Monday, February 04, 2008
Third rate music on Naxos' American Classics?
I'll be interested in American readers' reactions to the start of this review by the Guardian's Andrew Clements - 'Considering how much third-rate music has been included in Naxos's American Classics series, Elliott Carter has so far been poorly served by the budget-price label. But in the year of the composer's 100th birthday, this - the first of two discs that will include all five of Carter's string quartets - could be the start of a major addition to his discography.'
Andrew Clements then goes on to write a glowing five-star review of Naxos' new CD of Elliott Carter's String Quartets Nos 1 and 5 performed by the Pacifica Quartet. I'll agree whole-heartedly with his verdict on the Carter Quartets, I bought them last week and they are superb performances of superb music. But I am not so sure about his other views.
That judgement of 'third-rate music' raises the interesting point of should a critic focus primarily on the interpretation or the composition? Good music criticism must, of course, combine both. But the balance does seem to be swinging towards judging the notes rather than the way they are played - is that really a healthy trend? Even if some of the music on Naxos American Classics is less than stellar, isn't it better to record that rather than the 371st version of Mahler's Fifth Symphony?
I'll gladly defend Andrew Clements', or anybody else's, right to express an opinion. But these negative attitudes are spreading, and voodoo journalism is alive and well despite despite Klaus Heymann. Perhaps we should all remember the words of that fine contemporary composer Jonathan Harvey - 'I've always felt that it is, and will be, strong enthusiasm that will change the world!'
* On February 24th on my Future Radio programme I'll be expressing strong enthusiasm for Elliott Carter's Sonata for Flute, Oboe, Cello and Harpsichord and Pastoral for Clarinet and Piano in recordings from the independent American label Cedille together with transcriptions of Bach's Trio Sonatas by Robert King.
With thanks to Antoine Leboyer who raised the notes or interpretation debate with me in the context of his review of a recording of Morton Feldman's music. Any copyrighted material on these pages is included as "fair use", for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Report broken links, missing images and errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk