About the author

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What is early music? I give my non-music friends the short and simple answer, “Music written before the 19th century and performed in a historically informed fashion on period instruments.” Music friends know there really is no simple answer for this. 19th century music is now performed on period instruments, period instruments are used in contemporary music and so on. I like to avoid the debate and just enjoy the music.

I’ve been enjoying it for quite a while. I’ve worked in the music business for most of my adult life and I discovered early music when I was a teenager. I hoarded recordings by the New York Pro Musica and would hit the Record Hunter on Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street in New York the day any new recording by Gustav Leonhardt and the Leonhardt Consort was released. Those were gorgeous packages from the Telefunken label with lavish  booklets containing photographs of the old instruments Leonhardt and his group played, as well as facsimile scores of the music. Leonhardt and Harnoncourt are gone, but a new generation of early music stars keep the fires burning.

I’m going to regularly share my thoughts on the subject. Why should anyone care? I was a marketing executive for three record labels—including the now defunct PGM Recordings, an early music label. I’m also a freelance writer specializing in classical music. I was the founder of Early Music America Magazine’s reviews column and was the reviews editor for almost a dozen years. I also wrote feature stories for the magazine, my last was a 2010 article comparing various recordings of Monteverdi’s Vespro Della Beata Vergine . I was also a regular contributor to the brilliant but, sadly, defunct Goldberg Early Music Magazine (what is it with me and companies that die?). My thoughts on early music have also appeared in Gramophone, Fanfare, Time Out New York and other publications. I was the editor of Sony’s Ariama, a classical music site where I wrote about other kinds of music. Sony closed Ariama a while ago, so I moved on to an arts venue in New York City.

As you can see, I’m not shy about sharing my opinions. You do the same. Let me know what you think.

Craig

21 Responses to “About the author”

  1. This guy knows his stuff!

  2. It was great talking to you this afternoon. You’ve got a lot of interesting info on this site. I’m taking a British Lit class this semester and who knows, this stuff might come in handy.

  3. Nice blog, enjoyed it!

    • Craig Zeichner Says:

      Thank you Tore. I’m a fan of Cinquecento — love the Vaet recording. Please do keep in my mind if there are any new releases you would like reviewed. I also added a link to the Cinquecento website on my blogroll.

      All the best,

      Craig

  4. what a pleasant surprise to discover your blog. I hope you don’t mind if i boast a little about my twenty-three recordings of the 1610 Vespers. Probably Jordi Savall is my favourite overall; I love his beat in the opening, and always delight in his Ave Maris Stella. I hope I get to read your comparison of various versions. I have little or no musical “background”, but have listened to a lot, and respond rather instinctively. Do you enjoy the work of Marcel Peres and Ensemble Organum?

    • Craig Zeichner Says:

      Thanks for your kind words. I’m delighted you enjoy the blog. 23 recordings? You are as big a fan as I am. I love the Savall and it is in my top three. The Vespers seem to be one of those works that has few bad performances on recordings. I love the Rinaldo Alessandrini recording on the Naive label and Andrew Parrott’s on EMI still stands up very well. I’ve managed to round up a copy of the Philip Pickett with the New London Consort, this comes highly recommended to me. I usually do prefer the sound of more Latinate soloists so I lean towards Savall and Alessandrini but am keen to hear Pickett and company. Yes! I like the Peres recordings very much. The Peres Chants de l’Eglise de Rome and Chants de l’Eglise Milanese are revelations. You really can’t go wrong with anything they perform.
      I will let you know when the Vespers story publishes in Early Music America Magazine (the summer issue I believe). Thanks again and please do stay in touch.

      • Enjoyed your review; thanks; interesting and informative; btw, 23 has grown to 32; not “the” vespers, but i have found some lovely music and fine singing on “ad vesperas beatae mariae virginis” (monteverdi and grandi) by Ensemble Orlando, Fribourg (vel 3057)

      • Craig Zeichner Says:

        Grandi is a splendid composer who deserves wider recognition. I’ll have to search out this recording. Thanks!

  5. Hi from France

    About the Vespers, I’m surprised you don’t mention Garrido’s version, “La musica” sung by Maria Christina Kiehr is for me the best one !

    • Craig Zeichner Says:

      I’m a huge fan of Garrido’s Monteverdi recordings — the three operas and the Vespers– but I believe the Vespers recording is currently out of print. Maria Christina Kiehr is probably one of my two favorite early music sopranos (Robert Invernizzi is the other). Do you know Kiehr’s Monteverdi recording “Pianto della Madonna” on Harmonia Mundi? It is sublime.

  6. BTW, Vespers that I got as a gift 35 years ago were the reason I went to “classical” music, and to learn reading it, etc. They will remain a special work to me, for ever.

    • Craig Zeichner Says:

      The Vespers was the first Monteverdi work I ever heard, about 35 years ago for me too. It is still fresh and moving.

  7. I look forward to future posts.

  8. Benjamin Says:

    Mr. Zeichner –

    Do you have a recommended booklist, particularly for scholarship/histories/bios oriented toward the Renaissance and prior? I’m doing a bit of study on my own and technical/historical aspects of the pre-Baroque eras are difficult to penetrate.

    Thanks, and nice blog…

    • Craig Zeichner Says:

      Benjamin,
      Thank you for your kind words. One book I’m especially fond of is Alan Atlas’s Renaissance Music: Music in Western Europe, 1400-1600 (The Norton Introduction to Music History). It’s clear and concise. Another good source, if somewhat difficult to find, is Tess Knighton’s Companion to Medieval and Renaissance Music. Off the top of my head those are my two favorites.

  9. How about something on Blue Heron, here and/or for EMag?

    • Craig Zeichner Says:

      Thanks for checking in. Would love to write something about Blue Heron here or at the Ariama.com site. Can’t speak for EMag, have no clue how they run their editorial.

  10. Hi Craig,
    Lovely blog! I’m enjoying reading through it. I actually work for The Boston Camerata- I see you’ve referenced them a few times in your blogs. They have a new program coming up this April- “Patriots & Heroes: An American Pantheon in Music.” It’s going to be an exciting performance, complete with a fife and drum corps and members of the group Revels! You can check it out here, if you’d like. http://bostoncamerata.org/patriotsHeroes.html And if you’re in the Boston area, I hope you’ll come join us! 🙂

    • Craig Zeichner Says:

      Thanks Yasmina. I’ve been a big Boston Camerata fan for a long time. I’ve done a few articles for Early Music America magazine and have interviewed Joel; one of the stories about music of the colonial era. Your Patriots and Heroes program sounds interesting. Please do keep in touch.

      Best,

      Craig

  11. Hello

    We have made this film of a 6 string bass Viol, made by Owen Morse-Brown from the UK. We think it is a beautiful instrument worth celebrating. We would appreciate any sharing of it that you thought appropriate.

    Many thanks
    Arron Fowler

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