Norman Lebrecht blusters as blogs bloom

In today’s Evening Standard and online Norman Lebrecht declares ‘until bloggers deliver hard facts … paid for newspapers will continue to set the standard as the only show in town’ and goes on to take a swipe at On An Overgrown Path’s story about the BBC King’s College broadcast. Now I don’t think for a moment Stormin’ Norman has an axe to grind even if he does write for a paid for newspaper and presents a BBC Radio 3 programme, but his blustering cannot be ignored. Among the many accusations he flings around are that I do not deliver hard facts, I trade in unchecked trivia, and I did not check my story with the BBC, so let's look at these points. Not hard facts - I reported that the BBC had announced a 1956 Argo commercial recording as a 1954 BBC broadcast. Here is a transcript from the broadcast of the presenters introduction: ' This week's broadcast of choral evensong.... Today, a stunning broadcast from 1954, a service from the chapel of King's College Cambridge. The choir was conducted by Boris Ord, who was Director of Music from 1929 to 1957..... ' Both Lebrecht and the BBC now admit that the broadcast was the 1956 Argo recording, but the transcript above shows it was announced as 'a stunning broadcast from 1954'. Can the facts be any harder than that? No, despite attempts to obscure them by a BBC and Lebrecht smokescreen of 'erased tapes.' The story was not checked with the BBC and was unchecked trivia - before running the story I checked a number of sources including a choir member on the 1956 Argo recording who had heard the broadcast. This choir member had raised the deception with the BBC and received an automated response from them, and nothing has been heard since. Lebrecht's ability to get a response from the BBC surely cannot be connected with the programme he presents for them? Elsewhere Lebrecht says 'online blogs won't be required reading until they start focussing on the facts' - a soundbyte worth closer scrutiny. On April 5th 2006 a journalist called Norman Lebrecht wrote the following in a paid for newspaper "in fact, no label had issued a (Beethoven) symphonic cycle in three years, and none was likely to do so again." When I read this I immediately emailed Norman to point out that Osmo Vänskä and the Minnesota Orchestra were currently recording a Beethoven cycle. Back came a blustering reply that 'confidential sources said the Minnesota cycle would proceed no further'. Unfortunately Lebrecht's facts were well and truly out of focus, symphonies 3, 4, 5, 8 and 9 are now available. I can only agree with Lebrecht's statement that 'paid for newspapers will continue to set the standard'. The only problem is it is a double standard - among Lebrecht's scoops today are that On An Overgrown Path 'flagged up this week's John Taverner premiere through the blogging of its soloist, Nicholas Daniel'. Norman, any music blogger focussed on the facts will tell you Nick Daniel was giving the first performance of a work by the contemporary composer John Tavener, and that John Taverner was a 16th century choral composer. For more on Norman Lebrecht's blusters take An Overgrown Path to Wagner downloads and Beethoven cycles 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 other errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk


Pliable said…
It is worth highlighting that Guthry Trojan who contributed the comment above also pointed out in April that Norman Lebrecht was wrong twice over.

As well the Minnesota cycle the Swedish Chamber Orchestra has also recently completed a Beethoven symphony cycle for the Simax label conducted by Thomas Dausgaard.
LaDonnaMobile said…
Oh Lebrecht's a joke. Everything he predicts turns out to be so ludicrously rubbish eg a few weeks ago I chanced upon an article of his from 2002 that said of the Barbican: "It is also the last arts centre we are likely to see..." so he obviously hadn't factored in the Wales Millennium Centre, the Sage in Gatehead, the Waterside in Sale and I dare say others. Considering that they all opened within short period barely two years later, one would imagine they were in the planning by the time he wrote

Pliable said…
At the center of this little storm in the blogosphere is the BBC’s Choral Evensong broadcast. Changes to BBC Radio 3’s schedules have already been mentioned here, but an important change to Choral Evensong has not.

The daily broadcast of Choral Evensong is being moved from its Wednesday slot to Sunday. This may seem like ‘unchecked trivia’ to quote Norman Lebrecht, but it has quite an important impact for the many churches and cathedrals that perform the broadcast services. Sunday is a difficult day to schedule a broadcast in a church due to the other service commitments, whereas Wednesday fits very well.

For more on these changes follow this link.
Pliable said…
Lovely piece over on Alex Ross' own web site with a headline to die for ...

Lebrecht weakly

A row has broken out between Bob Shingleton, the author of the UK music blog On An Overgrown Path, and Norman Lebrecht, the author of the 1997 tract Who Killed Classical Music? Lebrecht, in a column on classical blogging, chides Shingleton for spreading "unchecked trivia" in a post about a choral broadcast on the BBC, and declares that the "nutritional value" of classical blogs is "lower than a bag of crisps." Shingleton defends his account of the BBC imbroglio, pointing out the delicious, Kettle Chips-worthy irony inherent in the spectacle of Lebrecht attacking other writers for getting facts wrong. In this very column, Shingleton notes, the British sage confuses John Tavener (b. 1944) with John Taverner (d. 1545). I wonder what Henry Fogel might have to say about the claim that he was once hired to "abolish London orchestras." Missed that one.
Shablagoo! said…
Lebrecht is an odd one. Some of his writings are insightful and perceptive, whilst others, in the case of the offending article, are pompous, snide and intellectually juvenile claptrap. He really must be threatened by high quality blogs like this one to have written such a spurious and lame article.

As Alex Ross rightly points out, his annual self congratulatory pronouncement(s)that 199X/200X will be the last for the classical record industry is getting a bit tired after so many years...

Keep up the good work!
Shablagoo! said…
He must in some way feel threatened, I meant to say.
Pliable said…
Email just received:

Congratulations on making it on NL's columns. No, he rarely checks his facts. He favors entertaining gossip to hard facts and always select visible and established targets. This speaks however, for the audience and visibility of your site.AL
Pliable said…
And nice to see a non-music blog adding to the lexicon of anti-Lebrecht invective:

Classical music blogs

The egregious Norman Lebrecht holds forth on classical music blogs in a piece in La Scena and the Evening Standard; unfortunately he aims some unwarranted accusations at the excellent On an Overgrown Path, who replies robustly.
Pliable said…
And from the excellent Well-Tempered Blog

A Tangled Web We Leave

One of the best blogs around is "On An Overgrown Path". Hands down.

So how sweet it is to read this.

Posted by Bart Collins at 11:09 PM
Pliable said…
From Mad Musings Of Me

Bit of a spat...
Mainstream media rubbishes blogs and ends up with eggy-face....

Follow the trail and larf...

Norman Lebrecht says bloggers don't check facts, particularly criticising Pliable's lack of FactChecking.

Pliable replies.

Lebrecht calls Henry Fogel "a suit once hired by the Arts Council to abolish London orchestras."

Henry says

Gert says "Oops". You know, sometimes people like Pliable/Bob and Henry Fogel talk the talk because they know stuff having walked the walk. I suspect the concept of 'knowing stuff' is becoming increasingly alien to too many journalists. Either they google, or they opine, or they extemporise. Yet an average reader would more likely expect a supposedly professional newspaper to be more accurate than blogs by people who are amateur writers, albeit about their own professional sphere.

How embarrassing to write factually inaccurate statements about people who don't check their facts.

Posted by Gert at 05:28 PM |Comments (0) Categories:
Pliable said…
And another valuable addition to the Lebrecht lexicon lands in the inbox ...

I have been following
the delicious blog and the Lebrecht business, too! What an Ars(e) Musica he is!
Anonymous said…
Here's a letter I sent to the Evening Standard back in 2004...

Norman Lebrecht wrote in his column of 10 March 2004 - 'Outsized Talents':

"The up and coming tenors - Cura, Licittra, Flores, Verazzon –
could fit collectively into one pair of Fat Lucy's pants with no
diminution of volume. Big singers are dropping fast, out of fashion
and out of sight."

I'm assuming he means Cura, LICITRA, FLÓREZ, and VILLAZON?

Dear oh dear. As your Arts Editor, shouldn't he have been able to get the names of these gentlemen right? Especially since both Juan Diego Flórez and Rolando Villazon have sung at Covent Garden in the last two years - Villazon less than a month ago in Les Contes d'Hoffmann.

Needless to say, it was not published.

And another...

I sometimes wonder if Norman Lebrecht actually goes to operas or even reads much about them, despite his frequent pronouncements on the art form's imminent death. In 'Novel ways to update opera' 7 July 2004, he writes: "There is an inner music to Greene, which makes the failure of his only opera [Our Man in Havanna] the more perplexing."

His only opera? The End of the Affair based on Graham Greene's novel had its world premiere in Houston this year, to wide international press coverage, with two of the principle roles created by English National Opera regulars Cheryl Barker, Peter Coleman-Wright.

Needless to say, it was not published.

And then this year re 'How Domingo Killed the Three Tenors', February 22, 2006...

[...]Contrary to what he has written, Carreras, Domingo and Pavarotti did not "avoid direct vocal comparison in a duet or trio until the closing Nessun Dorma medley" at the first Three Tenors concert in Rome. First of all, 'Nessun Dorma' was not part of a medley at all, but a single final encore, following an encored 'O sole mio'. Secondly, they sang a total of 11 songs and arias together in two medleys before that final 'Nessun Dorma'.[...]

Needless to say, it was not published.
Pliable said…
Official newspaper circulation figures published today show that the Evening Standard suffered by far the biggest circulation drop of any of the major UK newspapers.

Norman Lebrecht is Assistant Editor of the Standard as well as features writer, and in the period September 2005 to September 2006 the readership of the paper plunged by a whopping 14.4% compared with decreases of 4.6% and 3.6% for the Guardian and Independent respectively.
Pliable said…
Last week Lebrecht accused On An Overgrown Path of having a 'bug' about the BBC.

This week Lebrecht's column
devotes 936 words to ..... the BBC.

At least we agree on one thing. On Sunday Nov 12 On An Overgrown Path sung the praises of Catherine Bott's new CD Convivencia.

On Thursday Nov 17 Lebrecht's CD of the week was ..... Convivencia.
spettitt said…
As an ex-Evening Standard music critic (given marching orders without recompense a year ago) who now finds himself more or less surplus to the profession's requirements (thank goodness for lodgers), I read all these comments about Lebrecht with a mixture of wry amusement and relief. If only controversialism were not so easily bought and sold.

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