My Good Old Classical Records

August 12, 2021 By mk

Murakami’s latest book is ” My Good Old Classical Records “, released on 24 June 2021 in Japan. Murakami, known as a jazz record collector and for his deep knowledge of classical records, introduced 486 LP records in this book, covering 100 chapters; some are categorized by music, while some are by a conductor.

Note: This book is written in Japanese. No idea if it will be translated in the future, but there is a possibility, as his past books had been.

Murakami wrote, “Regarding classical records, I am very picky about the design of the jacket. Empirically speaking, records with attractive jackets tend to have great content.” and added, “This book is dedicated to my personal taste and has no systematic or practical purpose. Most of the records are black vinyl, recorded more than half a century ago, from 1950 to the mid-1960s. If one were to ask whether such a book would be of any use, the only honest answer would be that it may not be of much use. However, I would guess (and hope) that classical music lovers will find a certain degree of familiarity in these pages and the photograph on the cover.

Among 100, 9 of Beethoven and Mozart, 6 of Brahms, 5 of J.S.Bach and Bartok, 4 of Schumann and Tchaikovsky, 3 of Schubert, Stravinsky, Mahler, Rachmaninoff and Richard Strauss, and the rest of others.

The reviews in this book are candid, with Murakami’s longstanding taste in music on full display, and he expresses in his own words what resonates with him, both famous and not-so-famous works. At times he intersperses his signature expressions, such as “If Mozart had never written a horn concerto, all the horn players in the world must have lived in a somewhat dimmer world than they do now”.

What is interesting is the reference to ‘terroir’, which appears throughout the book. For example, the love for the indescribable “home” feeling that a conductor trained in a regional Italian opera house can create in Italian opera, and the respect for the “away” feeling that comes from a distant world and overcomes barriers to deeply understand the composer’s intentions and sublimate them in performance.

For example, in Manuel de Falla y Matheu’s Night in a Spanish Garden (Noches en Los Jardines de España), he takes eight records (four Spanish, four not) and contrasts them with affection.

Atuccaro is a Basque pianist whose main repertoire is Spanish music… I was struck by the freshness of his sound. There seems to be no particular “Spanish sentiment” in his music, but, like the Polish Chopin player, there is a colour that oozes naturally from his constitution. In any case, the sound is wonderful.

The pianist, Marguerite Weber is from Switzerland, the conductor, Kubelik is from the Czech Republic and the orchestra is from Bavaria, a country with little geographical connection to Spain. Weber’s piano, however, is unhurried and persuasive in its depiction of the world of music. There’s no shortage of Spanish flavour.

Interestingly, the distance between Spain and Japan, where Murakami lives and listens to the records, is much greater than the distance between Spain and Switzerland. The cultures of the two countries are far more different. Still, Murakami easily overcomes this distance and enjoys the music openly. His position is definitely Japanese (and he expresses it in Japanese), but that does not constrain his senses. I think that is the “something” that is present in his novels.

Switch Magazine, Vol.37, No.12, Dec 2019

Regarding Schumann’s Carnaval, on which he wrote a novel in First Person Singular, Murakami referred to nine records and wrote, “As there are too many of them, I had to exclude all the ones from the stereo era. I regret that I cannot mention Rubinstein’s wonderful masterpieces.”

  • Angel HA1010 (1928) by Alfred Denis Cortot, (1877-1962), France
  • EMI HQM1077 (1952) by Solomon (1902-1988), UK
  • Angel 35247 (1955) by Anda Géza (1921-1976), Hungary
  • Col. ML5146 by Robert Casadesus (1899-1972), France
  • Col.ML4722 (1954) by Walter Wilhelm Gieseking (1895-1956), Germany
  • Vic.LCT12 (1929) by Sergei Rachmaninov (1873-1943), Russia
  • DM5260 (1950s) by Jan Panenka (1922-1999), Czech
  • West. XWN18490 (1961) Paul Badura-Skoda (1927-2019), Austria
  • VOX PL11.630 (1959) Sándor György (1912-2005), Hungary

After hearing forty-two recorded versions of the piece, her number one choice was Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli’s recording for Angel Records, and mine was Arthur Rubinstein’s RCA recording. (Carnaval; First Person Singular)

Murakami has certainly listened to more than 40 Carnaval albums regardless of CD or vinyl, though.

An article in a 2019 issue of the magazine featured Murakami’s audio system, which reveals the background to a sentence in Kafka on the Shore.