Let's hear it for the advertorial
It's goodbye great music journalism and hallo 'advertorial'. For confirmation look no further than today's Guardian film and music supplement which devotes its front page and a full inside page to two Elgar stories. The main article is a reheating of the familiar story about Elgar not being appreciated outside England spiced-up with a few snide comments about authoritative Elgar interpreters.
The byline of this page 3 lead story is Sakari Oramo, principal conductor of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO). But the copy, which plugs CBSO performances of the Dream of Gerontius and makes the case for a biennial Elgar festival (hosted by the CBSO perhaps?) is all too obviously written by the orchestra's PR department. At least the 'advertorial' source is transparent, the piece ends with the footer - The CBSO plays The Dream of Gerontius at Symphony Hall, Birmingham (0121-780 3333) on June 1.
Below the CBSO puff is yet another Elgar 'reappraisal', this time by David Pownall, which reheats the critical rejection of the composer's Second Symphony. Again the advertorial source is obvious from the footer - David Pownall's Elgar Rondo is broadcast on Radio 3 on June 3 at 8.30pm. Details of Radio 3's Elgar programming are at bbc.co.uk/radio3/classical/elgar.
It's a pity that Guardian Arts Editor Charlotte Higgins didn't spend the money saved from journalists fees on copy checkers. The previous day's Guardian story about the newly published photos of Hitler at Bayreuth said: The photographer was hosted by the chairman of the Bayreuth chamber of commerce, who was a member of Hitler's inner circle - as was British-born Winifred Wagner, the composer's widow. Readers of my recent article Phantom of the Opera will know, of course, that Winifred was not Richard Wagner's widow, she was the wife of the composer's son Siegfried.
Elsewhere in today's Guardian Andrew Clements shows that music journalism can be more than toothless advertorials. In his review of ECM's new recording of Valentin Silvestrov's Sixth Symphony Clements writes -
Though the ECM catalogue embraces a huge range of contemporary composers, from Lachenmann and Kurtag to Steve Reich and Meredith Monk, it has a weakness for the composers of the post-Shostakovich generation from the former Soviet Union. One of those is the Ukraine-born (in 1937) Valentin Silvestrov, who in the 1970s seems to have flirted with compositional techniques imported from the western European avant garde before settling upon the limply anecdotal style of his later works. One of those is the achingly empty Sixth Symphony, completed in 1995, which takes up this disc. It's built in an arch form, with linked pairs of movements flanking the central 25-minute one that begins with a reminiscence of the Adagietto from Mahler's Fifth Symphony. Unfortunately, Silvestrov lacks Mahler's gifts as a melodist or as a musical architect, and like the other movements this lapses into posturing gestures. The over-heated essays in the CD booklet do Silvestrov few favours either.
Great music journalism from Andrew Clements, but the over-heated essays elsewhere in the Guardian do Elgar few favours either. Why not let the music critics write the features and the orchestras play the concerts?
Now read more about Guardian advertorials
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