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CPO Booklet Notes


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Author Topic: CPO Booklet Notes  (Read 359 times)
Dundonnell
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« on: August 16, 2018, 04:46:49 pm »

I am listening to the "new" CPO release of the Walter Braunfels Sinfonia Concertante for Violin, Viola, Two Horns and String Orchestra (coupled with an arrangement for string orchestra of the String Quintet). I say "new" because the recording was actually made in 2009 but only now released.

We owe CPO an incredible and ongoing debt for making so much previously unrecorded and neglected music available. The Braunfels Sinfonia Concertante is a substantial and most impressive piece.

But our obligation to and admiration for CPO should not blind us to another of its problems. The company has claimed-on occasions-that delays in the release of particular cds are due to the time it takes to obtain the cd booklet notes from their authors. That may be so but there are two further problems for those who buy CPO cds.

The first is that it is almost impossible for those of us with aged eyesight to read the notes without a magnifying glass. This issue is not, of course, confined to CPO. Other companies publish similarly minute typescript.

The other is the notes themselves. For German music (a very substantial part of CPO's output) the company frequently use Eckhardt van den Hoogen. Mr. van den Hoogen's notes are extremely lengthy (no bad thing in itself) and extraordinarily discursive (which can be tedious if one simply wishes to learn about the music as opposed to following extended quasi philosophical musings on the composer, his life, his times and matters which seem to have little real bearing on any of these!).

However.......CPO then get Susan Marie Praeder to translate Mr. van den Hoogen into English. This is where it gets almost impossibly difficult. Ms Praeder seems to believe that a translation should be as literal as possible, that van den Hoogen's rambling prose should be translated word for word into what she, presumably, thinks is a faithful English version (as opposed to turning the "sense" of the original into readable English).

What results is far too often a disaster. Thus, the notes on the Braunfels contain sentences such as:

"This certain someone who turned the kaleidoscopic tube was of course the same person who looked in on one side and on the other marveled at the fantastic manifoldness in order to make creative use of it."

or

"In any case, as I see it, the burly gait of boisterous landler or waltzes, the brusque thematic development, and the stamping groundings bubble forth from the same source that used to offer liquid refreshment not only to the residents of Bohemian villages."


This is incomprehensible gibberish! Google Translate would produce something like this. One should not expect it from someone who is presumably paid to translate German into English, not German into Double Dutch!!

I know a number of Germans who can speak and write flawless English; there are no doubt millions who can do this. Sadly Ms Praeder seems to not be one of them. I am very sorry for her. She must have an extraordinarily difficult job with Mr. van den Hoogen's ornate, baroque, prose, his extraordinary allusions and his literary diversions.

......but, come on, must do better!!!!!

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Dundonnell
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« Reply #1 on: August 16, 2018, 04:47:18 pm »

Holger might care to comment?
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Holger
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« Reply #2 on: August 16, 2018, 06:45:47 pm »

First of all, I do understand the problem very well, though of course, if I read the liner notes I won't care about the English version.

However, I can of course comment a little on the German originals. Eckhardt van den Hoogen is, to say the least, a very special case. I know a good deal of persons – musicologists who opinions I respect a lot included – who pretty much like his style. I must admit that I don't, and I seldom read one of his essays in total. It is all very much over the top in my view, quite the opposite of being prosaic. You already described the content of his notes pretty well, and about the same could be said about the German he uses. He often seems to burst with enthusiasm and then has a soft spot for all sorts of ornaments, images, metaphors, quotes, complicated constructions and related stuff. It is certainly written on a high level of language but at the same time very much at the border of sounding mannered.

I see the problem about Susan Marie Praeder's translations, and of course the sentences you quoted should have never been translated like that. On the other hand, when you talk about rather translating the "sense" of the original, it is also true that the original is overloaded with images and all sorts of extras, and a good deal of van den Hoogen's writing is actually very much about finding just these images (kaleidoscopes etc.). It already sounds a little strange or, say, special in German, and translating it is probably a very hard task.

Personally I do prefer a more sober and fact-oriented approach, and this would certainly be a lot easier to translate.
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Dundonnell
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« Reply #3 on: August 16, 2018, 09:21:04 pm »

Thanks for your comments, Holger.

I think that the fault probably lies equally between CPO- which as the commissioning publisher has ultimate authority- van den Hoogen for his flights of fancy and Ms Praeder for rendering her translations literally rather than idiomatically.
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calyptorhynchus
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« Reply #4 on: August 16, 2018, 09:35:31 pm »

Could also be a problem of 'literary German' versus real German, I understand that an increasingly small and ageing population of academics insist on writing in a style of German which is incomprehensible to most German speakers, even well-educated ones. And presumably this translator thinks she needs to create an equivalent English!

