Sunday, June 08, 2008

Teaching with the Naxos Music Library

For the last few weeks I've had full access to the Naxos Music Library given to all the authors on the 100 Music Education Bloggers project (Thanks, Joseph!). I've been scouring the depths of the Naxos catalogue listening to a wide variety of the incredibly diverse recordings. However, I hadn't yet figured out how to integrate the library into my teaching.

Until Friday evening in my home studio.

One of my piano students preparing for his Grade 9 exam later this summer is learning the Bach Sinfonia No. 11 in G minor BWV 797. He needed to develop a greater sense of baroque style into his playing. Normally I would assign students to listen to a few recordings to learn different approaches to the style.

Then I realized that with access to the Naxos library I could find and play multiple recordings during the lesson within minutes. Out came the laptop (I have a home wifi connection) and did a search for Bach Sinfonias. The results: there are no less than 8 recordings of the sinfonias available on the library. I then selected these recordings of the work and played them through the laptop's speakers:
  • Evgeny Korolov on the Haenssler label
  • a live recording of Glenn Gould on CBC Records
  • Andre Laberge playing harpsichord on Analekta
  • Elizabeth Joye playing harpsichord on Alpha
  • Wolfgang Rubsam on Naxos
What we noticed in the lesson is that each of these keyboardists had their own style, often radically different than the others--Korolov with a straight-ahead performance but not without a great deal of transparency and simplicity, Gould with a much faster tempo and lilting feeling of 1 to a bar, Laberge with a rhythmically concise reading on harpsichord, Joye with a more rhythmically free reading on harpsichord, and Rubsam with extensive ornamentation. While our favorites were Korolov and Gould, it was certainly an eye-opener to hear this level of diversity of interpretation.

What I can't emphasize enough is that in the days before internet services like this, you would have had to either buy the recordings or take them out from a music library in order to hear the interpretations. I was able access the online library and find the recordings via the search function within a couple of minutes. Now it's back to the library to discover even more ways to use it in the studio.


  1. Yes, I've written about the Naxos music library before, and have used it for precisely this purpose (comparing interpretations) - it's an amazing resource!

    I would also say that it has not diminished my CD buying habits, if anything, it's made them worse!

  2. Thanks for the reminder about Naxos: they are such a sleeping giant, if you will, and a wonderful teaching resource as I have discovered with numerous students...hey, btw, I thought GG passed away a while ago, so what's with the 'live' recording?!
    If there's anybody who defies the parameters of Time, he's the guy to live on in posterity...especially if that Viking Mission(?) is any indication!

  3. Transcontinental and Urban Flute Project sightings on the CPB!

    The Gould recording is probably from the early sixties--the information on the Naxos Library site doesn't specify. One of the wonders of the service is just how many labels are represented and have their recordings available for streaming.

  4. Great resource news, Chris! And, I'm so glad to hear that you're teaching the drop-dead-gorgeous JSB G minor 3 Part Invention. Wasn't sure if anyone taught them much anymore these days. Way-back-when, they were my first Big Bach and I still come back to them often. Whatta guy!


  5. For the love of god, tell people about this:

    Free access to it when you sign up with the TSO email club

  6. I am really spoiled because I have free access to Naxos through the college where my husband works! It truly is a wonderful resource.

  7. Thanks, Kathy. And props to Gerrit--I'll mention the TSO deal in a separate posting.

  8. Anonymous11:13 AM

    Another way to get it for free - at least, here in Calgary. If you have a Calgary Public Library card you have access to Naxos through the E-Library. I can't imagine that this wouldn't also be the case in other major cities.