Reminder To Self: Avoid Being a Music Critic

It’s hard to trust your ears. I think I have to figure out a method for describing exactly what I’m hearing when I write about music, and be very careful about underestimating how much a name can impact the way I view things:

The recrimination directed at the critics who had been duped was both understandable and overwrought. In 1992, in Gramophone, the critic Bryce Morrison found that Yefim Bronfman’s Rachmaninoff Third Concerto lacked “the sort of angst or urgency that has endeared Rachmaninov to millions” and that “Bronfman sounds oddly unmoved by Rachmaninov ’s intensely slavonic idiom. In the sunset coda of the Adagio his playing is devoid of glamour and in the finale’s fugue he lacks crispness and definition.” Fifteen years later, he wrote of Hatto’s release of the same recording: “stunning . . . truly great . . . among the finest on record . . . with a special sense of its Slavic melancholy.”

– from “Fantasia for Piano,” by Mark Singer, in The New Yorker

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1 Comment

  1. Mon ami! C’est moi! Tu me manque? Well… I can’t say very much about music because I listen to whatever I like be it classical, jazz, oldies, Japanese rock, or Japanese pop. But I can say this – there is no ONE orthodox way of playing a piece. Perhaps I am biased because my beloved Mr A___ plays Rachmaninov’s Piano concerto No. 2 all too fast. The orthodox way doesnt play it fortissimo, but he does. His Chopin fantasie impromptu is too fast vis-a-vis the orthodox way. But I would not have it any other way. Because that style of playing is him. That is how he interprets the piece, and with his Chopin, I feel his pain. With his Rachmaninov, I feel his uncertainty.

    Think about it, my dear. There are tons of cover versions of songs, and they are each different. How do we even know the orthodox way is the “true” way? Just because some guy at the very beginning played it that way, and the rest of the guys after him followed suit, doesn’t mean we have to do the same. We are already drones to this process of living where we wake up, go to work, go home, watch telly, and go to bed, only to face the same thing again. Do we have to be drones even in matters of music where personal taste and preference ought to rule instead that of the “prescribed” way of the critics? We are already drones in so many aspects of every day life (being pleasing to the boss at work etc); we ought to have the ability to chose how we want to express ourselves in other realms.

    While I concede the original version of any song or piece is the clearest in our memory. It may be the way the composer sees it, but that may not be the way the pianist or singer sees it. Likewise, however the composer, singer and pianist interprets the piece, we may not see it in the same way. After all, what is wrong with giving one’s interpretation of music? The very fact that we have our own interpretation tells us that the piece speaks to us on a level that is intimate to us alone, viz., it appeals to us on a private level. Why should we care what the critics say is the established and orthodox way. So long as we like it, we can relate to it, and we can understand it. That is more than enough.

    Just me tuppence worth ;)

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