Tuesday, June 24, 2008


Take a look at Anthony Holden's review from this week's Observer. Skip the bit about Strauss - Mr Holden doesn't like to stray too far from the opera house, so his reviews are usually about operas, especially expensive ones with big names in them. But occasionally he remembers that there are other classical music genres, and manages to get himself to one of those concert hall places. This week he's managed to navigate his way to Snape Maltings in Aldeburgh (probably relatively easy, as it was established by Britten, who of course was primarily a composer of operas). He's also aware of the current artistic director of the Aldeburgh Festival, Thomas Ades (presumably because he's seen his name about the Royal Opera House advertising one of those high-profile opera commissions that stop Mr Ades writing something more interesting), although the sub who prepared the copy doesn't seem to realise that Ades doesn't feature in this concert. But the excellent French pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard, who's due to replace Mr Ades as thge Aldeburgh Festival'sartistic director next year, does.

Consider this:

"taste-free modern slices of Schoenberg, Kurtag, Webern and Charles Ives amid some nourishing Haydn and Mozart."

Taste-free? I've heard the above composers accused of many things in my time, but blandness certainly isn't one of them. How anyone can think such things of The Unanswered Question, or Webern's Five Movements, is beyond me. And "modern"? Kurtág's still living and breathing, sure, but of the rest the most recently animate is Ives, and he died in 1954 (that's 54 years ago, Mr Holden). Those four composers represent a remarkably wide spectrum of twentieth century musical trends, and it seems unfair to brush them aside in this manner.

Mr Holden also seems confused at the difference between conducting and directing from the keyboard. He describes Aimard's conducting of Haydn's Symphony No.22 as "sprightly", and specifically states that "All went well until Aimard attempted to conduct from the keyboard." And yet his conclusion is that it's
"Just as well, perhaps, that Aimard has disavowed any ambition to give up the piano for conducting."
Huh? You just said his conducting was good! It was his directing from the keyboard in the concerto that went wrong, you said. So not only is that little dig at the end nasty and petty, it's also factually wrong.

So there you go - three paragraphs which say next to nothing about the music, and are a set-up for a punchline that doesn't work.

If someone's got a narrow viewpoint, I can put up with it (well, just about, as long as you don't ask me to talk to them for any length of time). But if you're going to be a narrow-minded music critic, you'd better write with a Swiftian level of wit and be prepared to back your opinion up rather than just casually dismiss the past century of music. Maybe if you didn't gorge your palate with late-romantic opera you'd have taste buds clear enough to appreciate other flavours.

1 comment:

Erin said...

PLA is the sweetest, gentlest man - and so energetic and keen, it pains me to think this idiot wrote such nasty things about him without knowing what he's talking about. Moron.