Sunday, November 12, 2006


I've been enjoying reading the Yahoo group devoted to Great Pianists , following a pleasing reference there to this blog the other day. One discussion springs from a review of Pogorelich playing in New York. Members have been responding with horror stories about music critics who arrived for assignments drunk/fell asleep and snored/left early/weren't there at all.

A critic from the local paper in St Nazaire turned up to Le Chant de l'amour triomphant at the Consonances festival. He failed to notice that it had anything whatsoever to do with the Chausson Poeme, presumably because he left before the second half and didn't recognise the extracts Philippe played off-stage during the first. He didn't notice that there was a script. And he spent half the review discussing the physical charms of the young female pianist who performed one solitary five-minute prelude by Chopin. Now, I may of course be biased, having put copious sweat and tears into the writing of that script, but I'd say that doesn't add up to professional reviewing. On the other hand, maybe that's why said critic hasn't quite made it into Le Monde yet.

Further back, I remember the instance of a critic who was sent to review a petite Japanese lady violinist playing a concerto in London. The soloist went sick and was replaced by a tall, broad-shouldered Frenchman with a pony tail down to his waist. The review was of the petite Japanese lady...

And hey, just as some music critics don't go to concerts, some literary critics don't read books. One of them managed to review Rites of Spring without noticing that the main character was a 13-year-old girl named Liffy, and decided, moreover, that I was having a go at the evil phenomenon of career women! I'm a career woman, so found that a bit puzzling. I'm not sure which book she reviewed, but it sure ain't mine.

If you give a bad critic enough rope, sooner or later they'll use it. It's just a shame when they have to hang a good pianist/violinist/writer first.