Monday, December 20, 2010

And now ... back to Controversy ...

I recently received a letter from the owner of Naxos, which is probably the most widely-distributed label of classical music in the world.  Mr Heymann, one of the most respected figures in the classical music recording world, has been following the Trisdee-Bundit controversy keenly.  You see, it seems that he does have a stake in it.  He has asked me to ask my readers for help and I will explain what he has asked for in detail.

Do you remember that in my blog entry "Bundit-The Plot Thickens" I told of an unexpected development ... that it looked like this was no longer a case of deceptive marketing, but might end up as out-and-out piracy?

That the question might no longer be one of an obscure artist from a small country cleverly marketing himself ... but a major scam being perpetrated on a much larger scale, in which K Bundit's reputation is but an iota of collateral damage?

In that blog, I explained how, although K Bundit's CDs in some cases made references to music licensed from, a website in which it is claimed that all tracks are conducted by a Dr. Keith J. Salmon, some of those tracks appear to be the actual work of extremely big name conductors and orchestras such as Karl Böhm, Georg Solti, and Neville Marriner.

My blog has set off a slew of responses in the classical music world.  John Duffus, the impresario, checked out a number of tracks available from Dr. Salmon and said this: "However, imagine my amazement when I came across one track that is unquestionably my old orchestra in a recording made in 1986 with the coloratura soprano Beverly Hoch" ... a few days later, he emailed me again.  "Salmon's Brahms Violin Concerto is the Kennedy/Tennstedt/LPO recording!"

Meanwhile, here is the email in question from Klaus Heymann:

Dear Somtow,
I read your column about the above and the Bundit CDs.
I think he was tricked by Dr. Salmon -- RFCM also had a copy of my wife's Vivaldi Four Seasons on its site and, in the meantime, it has taken it down from the site and all the other sites licensing this stuff from Salmon have also taken it down.
There are many more recordings from other record companies on the RFCM site, for examply EMI confirmed that the Brahms violin concerto is their recording with Nigel Kennedy. There are also Universal recordings on the site.
Liszt Piano Concerto No. 1 is Jorge Bolet from Vox.
Perhaps you can invite your readers to identify more rip-off’s on Mr. Bundit’s compilations.
Best regards,

People such as myself and Trisdee are busy performing artists (and in my case I've also got operas to finish writing and a novel that's 3 years overdue.)  Last week Trisdee dashed off to Turin to conduct the RAI National Orchestra and his concert was carried live throughout the Italian broadcast media as well as available for web streaming, meaning that his many fans in Thailand who happened to be up at 2:30 am could see him for themselves.  If we spent our lives tracking down the real identities of the hundreds of tracks on these websites, we would have to give up our careers.  

However, if we enlist your help, and go as far as we need to go to protect any performers whose rights may have been violated, we can all work together on this.

You see, it turns out that this is not about K. Bundit at all.  He is at best a minor player, and may be as much a victim as any customers who may have purchased his CDs thinking that he was the conductor.  Indeed, he has already made a move to amend the problem by putting stickers on the sealed CDs stating that he is the compiler, not the conductor.  (The question of "why now?" is an ethical one, not a legal one.)

What this is about is a more pernicious kind of piracy than what you can see in the alleys of Bangkok.  If I buy a Chinese knock-off of a Solti CD, it still says on the cover that Solti conducted it.  Solti is being cheated — but only of his royalties.  Any real artist will admit, if you get him drunk enough, that in the end it's not about the money.  If someone ripped off my CD in that way, I'd be annoyed but on some level, I would also be flattered.  It does, after all, add to my fame, if not my bank account.

When someone markets a recording by Georg Solti and says it is by someone else ... that is far worse than taking money out of Mr. Solti's wallet.  That is taking away Mr. Solti's name.  His identity.  His very nature as an artist and even as a human being.

This must not be allowed to happen, in this country or anywhere else.  If K Bundit has read this blog, he knows that at least some tracks on his CDs may be pirated.  If that is indeed the case, they cannot legally be sold, whether he was aware of the original piracy or not.  They must be taken off the market.

With so many artists screaming about Dr. Salmon's websites, my advice to K. Bundit would be to play it safe and just recall all the CDs until people like EMI and Naxos have gone on the record to state that Dr. Salmon has permission to use their work without attributing it to their artists.

Klaus Heymann has devoted decades of his life to making thousands of pieces of music accessible at realistic prices to a very large audience.  Thanks to him, I can listen to music which in my student days I could only get hold of my tracking down scores or applying to read manuscripts in libraries.  If he asks me to ask my readers for help, I take this very seriously.  

If any of you spot something suspicious please let me know and I will pass on the information.

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