August 3, 2011

Classical Recording Artwork

I love classical music album art. Artists never seem to know what to put on the cover, or they let publishing companies choose for them. Art tends to fall in three varieties:

The "God is Watching Over Us" or as I usually think of it The "St. Olaf Choir Moment"
The whole choir, packed onto that little boat.

The "Piece of Artwork that Somehow Expresses the Music Within" variety
Mmmmm just find a painting of Romeo and Juliet, that'll be good enough.

And last the "Our Recording Artist Needs to be Seen as Well as Heard"
Behold as the Pacifica Quartet surprises Elliot Carter on his 200th birthday.

The real reason I love classical album artwork is that sometimes they turn out horribly. I found a few great ones this morning and thought I'd share them. Here's a particularly racy album cover for Bizet's Carmen.

Bizet's all about the T and A. Also, WTF CREEPY HANDS. Am I the only one who's thinking that Master Hand needs a restraining order?

Classical labels are always trying to force sex appeal into their recordings. Do they think a fifteen-year-old boy is going to pick this up just because it has a naked woman on the front? I suppose if you're going for the fifteen-year-old classical music enthusiast who wants a recording of Carmen but is just too bogged down in choices to make a rational decision market than you've got it nailed. 

Personally I almost always go for the "God is Watching Over Us/St. Olaf Choir" type artwork. It seems to convey some sort of sober intellectual romanticism that I enjoy. Oh, actually this CD is the reason I made this post:

Leanne Rees: PIANIST
Where to start with this monstrosity? Let's go with the fact that there are four (possibly five) different fonts on the front cover alone giving it the elementary-student poster board look. There are even two different fonts in the title alone and the font that "pianist" is written in makes it look she's an international killer-for-hire. There's way too much freaking red here. I'm not totally sure what all that junk in the background is but I'm assuming it's Bambi's home during a fire. The inferno mixed with her lipstick and the screaming italicized PIANIST is extremely off-putting. The yellow font (basically illegible from this grainy picture) is also really nasty against those red hellish flames. Lastly, in case you missed that she's a PIANIST, there's a piano shoved painfully into the foreground, and she's exposing her hands in a way that would make a 16th century gentleman blush.

Beyond the artwork, the title for this album is atrocious. Women Composers and the Men in Their Lives is not a classical record name. It's the name for a steamy fan-fiction impulse buy when you're shopping at Groth Music. The selections are even confusing themselves. She's chosen pairs of female-male composers who from the title you would pin down as lovers. The composers found inside however are: 

1) Marianne von Martinez and Franz Josef Haydn. These two lived in the same building and Haydn gave her some piano lessons and accompanied her voice lessons (according to the Wiks of Pedia).

2) Fanny Mendelssohn and Felix Mendelssohn. BROTHER-SISTER PAIR! NOT LOVERS! WARNING!

3) Clara Wieck Schumann and Johannes Brahms. Why she didn't go with the obvious choice of Clara Wieck and Robert Schumann the world may never know. Maybe she was specifically going with the May-September implied relationship thing here. The Schumann-Brahms story is a favorite of old piano teachers but I prefer to not really care about it.

4) The next three composers, Ralph Graves, Emma Lou Diemer, and Leanne Rees herself seem to have no connection other than they all appear on this CD.

I don't mean to rail on poor Ms. Rees. She's probably a fine pianist and this album may showcase that. What I do get upset about is the lack of thought that goes into these things She tried for a program on her CD which I really like, but by labeling it as Female Composers and the Men in Their Lives it gives a bit of the wrong impression. Also, if it wasn't for the inclusion of her own piece, the album would only be half female composers.

There's really no excuse for that album artwork. Update that crap please.


  1. I hope you've come across this series:

  2. Those are some mighty fine album covers. My favorite is (not surprisingly) creepy hands and nipple pointing. Actually I'm not sure which of the creepy hands is my favorite. Possibly the one that looks like it's trying to grab her crotch...but that boob IS just begging to be poked. I'm pretty sure a gay man made that album cover.