Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Island mentalities

I never got round to hitting back at the individual in the US who not long ago took exception to a comment I made in print about the Elgar Violin Concerto being one of the greatest works of its kind. It appears that this person, whose name I don't actually know, thinks all British critics are tub-thumping patriotic morons who will cheer anything British for the sake of it when actually everything British is mediocre, and that just because I like the Elgar Violin Concerto, I am one of those too.

First of all, just as stupid as British critics supporting British artists for the sake of it is American critics knocking anything British for the sake of it and tarring all critics in the UK with the same brush.

Secondly, if you think the Elgar is not one of the great violin concertos, then kindly give reasons for your opinion rather than knocking all the glasses off the shelf in your anger at all us dreadful Brits? I bet you can't. It's a fabulous piece.

Thirdly, I may have been born within the sound of Bow Bells, but I'm not the sort of critic who indulges in automatic Brit-bravoing, having an ingrained dislike of much British period-instrument performing (with some important exceptions), much music by Benjamin Britten and Gerald Finzi, swathes of contemporary music and a few singers, instrumentalists and conductors who do keep winning prizes but whom I find boring, pretentious, misguided etc. I love Delius, but that isn't because he's British - rather, because he can sound so wonderfully French.

Fourthly, critics write nonsense everywhere in the world.

Last but not least, the article in which my comment appeared was focused on a violinist who isn't British at all, but loves the Elgar Concerto so much so that he was willing to spend painstaking hours in the British Library going through Elgar's manuscripts with a toothcomb, sifting out the differences between them and the printed version of the concerto. This somewhat scuppers any view that you have to be a Brit to like British music.

I could bring American politics and double standards into this, but some of my best friends are American and I'm not going to tar them with the aforementioned same brush.

Please, folks, stop writing twaddle. Life is short. Get one while you can.