It's been apparent for some time now that the traditional print newspaper is in trouble. Not only little outlets are flailing--some of the bigger papers (see the Rocky Mountain News!) are going under.
Naturally (in the United States), as in public education, the arts are one of the first casualties in newspapers trying to stay solvent.
In many places, the "Arts" (or similar section(s)) are merely listings of upcoming events, and reviews are relegated to online-only or blog-only status. This, in addition to depriving the reader of information/opinion, has the following chilling effects:
1) The "review" is often only a perfunctory blog entry;
2) The reviewer can be given too many assignments to perform adequately;
3) The reviewers are often spread too thin, over a variety of media;
4) The nature of the "blog" review, as opposed to something that will appear in print, is often inadequately edited; sometimes, indeed, it seems, not edited at all.
We cannot, therefore, put the full blame on the reviewer when things turn out poorly.
Sure, we have room for pages and pages of full-color pics of what who-gives-a-fuck wore to the Oscars. And, as noted, print newspapers are hurting right now.
So it's frustrating when a hard-working staff and/or freelance writer like Jeanne Claire van Ryzin is forced into extra duties. She writes for the Austin American Statesman about, well, about everything musical that's not some kid in a coffee shop with his guitar or new band that thinks they'll get "discovered" at this year's SXSW. She covers music, visual art, dance, theater, and Jeebus knows what else...
...now, mostly, on her paper-hosted blog. She gets basically no in-print column inches, er, of which to speak.
Apparently editing, fact-checking, and spell-checking have been eliminated from the budget as well.
Review: A heaven-sent Rachmaninov's Vesper's
Hmm. Well. Good start JCvR, or whoever titles your blog posts...except for the part where "Vespers" [Wikipedia, sorry] is plural, and not possessive. Which is spelled--or, rather, punctuated--correctly for the rest of the review. Anyhow, proceed:
Grammy-nominated Austin choir Conspirare
While Conspirare may be good--and by all accounts they are--"Grammy-nominated" is about as impressive as "breathing humans." Even "Grammy Award-Winning" would put one in such exalted company as Michael Bolton and Hootie and the Blowfish.
Grammy-nominated Austin choir Conspirare stunned and awed Saturday night with a heaven-sent (and sold-out) performance of Rachmaninov’s stirring Vespers at St. Martin’s Lutheran Church.
Heaven-sent, eh? Going for the religious angle on the ol' Vespers (AKA All-Night Vigil, Op. 37)? Let's see how that goes.
Hushed and full of reverence, Rachmaninov’s religious mass for unaccompanied chorus is exquisitely beautiful and a departure from the lush piano music or emotive symphonies for which the Russian composer is most commonly known.
Keeping track of adjectives, Rachmaninov's Vespers are:
Hushed, full of reverence, (exquisitely) beautiful
lush (like his piano music) or emotive (like his symphonies).
Considered the crowning achievement of Russian Orthodox choral music
Considered by whom? Critics? Experts? Many? How about a citation? Vague reference?
Considered the crowning achievement of Russian Orthodox choral music, the Vespers follow the rules governing the church’s music with no instruments accompanying the voices.
An awkward, if factually true sentence. Pass.
And yet, while Rachmaninov echoes the melodic style of traditional Orthodox Church chants
Well, to be accurate, 10 of the 15 sections of the Vespers are actually based on Russian Orthodox chants. And yet, while I guess this could be considered an "echo" of sorts, this is somewhat misleading. A minor point, albeit one that took me all of 30 seconds of research.
And yet, while Rachmaninov echoes the melodic style of traditional Orthodox Church chants, he nevertheless brings an undeniable — though carefully considered — sensuousness...
Vespers: Hushed, full of reverence, (exquisitely) beautiful, sensuous (undeniably);
Not: Lush, emotive.
And yet, while Rachmaninov echoes the melodic style of traditional Orthodox Church chants, he nevertheless brings an undeniable — though carefully considered — sensuousness with harmonies refined to almost a pure essence.
Read the last bit again:
...with harmonies refined to almost a pure essence.
I don't know what that means. Essence of what? Harmony? Sensuousness? Gelfling?
Fig 2: Skeksis Likes Essence, Too!
The fervid intent of the music’s spirituality is undeniable.
The piece...which was written for a church service, based upon traditional chants, intends to be...spiritual. Glad we sussed that one out. Also, using the word "undeniable" in both sentences of a two-sentence paragraph somewhat undermines its emphatic purpose.
Conspirare director Craig Hella Johnson
Seriously? That is awesome. My official unofficial blog middle blog name is now "Hella". Fuck and yes.
Conspirare director Craig Hella Johnson intimately understood the balance between the simplicity and sensuousness of Rachmaninov’s other-worldly score.
Vespers: Hushed, full of reverence, (exquisitely) beautiful, sensuous (undeniably) balanced with simplicity, otherworldly;Not: Lush, emotive.
Does it seem like any of the words in the "not" category could easily be moved into the "Vespers descriptors" category? I think the difference in the sense of the review would be close to nil.
The choir’s intonation and vocal blend was seemless and perfect, the soloists appropriately soft, the basses gently hit the low B flats. St. Martin’s high-valuted sanctuary provided lovely — and appropriate — acoustical depth and resonance for the spiritually exalting music.
Wait, was this religious music? Because you totally forgot to mention that.
Conspirare’s exacting perfection never translates to stiff, pretentious or distant. Quite the opposite. There’s a sincerity and prescence that underlies every Conspirare concert. No wonder the audience on Saturday hushed on its own before anyone took the stage: The sublime beauty of Conspirare exudes always.
Hopefully, in my overly-long preamble, I explicated my real complaint: The arts are getting the shaft so badly, not only are they losing printed space, but even the most cursory editing is eschewed.
Fig 3: He's coming for you, Arts coverage