Do Classical Musicians Need To play Music "More Vividly ?"
According to critic, composer , blogger and Juilliard faculty member Greg Sandow, yes . I like Greg; he seems to be a really nice guy , and his criticisms of classical musicians and organizations are certainly well-meant . He's certainly an erudite commentator on classical music . But he's also consistantly unfair and specious in his arguments . He tends to be extrmely captious in his criticisms of contemporary classical musicians , frequently finds them wanting in some way or another, and is always longing for the "golden age" of classical music when supposedly musicians performed with so much more flair, panache, and individuality . He often uses old recordings by legendary musicians of the past as a stick with which to bash today's classical musicians. Of course, he's hardly alone in that . Music critics and famous retired musicians have been doing this for as long as I remember listening to classical music and reading reviews and commentary .And that's over 40 years .
Chalk it up to the human tendency to long for "the good old days ". Some of his latest blog posts at artsjournal.com and on facebook have been discussing his claim that classical musicians today need to play music "more vividly ". He wants them to take risks in interpreting music and not be so pendantically literal . But are they ? I wish I had a dollar for every review of this or that pianist, conductor or other performer in whiuch the critic mercilessly lambasted th eperformer for taking unwante dliberties with the music and not allowing it to "speak for iteself ".
No wait a minute . Either musicians today are too pedantically literal in interpretation or they take too many liberties and distort the music .Both claims can't be true . Why can't the critics be consistent ? And what is "vivid performance" anyway ? Basicaly ,it's what the critic happens to like . If the critic really likes the performer , he or she praises it for interpretive flair and imagination, and if not, he or she blasts the perforner for " dostorting th emusic" and egostical slef -indulgence .
And there also a consistent double standard oin comparing famous musicians from the past and those of the present day, especially young, rising ones . When the legendary musicians on nacinet recordings show their individuality, they are praised to the skies . But when TODAY's musicians show THEIR individuality , they are blasted for not being faithful to the composer . They're damned if they do, and damned if they don't , while famous musicians from the past are praised uncritically .
And here's a rather annoying, question-begging claim Sandow makes in a recent post : the recent why people are not "flocking to concerts" today is because classical musicians don't play "vividly enough". If they did, supposedly, there would be a much bigger audience. But the whole premise of this statement is false and specious . The reason that more people are not flicking to concerts is that they just aren't aware of what a wonderfully rewarding experience this cna be . It's not the musician's fault . Myself, I have heard a great many performances in recent years which contradict Sandow's claim . They were certainly not the least bit lacking in vividness .
So please, all of you who read this post , by all means flock to concerts ! And please tell people to try them . I guarantee you, they won't regret it .