I am very grateful to Brandon Satterlee for introducing me to Spotify one morning when I visited him at The Forest. wearetheforest.com. I have had Pandora for a long time, but found it frustrating because if I asked for Beethoven, it gave me Clementi or Cherubini. Spotify gives what I ask for, assuming Spotify has it. March 8 happened to be the 300th birthday of one of J. S. Bach's sons--Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, a composer known to me through one or two pieces, but mostly because he was the son of a famous father. Searching on Spotify, I discovered some half dozen albums, all of which I could add to my playlist and begin exploring.
So without spending anything other than the monthly subscription, without trying to find and choose among albums at Amazon or some other place, and without having either to download music--which I prefer not to do--or to wait for an order to arrive, I could watch for spring (the other thing on my agenda these days) and discover a range of music by someone who now becomes one of my favorite composers. And because the shadow of his father, on the one hand, and of Mozart, on the other, always surround C. P. E. Bach, I started right out with C. P. E.'s Magnificat, which is wonderfully dramatic, and not especially reminiscent of his father's famous work, nor especially anticipatory of the Masses of Mozart (at least to my ears, which are the only ears that matter to me).
I have reached a point in life where all that is new either appalls or delights me--and by most of it, especially technology and the range of experiences it opens, I choose to be delighted. I am delighted, for example, by preparing a hybrid class on higher education, never having taught online before and now at my age having that chance. And the technology that today allowed me to discover and thoroughly immerse myself in meeting C. P. E. Bach delights me.
At one time, buying a single album of music was a major decision--and is some ways, it still is. I was fortunate in that the first album I ever bought, which I got as a birthday gift for my father, was Glen Gould's recording of Bach's Fifth Keyboard Concerto--which I later studied--and Beethoven's First Piano Concerto. http://www.glenngould.com/us/home When I bought the album, I had no idea who Glenn Gould was; I just decided to buy the album. And Gould's playing of the Bach captivated, and I have gone on to own almost all of Gould's recordings of Bach's music, as well as many other of his recordings.
What is delightful about the feast of Spotify is that with many artists, one can have it all. In the last few days, I have feasted on Alfred Cortot's playing, for example. One of the (I am sure) anxiety-producing givens for any young concert pianist now is that people like me, who could never have heard Cortot while he was alive and whose recordings were gone until digital remastering came along are busily comparing Cortot's breathtaking playing of Chopin--or Schnabel's playing of Schubert-- with what we are hearing in front of us from the youngest generation of pianists. Candidly, comparing some current pianists with these wonderful old recordings is one reason some of us wonder why every pianist these days gets a standing ovation.
Sometimes, a discovery of an album does lead to its purchase. The other day, while waiting for my car to be repaired, I surfed Spotify (the service station has free wireless of course) and discovered the first album Daniel Barenboim made. Barenboim is two years older than I; and he made this recording when he was twelve or so. The recording includes Dimitri Kabalevsky's Sonatina, a work I studied and even sometimes played for church groups or other organizatrions in need of entertainment. Listening to Barenboim's album while waiting for my car convinced me of two things--first, that I had to order the album, which I did while listening to it; and, second, that Barenboim's playing of the Kabalevsky reminded me of what Artur Schnabel said of Mozart's piano sonatas--that they were "too simple for children and too difficult for artists." When I played the Kabalevsky, I thought it a relatively easy piece, but when I heard Barenboim's recording, I realized how difficult such a work is, unless it is in the hands of an artist.
And one final discovery: 30 Seconds to Mars, which I learned of quite accidentally when a friend, Matthew Zimmerman, mentioned it to me. Sure enough, the group is well-represented on Spotify and with great ease, I can now explore a music that is far from what I would normally come across. On another note, Matthew has taken many online courses as he pursues his bachelor's degree and is giving me advice as I develop my hybrid course.
AND ONE SIDE NOTE:
there is an inaccuracy on Spotify; and the presence of inaccurate information on the internet is a concern many people often express. In this case, Spotify's picture of Barenboim's album mistakenly says it includes a work by Johann Sebastian Bach. In fact, the work is by another of Bach's sons--Johann Christian, the eleventh of Bach's children and the last of his sons.
But never mind the inaccuracy--Spotify has albums by J. C. as well as C. P. E., including one that also has music by Wilhelm Friedemann Bach, the oldest of Bach's surviving sons. If one wanted, one could roam around Spotify and immerse one's self in the music of three of Bach's sons and then return, of course, to the father who, surprisingly, somehow managed to be an overwhelming presence both in his own time and in ours, and yet raised three sons who could hold their own in his shadow.