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July 19, 2005

Looking For A Critical Connection

I'm interested in Peter's observation that:

"London may have had the most vibrant critical scene, but it hasn’t had the most vibrant compositional scene despite outstandingly supportive institutions."

That prompts the question: is strong criticism necessary for a climate in which great art can flourish? Is it not true that when music history is written, one of the ways artistic movements are measured is by how critics wrote about the work?

I'm not talking thumbs up/down here, but surely the success of art in historical terms is at least in part determined by how it engaged audiences (critics being historical surrogates in speaking for those audiences...)?

Posted by mclennan at July 19, 2005 09:14 PM


But DO critics speak for the audiences? How many times have we read the phrase "it was panned by the critics, but a commercial success" and vice versa?

Posted by: Daniel Munson at July 20, 2005 06:29 AM

With all due respect to Peter McCallum and his very interesting and provocative post on compositional creativity, criticism, and public culture in contemporary metropolitan democracies, I think that he should explain further his view that London is suffering from a dearth of compositional creativity. At this season's Proms alone, there will be commissions and premieres of works by Hans Abrahamsen, Thomas Ades, Michael Berkeley, Unsuk Chin, John Corigliano, Marc-Andre Dalbavie, Henri Dutilleux, Detlev Glanert, Sofia Gubaidulina, Morgan Hayes, Tatjana Komarova, James MacMillan, Stuart Macrae, Thea Musgrave, Paul Patterson, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Bent Sorensen, Fraser Trainer, Mark-Anthony Turnage, Huw Watkins, and John Woolrich. (With thanks to the UK's superb "On An Overgrown Path" blog.)

London has given the music world several new operas by Sir Harrison Birtwistle and new Symphonies by Sir Peter Maxwell Davis. And if those names are too modernist for the assembled critics here, London has also given the music world works of John Tavener, Michael Berkeley, Mark-Anthony Turnage, Steve Martland, Thomas Ades, and many others, as well as British/Scottish composers who may live outside of London but who often have works performed there such as James MacMillan, Nicholas Maw, Robin Holloway, and many others. I also think that British composers have won a representative share of Grawemeyer Prizes, which I believe has to be one indication of compositional creativity and impact on the world of classical music worldwide.

Posted by: Garth Trinkl at July 20, 2005 06:39 AM

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