I recently bought an album of music from the iTunes store. Now, this isn’t particularly unusual for me, because I love music of several different types, and iTunes is an easy way for me to preview something and decide if I want to just have it for background on the computer, or it I want to splurge on a real CD or whatever the newest technology might be. I can’t claim to be a music expert. I listen to the notes and if the piece pleases me, I say it’s a good one.

Hubby says, at least to some extent, I have a tin ear. That is, I often can’t tell from the other room which of his speakers is playing the musical moment. He has several good ones to choose from, and I can differentiate between Voice of the Theaters and a pair of 2 inch computer boxes, even if they both bear an Altec badge, but the nuances of sound from good speakers sometimes escapes me.

What I can hear is a difference in how the same piece is played. This album I bought was inexpensive, and I thought it might be a good way to introduce people to some of the really beautiful classical music out there. My mistake. Most of the pieces were played–to my ears, at least–too fast, or with slightly off phrasing, or in some other way just not quite right. I admit that part of it is because I’ve heard so many of these classical bits for quite a few years, and I’ve developed a familiarity with them.

You know how you hear something from the “oldies” collections, however many years ago your own “oldies” might be, and you find that you can sing along with the music, until some little phrase is out of kilter. It makes you stop and say “Wait! I sang along with that a million times in (insert your year here) and that’s not the way it goes!” I still haven’t decided if someone is manipulating the originals to escape copyright issues, or if they checked out dumpsters to pick up studio rejects of the old 45s knowing that 50 years in the future they might use them, or if the new releases are impostors who do a very good–but not perfect–duplication of the old standards.

Well, with classical music, it’s not quite the same. Everyone who performs these uses the same music, with the same little marks here and there to indicate what the composer wanted. It seems logical that every performance would turn out to be exactly like every other one. Doesn’t work that way. Still, if you love a piece of music, the chances are you’ll like most versions, and that brings me back to my newest purchase. The notes are all there, in the proper places, and for the most part the places that are usually played louder are played louder here, too. But the absolute heart-wrenching beauty of Rachmaninoff’s 18th variation is lost under too much heavy-handedness, and the grace and charm of a minuet isn’t the same if you play it in ragtime.

Okay, when I buy something like this collection, I expect to get less-than-topnotch performances, perhaps, and I know enough to realize that I’ll get the 18th variation only, and not the whole Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. But I’m disappointed anyway. Next time I’ll know better, whether it’s classical or show tunes or country pop. They say you get what you pay for, and in this case, maybe they’re right.

I’ll see you again, after the commercial.

The OC Writers Guild book Brevity in Paradise, in which I have FOUR short stories (!) is available on Amazon. I think they needed me to get the page count up. The OCWG is a great group, and if you’re looking for a collection of easy short pieces to while away your time, you might take a chance on this bunch of pretty darn good authors.