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Affairs of the Heart: the Canadian classical disc whose counterfeits listed for $300 on Amazon

Editorial Staff

By Matthew Parsons

Richard Maloney is the wine director at Stratford, Ontario's acclaimed restaurant Rundles. One day, about three years ago, he was idly listening to music on this very web service when a piece of music made his ears perk up. It was a lyrical, emotive violin concerto called Affairs of the Heart, by Canadian composer Marjan Mozetich. He was floored.

"I was going through some hard times," Maloney told me when I reached him on his office line. "A family member of mine was quite ill, and I thought it was just really good music to help me get through a difficult situation. It just struck me as a really touching piece that kind of made my drives home from the hospital a little bit more uplifting." 

This is not an uncommon response to Mozetich's music. The first time CBC Radio 2 broadcast a performance of Affairs of the Heart back in 1997, seemingly the entire country felt the need to phone in and say how overwhelmed they were. 

Maloney needed a copy of this recording — not just for himself, but also for the guest house he runs next door to Rundles. He felt compelled to share the catharsis.

But he soon hit a snag. The CBC Records disc that features the one extant recording of Mozetich's concerto (the disc is also titled Affairs of the Heart) was long out of print. Maloney discovered that it wasn't available for download on iTunes, nor were new copies of the physical CD anywhere to be found. The closest he could get to a copy was a third-party seller on Amazon who was offering one for a ludicrous amount of money: more than $300.

Maloney put the hunt on pause, but Affairs of the Heart never quite left his head. A year later, he went searching online again. And again, he found nothing promising. But the third time turned out to be the charm, or so it seemed. He found a copy of Affairs of the Heart for only $24 on Amazon — but still through a third-party seller. He clicked "Buy."

But when the CD arrived in his mailbox, it was clear that something was wrong. For one thing, he hadn't anticipated that it would come from China, though the envelope indicated that it had. And when he opened it, he found a shoddy-looking product with an insert that looked like it had been printed out of a computer and a disc that wouldn’t even play. Maloney had been sent a badly made counterfeit.

These things have been known to happen with Amazon’s third-party sellers. But if you spend a bit of time trawling through forums for these kinds of complaints, you tend to mostly hear them about major international pop artists — you get Kate Bush, Meat Loaf and innumerable reports of very convincing copies of the Beatles’ remastered mono set.

But as far as contemporary Canadian orchestral music is concerned, this seems to be unprecedented.

After a couple of tries, Maloney managed to get his money back from Amazon. But he was back to square one in his attempt to get a copy of the CD, and a bit miffed about having been duped into buying a fake. He didn't want anybody else to fall for the trick. So he did the only thing he could think of to resolve it all: he reached out to Mozetich.

"On the one hand, this is terrible and this is sort of a problem in our day," Mozetich told me when I reached him by phone. But he confessed that when he read Maloney's email, his reaction was mixed. "The flattering part is that [the counterfeiters] would go through the effort of doing this! Obviously, that CD is worth it! It shows that there’s a demand."

Unexpected ego boosts notwithstanding, Mozetich figured it was only right to pass this new information on to Allegra Swanson at Centrediscs, the label associated with the Canadian Music Centre, which now releases recordings of his music.

Turns out, Swanson was already aware of a certain amount of internet funny business where Mozetich’s music was concerned. A couple of years prior, she’d heard from a Centrediscs patron that they’d seen a copy of the increasingly mythic and sought-after Affairs of the Heart disc selling on eBay for more than $100.

It was around that time when Swanson resolved that Centrediscs would somehow re-release this album, and started mulling the possibilities over with the folks at CBC Records. By the time Swanson found out about Maloney's counterfeit, the reissue was already about to roll out. 

"For us, it was a no-brainer," Swanson said over the phone. "I've never seen such demand for an out-of-print CD at all — let alone to the point where there's been piracy and we've actually gone out of our way to re-press it." 

I asked Swanson what she thought it was about the music on Affairs of the Heart that makes people connect with it to such an extent. Like everybody to whom that kind of question is posed, she struggled to find an answer: "That sense of drama ... that quiet introspection ... it's really lush ... it's orchestral." That's all true, but it doesn't really explain it. 

When I posed the question to Mozetich, he didn't fare much better: "People ask me that quite often, and I don’t know. You know, I just do it. For me, when I'm writing, I get certain emotional responses to my own music. I go, ‘Oh wow, that’s quite profound,’ or ‘That excites me.’ And that’s how I judge what’s going to work.

"Every once in a while I go, 'Gee, how did I write that?'"

However he did it, Affairs of the Heart is now available through legitimate means once again — in physical and digital editions — thanks in part to the pirates. 

Now that Affairs of the Heart is on the market again, Maloney has finally been able to get a working, physical copy after years of searching. As for his counterfeit copy: he sent it to Mozetich as a souvenir of the whole affair. "I thought he might get a giggle out of it," Maloney said.

Mozetich received the CD in the mail shortly after I spoke with him, and he sent me a distinctly non-giggly email: "It's maddening that one can't seem to get to the source of these pirating ventures. It definitely looks fake. Somebody did a bad colour photo of the original CBC Records cover but with a white border; the booklet is only a fold-out of two pages; the CBC logo is nowhere to be seen and absolutely no notes (in the original there are 18 page of notes).

"It's amazing what these people think they can get away with."

Hopefully, it's over. 

There are many ways to get a copy of Affairs of the Heart, some less legitimate and less practical than others. But you can always find it at the Canadian Music Centre.

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