Office of Citizen
Rest in Peace,
the critic who dared to criticize
Submitted by Susan Miller on Sun, 09/21/2008 - 09:27.
by Donald Rosenberg / Plain Dealer Music Critic
Sunday September 21, 2008, 12:00 AM
The above is the season preview for the orchestra. It's a big chunk of free advertising. There's nothing better to put thew butts in the seats. You can't buy that kind of advertising. The space allocated and the depth of coverage is astounding.
Interestingly it is written/compiled by Don Rosenberg. I was surprised to see this since a friend sent me this story from the Baltimore Sun, Cleveland critic who dared criticize is reassigned
"Don Rosenberg, music critic at the Cleveland Plain Dealer for 16 years, was told yesterday by the paper's editor that he will no longer be covering the famed Cleveland Orchestra. He has been given the option of reviewing other musical events in town, as well as dance. Another writer at the paper, Zack Lewis, was told he will now be orchestra's reviewer. First, the full disclosure: I've known Don and Zach for years; both are members of the Music Critics Association of North America and its board of directors; Don is the immediate past president of that organization; I'm the current president. Now, the full, unbridled response to this news: It stinks."
When I first moved here in 1979, I hung around with a faculty member at Cleveland Institute of Music. We often attended orchestra concerts. One such evening he noticed me wincing while they played. Afterward he said, "You have perfect pitch." I was blank. "I don't know what that is", I said. He told me that every time the orchestra was out of tune, I squirmed or winced. Well, I'm sure it was involuntary because I was enthralled. I was in a big city listening to a world class orchestra. It never occurred to me that they could make a mistake. He said it was fairly common for large string section players to lapse and expect the section to override their mistakes, but apparently my (unknowing) ear had picked these mistakes up. Oh well... I dismissed it since I had other things to do rather than pursue some small flaws in the playing of the "best band in the land". Besides, I was not nor am I now a classical music critic.
But now it seems that the orchestra will be forever faultless to NEO readers. Our orchestra is Cleveland's "good news" and it's gonna remain that way, by God, at least as reported by the PD.
I had a dance company and presented dance in this town for years. The reviews were not always as favorable as we might have wished, but we were glad to have the coverage. "All ink is good ink", we'd say. Sometimes I had to "give it to her" - agree that we could have done better. I did notice that sometimes she seemed to be doing what Don has done here - tout something that I suspected she might later criticize sharply.
It's a sticky wicket - criticism. You want it, but you wince to hear it. I commented a while back on this topic at a blog in NYC on dance (Downtown Dancer). The discussion revolved around a choreographer who was angry with a review. I argued that critics can teach the curious viewer, that the critic's role in describing and criticizing is helpful to newer viewers who might indeed be lost in that artistic experience - it can be a handle giving words to things the viewer experienced but cannot articulate. "with an assumption that we are performing to the choir, audiences may not only not grow, but may in fact wither and die."
I did my share of bitching about snarky reviews, but without good criticism I do believe that laziness and complacency can set in.
The other side of this story - reduced arts coverage in the shrinking PD and patrons who can "get their way" with the editor. Patronage at the PD is apparently alive and well even in the "entertainment" pages.
Yes... don't expect to see this story in the pages of the PD. I guess as the orchestra's season begins we'll see if Lewis can be "directed", too.
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