Frequently I come across absurdities in CD liner notes, back in the 1980s I bought a cassette of Bruckner's First Symphony where the note writer opined that the slow movement was a "conflict between nature and God" [sic].

What I want in accompanying notes is a blow-by-blow account of the music, especially for C20 music, so I can follow it on first listening and get an idea of the structure of the work.
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Dundonnell
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« Reply #5 on: August 16, 2018, 11:45:09 pm »

Yes, I understand that there is a distinction between High German and the language as used by ordinary Germans in everyday speech or writing. Whether this applies to van den Hoogen or not I could not say. The problem is not his musical analysis per se but his digression into extended and often fanciful discussion of the wider German cultural context within which a composer lived and worked.

Sadly my ability to read Latin is superior to my German and there are precious few cd booklet notes written in Latin! I do have a certain familiarity with German political and military terminology. Indeed I have several reference books written in German and can negotiate these reasonably well. The interesting thing to me is the way German can use one very long word to composite complex ideas which would require several words in English. Gleichschaltung is an example.........but I digress!
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Latvian
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« Reply #6 on: August 17, 2018, 02:39:58 am »

Quote
But our obligation to and admiration for CPO should not blind us to another of its problems. The company has claimed-on occasions-that delays in the release of particular cds are due to the time it takes to obtain the cd booklet notes from their authors.

This strikes me as an extremely flimsy excuse on CPO's part. I find it difficult to image a company operating on such a casual business model that they're willing to wait years for program notes (and/or translations). Unless they were foolish enough to enter into an ironclad contract with the notes' author that requires them to put up with lengthy delays, I would think that they would just fire the person and find someone else to write the notes more promptly. Surely there are any number of individuals competent to write readable, accurate and informative program notes. Such a relaxed production schedule is amazing!
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M. Yaskovsky
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« Reply #7 on: August 17, 2018, 07:15:39 am »

As a Dutchman, although not fluent in English and German, I’m unable to understand the quasi philosophical booklet notes by mr. van den Hoogen since his essays that come with the Reznicek Edition. I buy the CD’s and skip the text. There’re so many labels that produce not too long and to-the-point notes – Chandos, Dutton, Naxos – I think that must be possible for cpo too.
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Dundonnell
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« Reply #8 on: August 17, 2018, 02:59:20 pm »

Paul Conway's notes for Lyrita cds are, for me, the absolute ideal: very informative about the composer's career and the music on the CD.
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Vandermolen
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« Reply #9 on: August 19, 2018, 09:20:15 pm »

The CPO notes have always been a bit of a problem. On occasion I've wanted to find out some basic information about a work - such as when it was written and having waded through pages and pages of more or less incomprehensible ramblings have been unable to find the information. Having written some CD notes myself for a small company I can say that they just give me a date by which time they expect me to complete the notes and I don't miss the deadline. It seems strange to me that a CD release would be delayed by the failure of the annotator to produce the notes - rather like the tail wagging the dog I think.

Yes, Paul Conway's notes are terrific as were the late Per Skans's for Olympia.
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PJ
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« Reply #10 on: August 20, 2018, 08:18:21 am »

Paul Conway's notes for Lyrita cds are, for me, the absolute ideal: very informative about the composer's career and the music on the CD.

I do agree - for me, they're exemplary. Lewis Foreman, too.
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Dundonnell
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« Reply #11 on: August 20, 2018, 02:08:25 pm »

Paul Conway's notes for Lyrita cds are, for me, the absolute ideal: very informative about the composer's career and the music on the CD.

I do agree - for me, they're exemplary. Lewis Foreman, too.

Yes, I should have added Lewis's notes for Dutton and other labels.
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der79sebas
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« Reply #12 on: August 21, 2018, 09:57:37 am »

It is true that they are not typical models for CD booklets, but I do love Eckhardt van den Hoogen's texts, they are very funny to read and highly informative. One has to take time to read them and to get the full picture, but no native German would have any true problem with understanding. Of course, I never bothered about the English translations - the two examples given above seem ok to me, although I had to read them twice...
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Dundonnell
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« Reply #13 on: August 21, 2018, 02:06:30 pm »

You obviously have the advantage of being able to read van den Hoogen in the original German. If you enjoy his notes then you are obviously fortunate to do so.

If you can understand the English translations of the sentences I quoted then all I can say is that not only is your German better than mine (which would not be difficult!) but so is your English!
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Grandenorm
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« Reply #14 on: August 21, 2018, 06:07:17 pm »

There s nothing wrong with your English, Dundonnell. The two examples you give are both equally absurd and un-English, the second, as you rightly say, verging on gibberish - and ungrammatical as well: you can't have a "not only" clause without a balancing "but also" clause, which is absent from the second sentence. And no English person would use a clumsy word like "manifoldness".
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