the critical. These kids are neither. References mean nothing to them — he mentioned Woodward and Bernstein, who inspired a generation of journalists. They had never heard of them.

      Reference is dead.

      • Graeme Gee says:

        All that conducting, and Lennie had time to dabble in journalism too. Didn’t know ‘Carl’ was a nickname, though!

  • CYM says:

    Can’t Williams tell from another one ?
    – Ask Ross Ini !

  • CGDA says:

    These are the companies in charge of culture. No wonder they are so stale, boring and record so much rubbish! Do we still wonder why so many people do not want to buy CDs (it is not just a matter of online platforms)?

  • Jimbo says:

    Sadly tweeting etc in many companies is left to beginners and thus the fruits of such are sown and rewarded accordingly. Most millennials use Google and online searches which can be inaccurate. I cite the ignorant pup reporter who cut and pasted a swastika in place of Star of David as he’d googled Israel. Bless. The singular lack of general or indeed classics knowledge is telling when one watches University challenge. Sadly only those attending the “better” universities seem to fare better in a show of rounded education. Too many are focused on singular topics / degrees many of which are a little, shall I say, bogus. Discuss.

    • V.Lind says:

      Tend to agree re UC, though it is not universally true. There are some lights in the redbricks, and some astonishingly limited Oxbridgeans. But if you really want an eye-opener as to how bad it has become, find a radio programme called The Third Degree on Radio 4 or 4 Extra, which puts students against dons.

      It’s bad enough when students show no grasp of anything outside their subject, but it is the lack of broad awareness of the dons that always makes me glad I went through university several decades ago. I had a rigorous and wide-ranging classical education.

  • Gene Gaudette says:

    Ever so slightly? This sort of systemic incompetence was the primary reason I walked away from a major label job over twenty years ago.

  • Unfortunately information travels so fast that mistakes are known about instantly. One needs to double check, triple check every official release.
    Also… the internet preserve every public post – forever.