How about ignoring Norrington?

Come on, folks, let's get serious!  A to-do about Sir Roger's anti-vibrato movement (or lack of movement, as the case may be)?  Don't we have anything better to talk about?  Or is it a question of arts journalists frantically searching for copy in August?

Anyone who has read Styra Avins's informed and informative writings on the use of vibrato by Joachim and other string players in the second half of the nineteenth century will know that Norrington's latest campaign is largely baseless or part of an ongoing PR parade -- if not both -- just as anyone who has delved into Beethoven's conversation books will know that the way Norrington straight-armed his way through the recitatives in his recording of the finale of the Ninth Symphony went against the composer's instructions.

Among "authenticists" and "non-authenticists" alike, there are musical and unmusical performers: neither camp has a corner on the sensitivity market.  Sir Roger can huff and puff all he likes about this or that offense on the part of the non-authenticists, but, to my ears, he belongs squarely (an appropriate adverb if ever there was one) among the unmusical authenticists.

July 24, 2008 9:40 AM | | Comments (2)


I wouldn't go that far in dissing
Norrington. Yes, he can be awfully dogmatic
and his performances wrong-headed, and I
have always found his arrogance about having found the one and only "right" way
to perform music, as if there were such a thing extremely irritating, but some of his performances
have actually seemed pretty good to me.
And several years ago, I heard a WQXR broadcast of the San Francisco symphony where he gave some terrific performances
of 20th century English music.
He's not a bad musician, just terribly misguided.

I agree totally about Mr Norrington's utter unmusicality. His performances consistently make me cringe, to the extent that my friends know instantly who I'm talking about when I mention 'The Poisoned Pixie'. One instance I remember as especially cringe-worthy was listening to a performance on radio of Wagner's Rienzi overture which had me howling in disbelief. When the announcer mentioned that Roger had been wielding the baton it served to reinforce my utter dislike of the work of this perpetrator of soullessness. This nonsense about Elgar without vibrato is just another instance of the man's myopic approach.

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(These are two organizations that any music lovers in the New York area should get to know.)

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