Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Classical Notes

I have an embarrassing confession to make. I read a lot of classical music criticism, probably too much. That you all knew, and there are some fabulous critics out there: from mainstream critics Alex Ross and the Sandow/Midgettes and Alan Rich and Joseph Horowitz to bloggers like Soho The Dog and La Cieca and The Rambler and Classical Iconoclast. But my very favorite classical critic to read is some guy named Peter Gutmann. I have no idea who he is, his website says that he's a partner in a DC lawfirm, but I've looked up his firm and can't find his bio-page.

Perhaps this guy has the money to pursue his pleasure away from the 'game' of networking with other music people, and far more power to him if that's the case because there is a freedom to his perspective that is entirely divorced from the neurotic inhibitions which pervade the writing of most classical taste-makers. Most of us who write about music are constantly looking over our shoulders and don't want to make claims too outrageous lest some snarker (like me) tell us what idiots we've been.

He is unabashedly a romantic when it comes to music. Not in the sense that the 19th century is the only music he likes, but in that he does not hesitate to ascribe romantic biographical notions to why composers compose or performers perform as they do. He has no inhibitions about saying that he vastly prefers personalized interpretations to ones that adhere closely to the score, yet he has no problem commending those who adhere to what's written so long as they give a performance that lives and breathes. He is neither intimidated by modern music nor by the thought of condemning its worst excesses. He doesn't like opera very much, yet he consistently makes exceptions for the operas he loves. He clearly loves 'un-classical' music as well, yet he's always weary and resentful of the tendency of music - classical as any other - to dumb down.

Would that everybody in 'the game' could write with such a healthy attitude.

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