Seriously, Someone Got Paid for This

We’ve seen some doozey lead-ins in our time, ranging from outlandish to outlandisher. In general, they’re uninformative, putrid, zing-slinging shit bombs, like, “Oh my gosh! This concert was the most bestest, transcendentest, awesomest musical ejaculation ever heard, ever! The audience almost died it was so much more gooder than the goodest performance in the history of the universe.” But this one is a little different. It’s a little more subtle.

It was something of a family affair at Friday night’s concert by the Kansas City Symphony at the Lyric Theatre.

Alright. A family affair. Seems reasonable, if a little lackluster. A family affair. That's the thread to be expounded upon. Great. There's one question left to ask, then: How will the opening line play out this time?

Well, my friends, as the Chinese proverb says, the journey is the reward...er...or something. So, sit back and take it all in, in fill-in-the-blank form.

Concertmistress _______ took center stage as soloist in an exciting performance of _______.

_______ employed a sumptuous tone in the work’s famous opening theme. As the movement progressed, _______ also displayed impressive musicality and driving energy.

Music Director _______ conducted a well balanced [sic] performance, keeping the orchestra’s dynamic levels soft enough to let the solo lines dominate. In addition, _______ stretched the phrases beautifully in the movement’s slower central section.

In the second movement, _______ utilized a marvelous blend of lyrical line and rich tonal color. The exciting finale brought the audience to its feet.


So far, this vapid assessment—which, by the way, is precisely for what the author received payment—makes one wonder whether or not he actually attended this performance. It has all the characteristics of a prefabricated review:

1. All the descriptors could equally apply to nearly any performer or performance (“exciting performance”, “sumptuous tone”, “impressive musicality”, “well-balanced performance”, etc., etc.).

2. All the music’s formal markers are generic (“soloist”, “famous opening theme”, “movement”, “phrases”, “finale”). Can you describe another piece using these terms? I can.

3. The lead-in thread is entirely absent, suggesting that it was added on later, as an afterthought.

Of course, I’m not suggesting this indeed is what happened. But, for fuck’s sake, a quadriplegic monkey could pound out better assessments.


The _______ Symphony Chorus, directed by _______, joined the orchestra and four vocal soloists for _______’s thrilling and dramatic ______.

From the outset the chorus sounded strong and impressive, and balance with the orchestra was quite good, with the exception of the organ, which stuck out like a sore thumb.

The vocal quartet was better on the inner parts, mezzo-soprano and tenor rather than soprano and baritone. From the opening _______, soprano _______ sounded harsh, especially at the top of her range. Baritone _______ sang with beauty and resonance in his upper and middle range, but didn’t have the chops for the ungodly lowest notes in the _______.

Mezzo-soprano _______ was magnificent in the _______ and tenor _______ sang with lyrical beauty throughout the work.

While the performance was quite good overall, the violins never seemed to be together on the ornamental phrases at the beginning of the _______. The chorus suffered a few cases of a single tenor entering early and a few fuzzy-toned soprano entrances.


Slightly better, but still, the observations could’ve been made by a dead parrot or a shrubbery.

But enough of that, let's return to the lead-in. Remember that the concert was “something of a family affair”? What could that have meant? How did it play out?

Even the opening work, Bach’s “Brandenburg Concerto No. 3,”conveyed a familial air:

Even? I didn’t smell a whiff of familial air in the above text. Did you?

...Bach’s “Brandenburg Concerto No. 3,”conveyed [sic] a familial air: [Michael] Stern conducted an intimate group of 10 strings and harpsichord.

Small, intimate group = family lead-in

Wow. That’s fucking weak. In fact, this whole review is fucking weak. First, we get a promising lead-in; second, we get nondescript, prefabricated statements about several pieces and performers (really, who cares what or who they were?); then, the lead-in returns to reveal a wafer-thin connection. In all, poor form, poor prose, poor critique, poor observations, poor everything. Calling this mediocre would be an overstatement.

Instead, I’ll offer this: embarrassingly lazy.

Figure 1. Sketch artist’s rendering of this review

A final hackneyed description:

Although the opening movement suffered from a handful of intonation slips in the violins, the performance was nicely shaped and musically satisfying.



Anonymous said...

Thank you! Somebody finally said it. His other reviews all read exactly the same.

Signed, a member of the KCS

Empiricus said...

Glad I could be of help, KCS person.

There are a lot of reviews that read exactly the same--meaningless critical noise, in my opinion.

Anonymous said...

I have often thought these reviews sound like a college engineering student's report after having been forced to attend a concert for a music appreciation class.


I have commented a couple times about the inadequate reviews in the online edition of the star, but obviously no one listens.

Gustav said...

I think they sell this particular review at essays.com's sister-site, musiccriticismfordummies.com. It's the David Hurwitz Special.