As I explained back in August, I’m having my university students purchase a required recording every semester.
The purpose of this, of course, is to help the students develop good aural concepts of tone, phrasing, expression, vibrato, ensemble, and so forth. To try to learn to play an instrument well without a solid aural concept is like trying to learn a foreign language from a textbook. You might pick up a few things, but you’ll be sunk unless you get to really hear—over and over—how the words and phrases sound.
I’m discovering that it’s a challenge to make the recording selections meet all the criteria I’d like. For example, I would like for each one to:
- Be by a major soloist, preferably living
- Contain very standard literature that my students should know, without too many repeats from previous selections
- Contrast with last semester’s selection (for example, if last semester’s recording was music with piano, I tried to pick a concerto recording this time around)
- If at all possible, contribute to a sense of diversity
The last one has been a challenge. So far my two-semester tally, selecting recordings for four different instruments, is six white men and two white women. I’d like to improve on that in the future, though I do think that, ultimately, what comes through the earphones is more central to this project than the colors or genders represented on the CD covers. I’ve got a few ideas for future selections and welcome additional suggestions.
Here are this semester’s selections: