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A Chilly Wind in Cleveland

The Cleveland Plain-Dealer’s music critic Donald Rosenberg has been taken off the Cleveland Symphony beat–apparently for saying what many people (myself included) actually believe:   Franz Welser-Möst  is pretty much an unimaginative  hack in charge of a great orchestra.  Today’s Times.

UPDATE:  Tim Mangan has more.


Comment from zeno
Time: September 25, 2008, 12:57 pm

In terms of contemporary classical programming, I would disagree with you that Franz Welser-Möst is unimaginative; although I agree with those who argue that F W-M cares more about European contemporary classical music than he does about American contemporary classical music.

(I have heard both F W-M and Leonard Slatkin conduct John Adams’s ‘Guide to Strange Places’, and the Cleveland performance was, in my opinion, far superior. This, of course, does not answer why F W-M is choosing John Adams’s over, for example, your current favorite John Harbison; or over Charles Wuorinen.)

(Does anyone else recall when the Cleveland Orchestra broadcast, on public radio, a performance of Pulitzer-Prize laureate David Lang’s ‘Eating Living Monkeys’? Or would anyone be interested in F W-M leading the Cleveland Orch and Chorus in Mauricio Kagel’s ‘Saint Bach Passion’, from the same year as ‘Eating Living Monkeys'; and which, like Lang’s ‘The Little Match Girl Passion’, is inspired by J.S. Bach’s Saint Matthew Passion?)

Comment from Mell
Time: September 25, 2008, 2:11 pm

As a native Clevelander, I grew really tired of what seemed to me an endless tantrum thrown by Don Rosenberg. OK, you don’t like him, I get it. I became highly suspicious of any review he wrote, whether it was bashing Welser Most for something or heaping praise on somebody who wasn’t Welser Most. Franz is scheduled to be the MD here for a long time and I don’t think we need more years of the same reviewing style.

What I found much more disconcerting is that there is an entire group of classical musicians who live here that rarely seem to find there way on to his radar, and when they did, the reviews oftentimes seemed to be little more than perfunctory statements so that his presence at the event would be noted. The recent grant-funded merger of opera companies here completely dismantled a small company that staged a number of interesting contemporary works by Adams, Glass, Adamo, etc. and the response it to note the future of the new company that stages Mozart and Humperdinck a couple of times a year. The loss of Lyric Opera Cleveland was a significant event artistically. Cleveland’s classical music scene is in tremendous flux at the moment, and the stories are being flown over.

I must note that Rosenberg’s replacement, Zach Lewis, has already seemed to start off on a bad foot with me by listing the wrong music director for the Cleveland Chamber Symphony in last Sunday’s article surveying the concert season. Steven Smith has been the MD replacing Ed London for several years.

Comment from Jerry Bowles
Time: September 25, 2008, 3:03 pm

Because my background is in journalism I instinctively tend to defend those who are silenced but I find Mell’s perspective, i.e., indifference to local efforts, to be damning. I also recall F WM’s disappointing initial tenure in London.

Comment from zeno
Time: September 26, 2008, 1:11 pm

It may be recalled that early in this millennium, one-time classical music critic Philip Kennicott was replaced at the Washington Post after officialdom unhappiness with several months, if not several years, of Mr Kennicott criticizing conductor Leonard Slatkin. In that case, however, the Washington Post was able to bring in Tim Page as a replacement classical music critic, and the matter was ‘officially’ dropped.

I agree that the issue of “indifference to local efforts” is perhaps even more interesting – and troubling. I can’t really comment on this since I, largely, reside in the zone of a “National Orchestra” (and Slatkin, unlike Rostropovich who promoted Stephen Albert’s ‘riverrun symphony’, tended to program new orchestral works by New York-based, industry picks). Perhaps someone like Galen can raise the issue of ‘indifference to local efforts” with the ASOL.

(My guess is that Christoph Eschenbach, in Washington, will treat Jennifer Higdon, Augusta Read Thomas, Kaija Saariaho, and Matthias Pintscher as composers of local efforts.)