Monday, July 11, 2011

Just give me the facts


This story is simply about the facts. In October 2007 Klaus Heymann sued Penguin Books, in London's High Court of Justice over the publication of a book by Norman Lebrecht. Naxos founder Heymann said 'Maestros, Masterpieces & Madness: The Secret Life and Shameful Death of the Classical Record Industry' wrongly accused him of “serious business malpractices” and cited at least fifteen statements in it as being inaccurate. As a result of the action Lebrecht's publisher withdrew and pulped all copies, and at the time I commented on the reluctance of the UK media to cover what should have been a high profile story. You can read authoritative coverage here - in the New York Times.

Four years later nothing has changed. Lebrecht has a nice little gig going with the BBC and Rupert Murdoch's Wall Street Journal, and you will find few UK journalists daring to comment on his serial inaccuracies. But overseas commentators are braver and, as an example, American in Frankfurt Daniel Wolf identified an astonishing number of simple factual errors in Lebrecht's 2008 tribute to Stockhausen. Now this week Swiss based classical music maven Antoine Leboyer has taken exception to a Lebrecht article headlined 'Come back Ernest Ansermet, all is forgiven'. Writing on the European music portal Concertonet Leboyer points out that not only does Lebrecht overlook the contributions of Wolfgang Sawallisch, Horst Stein and Marek Janowski to L'Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, the latter's contribution including an ongoing cycle of Bruckner Symphonies, but Lebrecht also misspells the name of former music director Armin Jordan.

Antoine Leboyer also notes that the self-styled cultural commentator's knowledge of football is as factually challenged as his knowledge of music. In his article Lebrecht takes a gratuitous swipe at Geneva by describing it as a city of "sporting bribers", when in fact Fifa is based in Zurich.

But why should Norman Lebrecht care? He has his headline and he has his scoop. And he has long since moved on to new targets, leaving others to repair the damage. Does that sound familiar?

* French version of Antoine Leboyer's article here, English translation here.

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