25. September 2008 · Comments Off on Critic Pulled · Categories: Links, News, Ramble

I’m guessing many readers here heard the story of the critic who got pulled from reviewing his city’s orchestra. It was all over the news. Today it’s in the New York Times:

For years the classical music critic at The Plain Dealer of Cleveland has taken shots at the conductor of his hometown orchestra, saying he lacks musical ideas and brings little life to many of the works he conducts. Supporters of the orchestra, one of the world’s best, and even some players have long complained about his opinions regarding the maestro, Franz Welser-Möst.

You can read the full article here.

A lot of bloggers have written about this, as have news writers. What I’ve read is generally supportive of the reviewer. Some are even horrified by what has happened. Me? I’m just an oboe player. What do I know?

I’ve not read Mr. Rosenberg’s reviews. I do recall reading, probably well over a year ago, how he didn’t like Welser-Möst. That seemed to be common knowledge. And it did make me wonder, even back then:

Can a reviewer give an even-handed review when he doesn’t care for a conductor? Or is it that the conductor is so bad he never even deserves anything but a negative review? What about a composer? Sometimes a reviewer makes it quite clear what he or she thinks of a particular composer and it isn’t good news. Can that reviewer come at a work of that composer with open ears? (I read one review where a reviewer bashed a new work. Then, in another review, it became clear that he really didn’t like that composer. At all. Hmmm.) And what about a performer? One reviewer called a player in our orchestra the finest player (of that instrument) in the Bay Area. Will he hear that musician as anything but great?

I’m not making any sort of judgment here. I’m honestly just wondering. We are all human, after all —even the critic is human, yes?— and our prejudices are our prejudices. We like some things (brussel sprouts). We don’t like others (tomatoes). I wonder how they color a critic’s review, how they affect a critic’s ears, and how those critics deal with such things.

Now I do also wonder … if Mr. Rosenberg has never given Welser-Möst anything but a horrendous review, I wonder why he’d ever want to go to another concert conducted by the man. Wishful thinking? I dunno. I guess I should read some of his reviews. Maybe they weren’t even all negative.

It would be interesting to ask some Cleveland orchestra members what they think. I’m always fascinated to read reviews of my own concerts and then compare notes to what we on stage felt. Sometimes we think a reviewer is spot on, sometimes it seems that the reviewer was in a bad mood, and sometimes it seems that a reviewer is getting fed information from someone. Oh, but you can guarantee that the orchestra will probably run the gamut too. That’s always amazing to me. I’ll think a conductor is fantastic, and as I’m walking out of the hall someone else will be saying something about how horrible he or she was. Another time I’ll be miserable, and others will be in heaven. Go figure.

Ah yes … “inside information” … I’ve read a few reviews recently where information that was only known by those on the inside is included in the review. This makes me nervous. Would a reviewer really call musicians prior to a performance to get the scoop on something? (Not always musicians on the stage, but someone who is in the know.) I wonder.

I could never be a critic. I don’t have it in me. I’m not sure what is required to get one’s “license to critique” (I don’t believe you have to have been a professional musician, but is some music degree required? Is it just “good ears” … and how does one know his or her ears are better than the norm?) but I know I don’t have it. I like to think I have a pretty good ear, but I read reviews and think, “I must be missing something there.”

Well, okay, I’m missing something more than just “there”. Again, I refer you to OldBoeBrain. That will forever remain my excuse.

But speaking of the brain, my head feels as if it’s already on the mend. Whew! I’m still not ready to conquer reeds, but I’m at least able to breathe more comfortably.

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