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Fanfare Contributor Bio

Peter Stokely

One of my favorite composers has always been Alexander Borodin. When confronted with a choice of careers between music and the world of science and engineering, he chose both. For better or worse, I settled on a different arrangement. I would earn money writing computer software, and spend most of it on recordings. Until quite recently, these paths remained independent—I never got to write software about recordings. But collect them I did.

My first serious collection (and my first experience with format wars) consisted of scores of classical 45s—RCA’s challenge to Columbia’s LP as the successor to the 78. I don’t remember any but the best and the worst of the lot. The best was two parts of Kubelik’s CSO Ma Vlast, from a new outfit called Mercury, which split its bet by making both a 45 and an LP version. The worst (possibly ever) was a “Magic Fire Music” by something called The First Piano Quartet. I first learned the true nature of collector’s remorse by unwrapping an eagerly anticipated package only to hear Wotan sung by a piano. Fanfare, of course, wasn’t around then.

Fast-forward to the 1970s. Fanfare entered the picture at a marvelous time. For a few glorious years, the classical buyer at my local Tower was able to stock any classical LP or CD in the catalog. It was observed at that time that one might enter Tower as a prosperous citizen, and depart as a ward of the state. This was simple truth. Several review magazines were available to help us choose wisely. A new one was Fanfare, and I quickly gravitated to it. The reviews had real information and real pith. I have not been without it since.

Fast-forward again. We have come an astounding distance. This may be a time of dire difficulties for the classical music industry, but Serious Collectors can impoverish themselves more rapidly than ever before. Isn’t it simply a marvel how many composers and works we can explore, order, and download inexpensively at this very moment? I can take my pick of Josquin Masses or Bach cantata cycles, add a little Sweelinck, maybe some remastered Schnabel, and top up with Dutilleux and Gloria Coates, all from my laptop. A thousand years of vital music, recorded over the course of 100 years, is available with a click of the Add-to-Cart button.

As ever, Fanfare helps me to make wise, or at least interesting, choices. I am honored to have been invited to help. From time to time, I get bundles from Fanfare Central containing entirely unexpected music. This is truly exciting. I write about the releases that give me genuine pleasure, that will be welcomed onto the chaotic shelves of my collection, and that I will return to again and again. I don’t write about the ones that I am unlikely to play a third time. In between critical listening sessions, I develop and employ the software that runs the Fanfare web site and archive, keep ever-helpful cats from editing the code, and simply enjoy listening to all this amazing music.


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