Dan rightly raises the equally valid point about the variability of documentation that accompanies recordings – and that is relevant no matter what the format. In my own reviews of CDs I invariably comment about both the quality of the documentation and the recorded sound. It seems to me that to do so is part and parcel of the reviewer’s duty to readers because collectors are buying a complete package and need to know what it contains, especially because usually you can’t examine the CD before buying, even in a shop, in the same way that you can flick through a book in a bookshop.
Some labels are brilliant in the quality of the documentation they supply. Dan rightly singles out BIS, Chandos and Hyperion but there are several other labels that are just as good; Delphian for one. It seems to me that labels should, as a matter of course and as a minimum, provide purchasers with a good quality, informative note about the music, information about when and where the recording was made and, if the recording is of a vocal or operatic work, the text and, where necessary, a translation. (I respect the argument that says translations should extend beyond English, French and German but I suppose one has to acknowledge there are limits.) In addition I’d like to see record companies acknowledge that not all collections have 20/20 vision and ensure that their booklets are printed using a clear and legible font.
I recognize there’s a cost implication in the provision of documentation but if some labels can maintain high standards in that regard – and note that all the best examplars are, as so often, the small independent companies – then surely all record companies can do so.
Dan promises that he will carry on “naming and shaming” companies that provide substandard documentation or none at all for download collectors. Good for him! I’ll certainly continue to bang the drum for good quality documentation in my CD reviews.
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