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July 21, 2005

London and US

Hugh makes a number of good points about the economic differences between criticism in London and in the US. Friends of mine who freelance for British papers tell me that in terms of payment, the phrase Dickensian mite is still operative, and that explains the potential conflicts of interest that you describe. In truth, over here we've often been struck by the coziness between many English critics and organizations that we tend to (and in many cases are required to) keep at arm's length. Present company excepted, obviously.

I would not say, however, that we feel compelled to support the home team, either because it's the home team or because negative reviews might have economic ramifications. Ticket sales are the organization's job and problem, not ours; ours is to call it as we hear it.

We also feel, or at least I do, that the power we supposedly have is far less than people think. If we had any, would Lorin Maazel be music director of the New York Philharmonic? From the time his was announced as a candidate, the Times critical staff did everything it could to argue in print that this was a bad idea, and although I feel we've been fair in the sense of pointing out the things he does well, I think the general tenor of the reviews has been negative. If we had any actual power, would the Philharmonic have renewed his contract til 2009?

But I also don't think the job is about power, or should be. The power talk is just for people who want to complain about it us. We just listen and write.

One more thing about Baltimore: I was thinking about this. I ended my last post on the subject by saying that the orchestra guaranteed that we'd all be looking again at the end of her first contract. How shortsighted (or maybe longsighted) of me: they've actually written the Baltimore critics' assignment books for the next three years. First year, apart from the close reviewing the concerts would naturally have gotten anyway, there'll be a need for the "After The Fracas, How Did Her First Year Go?" piece. But of course, chances are her first season will include some programming residue from the Temirkanov years, so the second will have to begin with a close look at Alsop's first totally-in-control season, and will have to end with "After Two Years, What Changes Has She Wrought?" And then there's that last season, with the looming contract renewal (or not). Seems to me the PR department can just book itself a long vacation.

Posted by akozinn at July 21, 2005 10:05 AM


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