I Am Here to Report to You about Some Excellent Music Criticism!

I am here to report to you about some excellent music criticism!

I know, right?

It does exist! I am very pleased. I, however, have one small issue regarding the following. Let it be known, though, that I am very much mostly pleased.

This gentleman has written a very good review for the New York Times about a recent concert featuring some oft-derided music from a century ago. The concert sounds like it was great. The reviewer seems like he genuinely likes the repertoire. Plus: I really like the repertoire! He made me wish I had seen the concert. My quibble is: would someone who does not already know/like the repertoire be encouraged by the review to see the concert?

James Levine is a well-regarded conductor and pianist. The Met Chamber Ensemble is similarly well-regarded. The featured composers should be regarded similarly. Although the author, as noted, above, seems to like the music, he felt the need to...to what? Take an easy dig at it? Or, perhaps, nod to those that don't like it? Who would read a review about a Schoenberg, Webern, and Berg concert with any real interest if they've already made up their mind about the music? Certainly, in the first paragraph, Kozinn sort of abandons any effort to convince any unbelievers to attend the concert to gain greater understanding or appreciation of...

For some listeners the music of the Second Viennese School is by now - a century on - so thoroughly entrenched as to be standard repertory;

Yes. Yes it is. It is not played often enough, or written favorably about enough. And, when mentioned, it is often to deride better-loved composers such as Brahms. But it is historically significant. Also, if one cares to spend time with it, is fucking awesome music.

for others it was supplanted by other styles so long ago that it's irrelevant.

I suppose I understand what he's getting at, here. However, I could easily make the same argument about Bach vis-a-vis people who only listen to rock. Or jazz. Or hip-hop. Or Copland, for that matter. Supplanted by other styles? Like Renaissance in the Baroque era? Or Baroque in the Classical era? Or Classical in the Romantic era? Or Disco in the 1990s?

But if you're still trying to figure out what you think about it, the best idea may be to seek out a performance with James Levine at the helm.

Okay! That is great. I love that you wrote that. It encourages people to be intellectually and/or artistically curious. Which is great. Did I mention that it's great? You are totally asking people who are undecided to be welcome to listen, and attend, and, I guess, decide for themselves. Awesome.

Mr. Levine is a true believer,

This sounds sort of like he's in a cult. The cult of the Second Viennese School. Which I would totally join. However, your sentiment contains a note of...condescension? Even if the condescension is unintended, or well-intended. But you make it sound like he's not normal. Non-normative.

but where other true believers approach this music with earnest reverence, he makes it sing.

Ah. He makes the non-music sounds musical. He is an irreverent true-believer, in that he believes the crazy atonal nonsense is music, and in his role as interpreter, makes it sing.

Don't get me wrong, this is a great article, and I encourage you to read the rest. I only want to point out that even the best-intentioned review can contain hidden, or unintended, critique of music that a) is having image trouble anyway, and b) it purports to acclaim.

So, I was wrong. Kozinn doesn't abandon the effort to convince people to attend and listen. He merely subtly undermines his effort with loaded language. That's my issue.

Otherwise: well done, sir! Well done.


Empiricus said...

Oh, magic ouija board, please tell us, for reals, if Kozinn's review is good.

(lights candles)


Sator Arepo said...

Without resorting to overused internet memes, I must say that I am literally laughing my ass off at your comment, Empiricus.