Monday, November 05, 2007

Prepare for excitement

Well, Bernard Holland has got my goat again. (No, I'm not talking about my parent's farm either!) In his latest article in the NY Times, Holland bellyaches about new music, specifically world premieres.

I wonder what prompted this topic with Holland...was an assignment not taken well at work? Colleagues ribbing him about new pieces?

One of the most offending sentences comes midway, calling Haydn and Mozart "purveyors of the most profound and original music ever written." Evidently Holland has never heard Steven Stucky's music, more or less composers like Ellen Zwilich, John Harbison, or Augusta Read Thomas. These modern masters are incredibly original AND profound. Again, why are you calling them (composers over 200 years ago) out Mr Holland? Is it a comfort zone?

As someone who hears alot of those premieres, I have this advice, for any audience member (or idiotic critic):

1. Come with an open mind. If you say I won't like this new piece, you probably won't.
2. Be honest with yourself and your ears - you may or may not like the piece. Take the performance in the moment - the musicians may be as excited or as fearful as you are - the beauty of hearing a piece for the first time is special, especially live.
3. If you liked it, tell the composer; if you didn't like it, also let the composer know that. In each case give them something specific. 9 times out of 10 the composer is at the premiere.
4. Prepare for a premiere the same way you would for attending any other concert - if you normally go get 3 recordings of Hilary Hahn out to hear before hearing her, go get 3 recordings of Chris Rouse before hearing his new work. If you read every sentence about a work in the program for a Mahler Symphony, make sure you read everything about Jennifer Higdon's new work. But if you go out to dinner, have a drink with friends normally before a concert - do the same before a premiere!

5. Take the new piece of music as a piece on the program, not as a tablet from Mt Sinai. I can point you to thousands of examples in the Lexicon of Musical Invective that Haydn, Mozart and all of the standard repertoire works were panned by someone (like you Mr. Holland!) in the past. There is no good reason to think that a work by John Corigliano has to be compared to the Schubert Symphony on the second half of the work - although that Corigliano will stand just fine thank you. Its like comparing the steak you have at dinner to the cigar and scotch afterwards - its fine to do so but why? Live in the moment, whether its steak tartar or filet mignon, we all have different tastes and you could go for days comparing them, in the end it boils down in opinion and trust.

I know as a "Critic" one judges, makes these comparisons...but this article serves no good service. Ultimately asking help finding a good restaurant, I want to know when I ask someone, if they have been there and liked it. In this article you basically say, I haven't been to a good restaurant in 20 years and you should only go to those old closed down places who used to have good service - forget any pan asian or new restaurant.

In fact Mr. Holland, I think you should limit yourself to read only books from the 1700-1800, and see only plays from 1650-1800, and no more movies (so modern and so many world premieres!) they might be too modern and certainly they don't consult you.

Trust is what you continue to threaten me and your readers Mr. Holland. I trust writing for the Times that you can do a reasonably decent article or review of music, old or new. This latest article is as awful and immoral as your colleagues plagarizing, or revealing confidential sources. Shame on you Bernard.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What--goat got your keys?