Professional music criticism

Yuja Wang has started her recital tour now, and I just read a review in the Boston Globe of her recent Jordan Hall recital where this passage had me smile a bit (and note that this is written as a general observation about her playing, and not relating to a certain passage or piece).

So… :dong: We learn that this was an evening where Yuja’s left hand was ferocious and mostly did bass, while her right played delicate things and when the score said forte, she could do it with both hands simultaneously.

What I want to get at is that, I think this critic did just fine with the task she was given, but the impression I got reading this was that the Boston Globe sent someone who probably attended her third piano recital here to write an official review of the event. I mean, if you want to publish an opinion piece on a certain subject - in the Boston Globe! - shouldn’t you see to that the person you pick to do it is an expert, authority or at the very least better acquainted with the subject than the average reader?

True, this why I rarely read professional reviews, few if any of them know piano as well as we do (no false modesty).
Also the flowery prose which they use rarely tells me anything useful about the playing. That’s one of the reason I enjoy the reviews of your mate Rolf, because they’re a lot less fluffy and he makes specific references to the score. If I were a critic I would write in basically the same way we write about music here, or how Richter wrote about other people’s concerts in his notebook. Actually, I remember this site from way back in the day by “Piano Wizard” where he wrote heaps of stuff about various pianists. I didn’t always agree with his opinions, but I admired the straightforward style in which he wrote.

I rarely read reviews either, but especially here in Kazakhstan I’m consistently amazed by how insipid they are when I do. I think there are three levels of zoom you can apply essentially - either the 600mm Rolf way and highlight the accentuated note in the left hand on the third beat in bar 47, the 120mm Mark way and describe how those notes were played with a singing tone, a beautiful sound and marvelous phrasing, or the 28mm CJ way and think about how such qualities came together to create concepts and narrative. I’m happy with either, but when reading a review I’d at least like to get some impression of how the pianist played and what the reviewer felt were the strong and the weak points of the performance, but you almost never get it. That was actually the positive side of this review I thought - she really tried to describe the playing best she could and highlight what she thought was best (Ligeti), but it shines through that it was about like sending me to cover a White House press conference. “Comfortable chairs, nice bathrooms! Dreary speech, dry subject and poor acting, too few pictures. Trump wore matching tie. 3/5, would go again if they fix the AC”. … 8rose.html … eview.html … 5rose.html

And … o-get.html


I get the impression that very few critics review the music with the score in front of them…

I presume most reviewers are music-lovers rather than professional musicians; I suspect the best thing to do is to not attach a huge amount of importance to reviews.

My favourite reviewer is zepp :ziff: :pimp:

My teacher - knowing that I was probably about to get a few reviews at the time - warned me about reviewers, and told a few stories. The more quotable bits ranged from “they have cloth ears” and “they like the sound of their own voices”. Funny thing is, it’s nice and warm and fuzzy to get a hyperbolic review but, if he told me, as he once did “your tremolandi sound like a machine gun going off”, then I fucking well sat up and took notice. I would take the opinion of a professional musician any day.

Zepp writes some insanely on-point, hilarious, and well-informed reviews truuuu

Your 90 page review of Brew’s Lisitsa recital was spot on too. “SHEEYAT: 10/10”. :dong:

I tried to be as objective as possible.

Most eloquent, knowledgeable, insightful critics have died or are retired. Or they don’t get a chance to make a living from writing because of a lack of interest.
The living ones that are well-known or famous think for example that Debussy was a bad composer or that H. Neuhaus was a pupil of Scriabin (no kidding!).

or that Liszt’s trashy works don’t belong in a piano competition - except for teh Sonata (to paraphrase a douche known as Scott Cantrell, who reviews da Clitcomp 2013).

:gav: : I would like to go rape him now.