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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  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 .

Posted: Aug 15 2012, 11:28 PM by the horn | with no comments
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