I'm getting funny emails from my family these days. For example, a couple days ago, one close relation wrote to ask whether a particular review of a recent Richard Goode recital was "good or bad." As if I were some oracular interpreter of review-speak. I dutifully and shamefully googled up the thing, and found a worse review than I expected, in which the author, at least in part, assumes a didactic role. It was conceded that there were some good moments at the end; but mainly the pianist was accused of letting his passion surge ahead of his judgment. These sorts of reviews put me in a delicate emotional position. Firstly: without reviewers, our business would be in sorry condition; they create buzz, they evaluate, they stir up the human yen for judgment, they are patient through concert after concert which I cannot be bothered to attend, they are a public voice for our private art "in the wilderness," they have to write blurb after blurb, finding creativity in a difficult, limited art form... They are also a kind of "conscience" of the artist. I am, finally, grateful to them. On the other hand, (didn't you know that "but" was coming?) when a reviewer seems to condescend to an artist like Richard Goode, whose artistry ranges into extraordinary realms I dream about late at night, over espresso, wistfully... an artist who with one phrase has occasionally caused me to rethink months of my life ... for him to be treated like a naughty misbehaved child on the pages of a national newspaper makes me want to throw my coffee cup across the room and wreak other kinds of havoc, screaming and ranting. Also: aren't critics always complaining of the "overly safe" practices of classical music these days? Aren't they always wondering why we don't take more risks? But then, the Catch-22: if you take too many risks, or the wrong kind, you stand in need of a "palpable corrective" (to quote the review); you can be chastened in the New York Times. What's a boy to do?
As I say, mixed feelings. And I wasn't even at that concert (shame on me). Perhaps even this well-meaning expression of my emotional conundrum may cause me to have bad reviews for some time. Hopefully (I think it a safe bet) BH will not read this post. Otherwise, I say, like "our" president: bring it on!
Another family member writes to subtly suggest that the material in the blog can sometimes be pretty inaccessible. Haha. Yes, I know. There are people who feel the other way: that my musical analyses are often too cursory, compared to my philosophy-speak; that I should get down on my hands and knees and be a grease monkey with the notes themselves. I like to get down and get funky with the notes, a lot; and the problem is, I think it takes a long time and a lot of clunky prose to really get at the notes, to unfold their miraculous, wordless patterns. And meanwhile the big black bear with the golden insides lurks in the other room, growling the beginnings of unpracticed masterpieces, warning me that if even Richard Goode can be accused of lack of judgment, I am in a whole heap of trouble.