Sunday, January 18, 2009

Die tote Stadt countdown: criticism according to...


...Philippe. No, not that Philippe. This is Philippe the Giant Schnauzer (pictured left), the cuddly canine who was creme de la creme, 'Best Dog', at Crufts Dog Show last year. (If you haven't seen Best In Show yet, it's worth a rent...).

So, what has Philippe the Giant Schnauzer got to do with Die tote Stadt?

The point is the judging system used to pick top dogs at Crufts.

Apropos of this, the Pedigree Chums at Crufts have fallen foul of Political Correctness recently and have either been banned from TV or been banned and reinstated, I'm not sure which, because breeding a creature according to absolute standards for its pedigree apparently has some uncomfortable associations with the Second World War, Eugenics et al, and, besides isn't especially healthy in genetic terms.

Nevertheless, we in music can learn a lesson from another angle, which picks up on my point the other day about not judging composer by what they are not, instead of what they are. The dogs in Crufts are not judged against each other. They are judged according to the ideal for their individual breed. So, while music competitions, music critics et al constantly pit like against unlike, making all such comparisons personal, unfair and often spurious, the issue isn't whether a Giant Schnauzer plays the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto better than a Golden Retriever or whether a Beagle happens to writes tonal music in the same decade in which a Prize Poodle is busy creating tone-rows. If that Beagle matches up to his Beagledom better than the Prize Poodle does to his Pootling, he gets the medal.

I am glad to say that Best in Show was made by Warner Brothers, the same company that saved Korngold's life.

Happy Sunday, all. I'm off to the Royal Festival Hall this afternoon to interview Stephen Hough live on stage after his absolutely fabulous Cortot-inspired recital, which is full of delectable Chopin, Faure and Franck.

Meanwhile tickets for Crufts 2009 at the NEC in Birmingham are now on sale.