I recorded my first course for The Teaching Company (now branded as “The Great Courses”) in May of 1993. That was the first edition of How to Listen to and Understand Great Music. To date, I’ve recorded 666 forty-five minute lectures for The Teaching Company/The Great Courses, and virtually every single one of them features any number of musical examples.
Licensing recordings for use in my courses has been – and continues to be – the single greatest (and most expensive!) headache in creating a courses. It’s a topic I’ve written about and whined about many times, and I’m not going to get into it at length here except to point out that for many years, the terms of our licensing agreements forbade me from identifying on camera the particular recordings I was using. (I know: this is totally counter-intuitive. You would think that the record companies would want me to identify recordings I was excerpting and by doing so drive sales of those recordings. But there you go: it’s just another instance of “go figure.”)
I bring all of this up because the vast majority of mail and emails I receive from my viewers and listeners include a request for me to identify a specific recording (or recordings) used in one (or more) of my courses. I’m happy to comply when I can though I often cannot, as our licensing agent often sent me unlabeled performances (on cassette) from which to choose my preferred performance. These performances were almost always taken from recordings made in Central and Eastern Europe and Russia on such labels as Supraphon, Hungaroton, and Melodiya; companies that charged next-to-nothing for licensing.
However, every now and then I managed to license a recording I really wanted to use, usually by telling the