Mendelssohn - make up your mind
It is common knowledge that for an article on classical music to appear in the Independent or Guardian these days it has to meet one of three criteria. It has to plug a new CD, it has to plug a live performance, or it has to put the knife into someone's reputation.Pliable's first law of music journalism is proved once again by what the American music blog Sounds & Fury describes as 'an ignorant commentary' on Wagner and Mendelssohn in the Guardian by their music critic and BBC Radio 3 presenter Tom Service. For the transparent agenda behind Tom Service's pro-Mendelssohn anti-Wagner article look no further than his final paragraph:
• Felix and Fanny Mendelssohn are this week's Radio 3 Composers of the Week; Radio 3's Mendelssohn Weekend begins on Friday. Details: bbc.co.uk/ composers/mendelssohnThe Guardian and Tom Service are part of a pernicious mutual admiration club that revolves around BBC Radio 3. As soon as you understand that a lot of other things become clear.
I recently wrote about the struggle between lean forward music, where the audience are part of the performance, and lean back music, where the audience are passive observers. Lean back music is winning, as is lean back education. Lean back education is a product of the digital age and of PowerPoint presentations in particular. It means complex topics are sliced and diced into easily digested and often misleading summaries.
Why can't people be left to make up their own minds? Instead of settling for the views of a double-dipping music journalist or a ranting blogger, here are two affordable suggestions to help you make up your own mind about Felix Mendelssohn.
* Where better to start than the composer's own words? Mendelssohn - A Life in Letters editied by Rudolf Elvers (seen in my header image) is out of print but easily obtainable from book dealers. I picked up my copy in Norwich's Oxfam shop for not much more than one copy of the over-priced and editorially challenged Guardian.
* Mendelssohn's psalm settings and other choral music tell us more about the composer than any of his more familiar works. I bought my copy of Brilliant Classics' priceless 10 CD survey of his choral music (seen above) for just 25€ (around £21) when I went in search of Mendelssohn in his home city of Leipzig in 2006. Read more about these recordings, and also about an affordable set of his little-known organ music in my 2007 post, Mendelssohn - more than a violin concerto.
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While another reader asks whether this is the first time that a book review has been based on a copy bought in an Oxfam shop?