Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Introducing... Robert Ian Winstin

In my "Fun with [Classical] Numbers" post, I talked about 28intwentyeight by Robert Ian Winstin. Comments both online and off I received about that post suggested I needed to do a follow-up.

Several readers, who had not heard of Winstin before, were under the impression that he was one of the many amateur musicians recording in a basement studio, and that his music's sole exposure was a month's worth of blog posts.

Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Robert Ian Winstin is a professional classically trained concert pianist, conductor, and composer who has actually done quite a bit on the national and international stage. If his name isn't familiar, it may have more to do with the channels we receive our information of classical music from, rather than the quality of his art.

If you only know Robert Ian Winstin from that one YouTube video I posted, read on.

Robert Ian Winstin is the current Composer-In-Residence of the Kiev Philharmonic Orchestra. He also serves as the music director (and chief conductor) to the Virginia Youth Symphony Orchestra, which has toured internationally.

Winstin's written over 200 works, including five symphonies, two piano concertos, and a very moving tribute to 9/11. One of his recent works, Spirituals for Violin and Orchestra, was composed for Itzhak Perlman and premiered in Carnegie Hall -- hardly the output of a basement studio wannabe.

Winstin has also produced a massive amount of recordings for ERM Media, including the "Masterworks of the New Era" series which spotlights contemporary composers writing modern, accessible, well-crafted music. He's also the conductor for those recordings, each release being a multi-disc set. And of course, Winstin has several releases on the ERM label as well.

His recordings are distributed by Naxos, the largest classical music label in the world, and certainly one of the most forward-looking. His compositions can be found on iTunes, ClassicsOnline, and several other download sites.

And he's also authored two books.

Robert Ian Winstin's music can be downloaded from Tower, ArkivMusic, Barnes&Noble, Amazon, HB Direct, and many, many other places.

How could someone accomplish so much and not be a household name? It happens all the time.

Which is sort of my continuing theme with my classical music posts (and my radio show, come to think of it)? There are a lot of talented people out there doing interesting, engaging work on par if not better than the artists we regularly hear about. All we have to do is step a little outside of the ordinary to find it.

- Ralph


  1. Anonymous4:46 AM

    Good Morning! I have been enjoying your comments and thoughts on Robert Winstin. I, too, have been following his 28 in 28 blog. In fact, I started listening from the third day as a result of my professor making it a part of our class.
    I was particularly intrigued by your thoughts concerning the number of listeners to his project vs the number of classical recordings sold.
    There is no doubt that we, as consumers, value sales records above all else. Of course, it must be good if that many people bought it.
    What a ridiculous notion!
    Quality has never been a benchmark of quality - and I found Winstin's music to be of the highest quality.
    Of course, I did not like every piece I heard, and some pieces I liked more than others and a few I just adored.
    But, and I think this is the important point, I listened every day to it because it was interesting. It made me think, made me angry, made me blush and it made me want more - or want less.
    The point - it made me feel something about something I knew nothing about.
    Isn't that the point of it all?
    Ken Stevensen

  2. Ken:

    You make some really good points.

    Of course there are other things going on with the low numbers of classical recording sales. The move to digital downloads is one(even though they're supposed to be counted, too, often they're not). Also, since a lot of artists record the same core repertoire over and over, matching potential sales to customers can be problematic. If you're a fan of Lang Lang, you'll buy his recordings regardless of what he does. But if you're primarily interested in a good recording of Chopin, you might take a pass on his because you've already purchased one by somebody else.

    And if you think about all the pianists with Chopin recordings out there, that's a lot of potential sales that go down the drain when the customer buys his one copy.

    Other forms of music don't have this problem, of course. While, say, the current crop of country artists may all have a similar sound, if you purchase a Taylor Swift CD, it doesn't mean that you'll be duplicating what's in your collection if you also buy Toby Keith's latest. The decision to buy or not is more likely to be based on how do you like (or dislike) Keith's music.

    I think you make an excellent point about how music affects us. I think what motivates us to purchase music is that we have a strong reaction to it in some fashion.

    I thoroughly enjoyed Winstin's project, and I think I got to know the composer better because of it. And it's made it more likely that I'll purchase his next release -- because of that strong positive reaction.

    And you're right. The whole point of music is to enhance our lives. Why else would an intangible art matter so much?