Recording of the Week The way we listen
At live concerts there is a fairly standard method of programming that you would expect to hear. An orchestral concert would most typically be Overture - Concerto - Symphony. A string quartet concert might be a 20-minute Classical quartet (eg. Haydn) - a more contemporary work - then a big meaty work (eg. Brahms). These sorts of programmes are popular presumably because they give good variety whilst also offering a natural progression of styles. (This obviously goes out the window with very long works, or works untypical of that music type - eg. you could argue that a Brahms Piano Concerto suits the place of the Symphony more than the Concerto.)
On CDs you tend to loose this variety and discs tend to be either all the same composer or works that are at least stylistically similar (eg. Mendelssohn and Bruch Violin Concertos often appear together, whereas you would never see Mendelssohn and Mozart Violin Concertos together).
This has got me wondering about the way we listen to CDs. Whilst the ideal is obviously to put aside an hour, sit down in a quiet room with a good hi-fi and listen, CDs aren't programmed in a way to encourage you to do this. I certainly don't want to listen to two Shostakovich symphonies in a row (I'm emotionally drained after the first one), and find that I struggle to give the second and third Haydn String Quartets on a disc the same concentration and freshness of mind that I had given to the first one.
Maybe people don't have the same quest for variety and freshness in their listening as I do, or maybe people listen without the same commitment that they would give a live concert so don't see any reason not to listen to a whole CD, or maybe people create their own programme by switching CDs when a work finishes. With two under-2s in my house at the moment I tend not to have too many hours to sit down at home and do most of my listening either at the office or on my half hour walk to and from work. That way I at least avoid the problem of deciding how to best enjoy my CDs!