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BellaOnline's Classical Music Editor


The Worst Classical Music Recordings Ever

Guest Author - Gillian Buchanan

There are a few recordings of Classical music which are so bad that they really have to be heard to be believed. Some are quite famous, others are not so well known. A few are even regularly aired on BBC Radio Three.

First up is Shirley Temple singing Lucia di Lammermoor from Captain January, 1936. It's a hilarious extract showing Miss Temple complete with pink dress in the style of the Spanish Infanta! The actual words of the original music are not included, of course - Shirley Temple and the two gentlemen accompanying her go la la la the whole time and so it's known as the la la chorus from Captain January.

Next up on the list is Florence Foster Jenkins. She is most well known for her recording of The Queen of the Night's Aria Der Holle Rache, but she performed and recorded quite a number of other works. Miss Jenkins even hired the Carnegie Hall in order to sing there. To this day her recordings provide much amusement amongst musicians because she had no sense of rhythm and no sense of pitch, and as a result her performances are excruciatingly funny.

Another musician who is not quite so funny is a very highly regarded singer in the Wagnerian world. Gwyneth Jones sang for years at Bayreuth and participated in many recordings of Wagner's operas, singing leading roles such as Brunnhilde and Isolde regularly. However although she had a most beautiful voice when singing quietly, as soon as things started to get louder she would go out of tune. Miss Jones obviously knew she was out of tune because she tried to get back into tune by sliding back onto the note and more often than not failed miserably. To this day I have never been able to understand why she has been so highly regarded as a Wagner singer, but there you are.

Last on the list is another selection from Youtube. Dudley Moore was a comedian who made a number of black and white television programmes which have been uploaded to the site. His imitation of Peter Pears's singing and Benjamin Britten's composition in Little Miss Britten is quite masterly.

Gwyneth Jones's recordings of Wagner are still available on disk and I have located an MP3 collection which listeners might enjoy. It's not a full Wagner opera - these usually last around 4-5 hours and may be heavy going for someone completely new to the subject. However even with Miss Jones singing you will probably get a feel for the music and may well want to go and find out what it should sound like. Jones, Gwyneth: Dame Gwyneth Jones Sings Wagner is available from amazon.com, and if you do not want to buy the whole MP3 collection I would suggest downloading the Liebestod only and ignoring the rest.

Florence Foster Jenkins's recordings are also fairly easily available and make excellent dinner party entertainment! If you would like to buy one of her collections I have found one with Der Holle Racht on it. The Glory (????) of the Human Voice is available, again from Amazon.com. I strongly suggest listening to this one a little at a time otherwise you'll drive the whole family mad!

You will see that apart from performances which you don't like for some reason, there are recordings of things which are so bad that they are hilarious. It's very sad that the artists involved probably didn't realise HOW bad, and the only one in the selection who really was any good at what he did was Dudley Moore who wasn't taking himself seriously!Anyway I do hope you enjoy this little selection of items which has kept my family and friends entertained for many years.

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Content copyright © 2015 by Gillian Buchanan. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Gillian Buchanan. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact BellaOnline Administration for details.


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