Meet the Reviewers
I have always been involved with classical music in one form or another. First as a young boy learning to play the piano at my father's side. I was quick to
learn and developed a talent for the keyboard, enough so, that I went on to learn and play the massive pipe organ at the church where my father was choirmaster.
It was somewhat nerve-racking but at the same time thrilling, to play for the large community at Sunday and Midnight masses. Through the years I have taught piano to
young people, accompanied singers and composed some of my own music. In 1993 I had the express pleasure of being selected and subsequently a part of, the judging panel
for the Canadian Juno Awards. It is this gift of an early appreciation for music that I consider to be the primal driving force in my life.
My motivation for creating Classical Music Sentinel is so that I can share my love and knowledge of classical music recordings with all of you listeners and
collectors out there on this musical planet. Had I known from the start that classical music would have been such an integral part of my life, it would
have been interesting to have kept count of all the recordings I have heard over the years -- I am sure it is in the thousands.
I listen to anything and everything from Renaissance masses by Josquin DesPrez to experimental works by Steve Reich, but the period that I seem to orbit around the most is 1800 to 1950.
I admire all the masters, but the composers that really intrigue me are Gustav Mahler, Dmitri Shostakovich, Alexander Scriabin, Richard Strauss, etc. I love composers who present a challenge,
a struggle or conflict within the music, a problem you might say, that eventually gets resolved by the music itself. In other words, composers who have something to say,
and explore the depths of music and sometimes bend the rules a bit to communicate their vision and express their feelings. A solid mix of structure
and expressive freedom. I dislike composers who are like tailors. They might use a different fabric, a different colour, unusual buttons, but in
the end you always get the same suit. I like a recording to sound as natural and alive as possible, with the right soundstage, presence and depth. The dynamics are crucial
to convey the music's intent, and when captured and reproduced well, go a long way in turning a good recording into a great recording. And, of course,
the musicians have to be involved and in tune with the music at hand for everything to come together.
Stephen Habington is a writer and music critic residing in Ottawa, Ontario. He has been a regular contributor to the review pages of
La Scena Musicale and Music Scene for a number of years. Previously, he was the editor and chief critic of Classical Sound & Vision.
Habington's primary interest is orchestral music from Haydn to Henze. He is also a keen collector of opera on DVD.
The reviewer believes that, "Serious art music should not be treated as an arcane or elitist pastime. Most people can connect with it.
The music presents the option of continuous, life-long learning opportunities. "Classical Music Sentinel is one more resource in the process of
organic personal growth which musical performance and informed listening should entail."
Mark Wm. Kravchenko
I look to music to bring greater enjoyment to my life. It can make my day to listen to something that makes me smile in admiration of the ability of mankind to make inanimate
objects evoke such moving noises. My own ideal in sound is to get as close to being there as is possible. It means very clean reproduction and realistic timbres in instruments
and voices. My ideal as far as reproduction of the music by the people is simple. It must move me. To be involved; my attention grasped, and captivated. If a piece requires great
intimacy and delicacy and really pulls it off I enjoy it. Lute music can create that effect if the artist and the recording are good. A good choir or brass ensemble can be inspiring raise
your spirits even. When a disc is really good you get the hairs raising on the back of your neck. For the musical instruments that I am well familiar with I am ruthless. Their reproduction
both technically and artistically must be done right. I try to keep what is best in my collection. Sometimes that means keeping more than one copy of a recording. They all have something
important to offer. To get the most out of a recording I expect to be able to produce it at the volumes generated at concerts. For some pieces it is an easy matter. A large pipe organ is not.
But my stereo must have the aplomb to go loud and proud when requested. Mini monitors need not apply!!
I have been listening seriously to music since I was eleven years old. That was how long ago? Let’s just say that Sibelius and Toscanini were still alive. I’ve been a music reviewer for thirty-seven years
and have been the principal classical music critic of the Ottawa Citizen for nearly 20.
In my work I cover every period and genre of classical music, enjoying most of them. I do have a few special fondnesses, though, including twentieth-century music in general and opera in particular, the music of Sibelius and that
of relatively unknown composers like Pleyel, Ries, Farrenc and Onslow.
Like most of us, I first got to know the operatic repertoire through sound recordings, but now that DVDs of opera are becoming increasingly available, I tend to concentrate on them.
I believe that classical music is the heritage of all humanity, even though most of it was written by “dead white guys.” It has been my joy and sustenance for most of my life.