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Thread: Advise on guide: Penguin or Gramophone???

  1. #1
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    Default Advise on guide: Penguin or Gramophone???

    I'm considering buying a guide to the immense quantity of recording out there.
    I've seen Penguin's in a friends home, and I liked a lot of the way it's organized.
    I've never seen a Gramophone Guide, but it's fame is immense.
    So, since their price on Amazon is about the same, what is you recommendation? and why? If you have both, which do you use the most?
    Cheers, Luís Martins.

    (sorry about the lousy English!)
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    Junior Member Octo_Russ's Avatar
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    I would recommend the Penguin guide, i have had both in the past, the Penguin guide is more extensive, a lot more pages, many more reviews and recommendations, i find it easier to read.

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    Senior Member Vaneyes's Avatar
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    Neither. There's so much up-to-date information on the Internet, that it's made these guides? redundant. The guides are over a year behind by the time they go to press, so that eliminates new recordings. Too, the guides rehash too many old recordings with often the exact review from many issues past. Who needs that? I love many old recordings, but I would like newer comparisons in both performance and sound, and complete elimination of ones that just don't matter anymore.

    If you want hard copy material so bad, that's not old news as fast or as long, I would suggest one of the classical music magazines. I don't buy them either.

    Some say "payola" is a significant factor in any guide or magazine. I don't know.
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    Vaneyes point is well taken. Information on the internet is clearly more up to date. Personally I have more confidence that the guides are giving information based on extensive knowledge of listening to many recordings of many works. I personally don't feel I can always discriminate between useful and not as useful (to me) reviews online. From experience, I would sat that my guides have helped me select what I feel are better recordings, but online guides so far have not been as helpful.

    I have the Gramophone and Third Ear guides. I don't have the Penguin. I like the Third Ear guide better than Gramophone because it is much more extensive (my understanding is that the Penguin is more like the Third Ear). The Third Ear guide lists most works by a large number of composers. The Gramophone guide simply lists great recordings so many works are left out. My Third Ear guide is a bit old so newer recordings are not listed.

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    I have both, though not the current versions. The Penguin is more comprehensive than the Gramophone, which helps me, because I listen to a lot of obscure composers. They both seem to be biased toward English composers, though.

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    Senior Member Vaneyes's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mmsbls View Post
    Vaneyes point is well taken. Information on the internet is clearly more up to date. Personally I have more confidence that the guides are giving information based on extensive knowledge of listening to many recordings of many works. I personally don't feel I can always discriminate between useful and not as useful (to me) reviews online. From experience, I would sat that my guides have helped me select what I feel are better recordings, but online guides so far have not been as helpful.

    I have the Gramophone and Third Ear guides. I don't have the Penguin. I like the Third Ear guide better than Gramophone because it is much more extensive (my understanding is that the Penguin is more like the Third Ear). The Third Ear guide lists most works by a large number of composers. The Gramophone guide simply lists great recordings so many works are left out. My Third Ear guide is a bit old so newer recordings are not listed.
    The Third Ear is a cult classic of CM guides. One edition in 2001? No new recording reviews is positively the truth. heh heh

    I checked one out of a library maybe eight years ago, and had two weeks of fun with it. Many, many, many reviewers. As you wind through the book you begin to recognize a few of the same styles, but there are too many to get to know. That's important to some people, not so much to me...but, it does interfere with reading flow. TTE's a wild ride. Some of the biases are so hilarious, I'd laugh out loud.

    Regarding knowledgeable reviewers, I think they're pretty easy to spot anywhere. It always helps if they have rationale that include several comparisons, and more than a basic idea of what good sound is.

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    Senior Member Vaneyes's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Manxfeeder View Post
    I have both, though not the current versions. The Penguin is more comprehensive than the Gramophone, which helps me, because I listen to a lot of obscure composers. They both seem to be biased toward English composers, though.
    The writers/editors for Penguin were writers for Gramophone. Re Penguin composers, I was surprised at how many were missing, and often if a lesser-known was deemed worthy of a Penguin mention, he/she might have a token one or two recordings listed.

    It's been largely chaos from the 1980's when CDs came upon the scene. The ol' boys had to grow new ears, void of any snap, crackling, and popping. It couldn't have been easy.

    The English composer and performer bias was just plain stupid, and it still is. They wouldn't let Rattle go, even as he offed to Germany of all places. Insert smiley faces.
    Last edited by Vaneyes; May-21-2011 at 03:46.
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    For a beginner the internet can be a minefield. Too many instant experts blowing smoke. I'm not a big fan of the guides though. I've been a subscriber to Fanfare for decades and it is well worth the money, especially since you also get access to the archives on the net.

    Just skip the Jerry Dubins' reviews.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Vaneyes View Post
    Regarding knowledgeable reviewers, I think they're pretty easy to spot anywhere. It always helps if they have rationale that include several comparisons, and more than a basic idea of what good sound is.
    You are likely a much more experienced classical musical listener than I am. I cannot easily spot good reviews, and I suspect others in my position would have a similar problem. Perhaps it has just been chance that the guides have helped me more than online reviews. I certainly don't have much experience comparing the two.

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    Thanks a lot for all the answers!
    I decided to buy the Penguin Guide, just to give it a try.
    In which web sites do you search for recordings reviews????

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    Senior Member Vaneyes's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by luismsoaresmartins View Post
    Thanks a lot for all the answers!
    I decided to buy the Penguin Guide, just to give it a try.
    In which web sites do you search for recordings reviews????
    Try this thread...

    CD reviews

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    Senior Member science's Avatar
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    I prefer Penguin. Many more recordings reviewed, by a factor of 3 or 4 or so.

    Also, I've come to trust some online sources more than the guides, or anything professional. There is an industry out there devoted to persuading us all that we don't own enough recordings, and I've become skeptical of it. I'd rather hear from fans than marketers.
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    Junior Member Monte Verdi's Avatar
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    Hello,

    Both Penguin and Gramophone are fine for immediate novice investigation. For the advanced, Fanfare is the bible! There are many issues, so it is really an education not for the timid or amateur, IMO.
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    Senior Member starthrower's Avatar
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    I wish I had found this thread before making a purchase. I'm very disappointed with the new Gramophone guide. It is incredibly skimpy with a very narrow selection of recordings for various works. Don't waste your money.
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    Gramophone pre-1990.
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