Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Charged with Assault with a Deadly Toothbrush

Or Dame Ethel Smyth would have been, if she were still alive, very likely. This is what the London Times critic wrote about her Concerto for Horn and Violin (see my rather longer review below):

"Its grand gesturing and bandstand jocularity made one wish that Smyth had for once confined her championing of the female muse to the political arena."

And the same critic could write of those burgher-bellied, horse-hair padded Henry Wood orchestrations that "the Albert Hall thrilled yet again to his glorious magnification of the master" (Bach, of course) and "Rachmaninov's Prelude in C sharp minor . . .sounded, in the hands of the BBCSSO, like a soundtrack for the Kraken rising from the deep." True enough, I suppose: the Kraken was a monster that terrified seamen, much as that 'version' should have chased the denizens of the Albert Hall to seek refuge in the bars in horror.

News International paid for that summary of a rare concerto performance that probably took the soloists weeks to learn and rehearse . . .and which, apart from being superbly performed, was an original composition, whatever your view of its rank, not a re-rendering of another's.

Why, I wonder, do I and just a few others on the internet bother? Why concentrate hard and sweat over a bloody review for two hours, and go to bed at two in the morning, for nothing? And this is from a major music critic of the British national press. I think you can grasp why I lost any respect for its music criticism years ago.

What angers me even more, is that the same critics who make perfunctory, simplistic, and even mean-spirited judgements often seemingly for the sake of a cheap laugh, are the same people who deafeningly bewail the fact that fewer and fewer people show an interest in classical music, and classical record sales are declining.

Well, if they cannot engender some interest or enthusiasm themselves in a performance (and of something that has been recorded too, a CD that no-one who read that review would ever buy, reducing classical sales by yet another few dozen tenners) and constantly opine that most of what they hear is worthless anyway, how can that be a surprise?

(So I needn't hang around waiting for your call, then, Mr Times Music Editor? Sir?)

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