Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Why the Pg Still Has a Classical Music Critic

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Why the Pg Still Has a Classical Music Critic

Article excerpt

What's the purpose of a classical music critic in the 21st century?

With the internet and Spotify at our fingertips, social media as a public opinion forum and performing arts organizations churning out their own homespun brand of digital content, is there really a need for a formally titled "critic" in the modern news landscape?

Many outlets don't think so - or at least don't view it as a priority - and they've slashed such haughty niche positions. Even my position at the Post-Gazette is funded in part by a grant from an organization, The Rubin Institute for Music Criticism, which believes in the real-world value of quality criticism and is seeking to halt the decline.

I was invited to apply here because of my background: bachelor's degrees from Oberlin College and Conservatory in English literature and clarinet performance, a master's in arts journalism from Syracuse University and an extensive freelancing background for publications such as Symphony Magazine, Early Music America Magazine, Carnegie Hall's Beyond the Stage, etc.

In ye olden days critics whaled on composers and performers without mercy. There's actually an entire book compiled by American-Russian composer and conductor Nicolas Slonimsky of nasty news bites about different composers called "The Lexicon of Musical Invective."

An example from a London magazine in 1878: "If it were possible to imagine His Satanic Majesty writing an opera, 'Carmen' would be the sort of work He might be expected to turn out." And another: "[Anton] Bruckner is the greatest musical living peril, a tonal Antichrist," according to an unidentified critic quoted in a biography of the Austrian composer.

This was riotous good fun, at least for readers if not artists. Different papers and outlets often had multiple critics, and each city had multiple papers or publications publishing reviews. There was an economy of opinion. Nowadays, most cities have only a couple of outlets and generally only a single critic. There are a number of blogs, but these generally don't carry the same cache or readership, for better or for worse. …

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