MACLEAN’S REVIEWS

Why not get into plagiarism? That’s where the money is

ELMO CIPRIETTI March 1 1969
MACLEAN’S REVIEWS

Why not get into plagiarism? That’s where the money is

ELMO CIPRIETTI March 1 1969

Why not get into plagiarism? That’s where the money is

RECORDS

Plagiarize! Let no one else’s work evade your eyes!

THIS, ACCORDING to Tom Lehrer, grand wit and satirist, is the basis of musical success. Record companies have taken his advice in recent releases.

Plagiarism became respectable after Johann Sebastian Bach visited Venice in the early 1700s and blew his mind listening to the concertos of Antonio

Vivaldi. On his return to Germany he profitably published a fugued-up version of a Vivaldi violin concerto. He played this game for several years, and it has always been condoned, perhaps because so many musicologists happen to be German.

But the Avenging Furies have struck Bach. For 200 years Bach’s music has been copied, shanghaied, arranged, plagiarized, synthesized, transcribed and debased, and by now there are almost a dozen long-playing versions of these musical aberrations.

The latest is a bestseller called Switched-On Bach (Checklistings, February) with favorite tunes transmogrified by Robert Moog’s electronic synthesizer. Glenn Gould has hailed it as the “record of the decade.” Three years ago, the Swingle Singers, a frenetic pop vocal group, had their way with Bach. Conductors Leopold Stokowski and Eugene Ormandy thought they should update delicate keyboard pieces for their 90-piece orchestras. All could cite the precedent of the divine Mozart who, at the height of his career in 1782, wrote pretty string trios as euphemisms for Bach’s salty backroom fugues.

With 35,000 long-playing records now available in North America, plagiarism becomes a necessity if record companies keep trying to market only commercially proven material. Some recent examples:

□ Liszt’s Beethoven: Glenn Gould is the perpetrator of this Columbia album featuring Franz Liszt’s bombastic transcription for piano solo of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. All three musicians are disgraced.

□ Carmina Burana (un-Orffed): The Germans are trying to redress things by bravely publishing the long-suppressed original. These lusty mediaeval songs have been heard only in the gargantuan treatment accorded to them in a contemporary setting by Carl Orff. Now, Telefunken has just issued two records of the originals un-Orffed and purified.

□ Camarata’s Verdi: From London Records, a rich and spacious stereo version of Verdi tunes are strung together in shocking fashion and played uptempo by orchestra minus singers at the whim of English conductor Camarata. For listeners familiar with the librettos, this wordless disc can be high comedy, as the most unlikely characters from six operas are yoked into casual and scandalous liaisons.

□ 1812 Overture: RCA Victor has just issued a transcription of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, rewritten to include choral versions of the folk themes that he used and authentic

Russian church bells, taped recently in Moscow, and then combined on multi-track tape. The badly bowdlerized overture is described by RCA as a “version that might possibly have been Tchaikovsky’s own were he alive in today’s electronic world.” Uh huh.

ELMO CIPRIETTI