An inconvenient truth about the demise of music criticism


The evening closed with Arnold's own Fifth Symphony. Now as a composer and individual, Malcolm is known to dislike critics. I hope he will excuse this one, since I have always enjoyed, more with the taste buds than with the intellect, all his symphonies. They are to be enjoyed, and are not afraid of the big heart, which marks him out as a later successor to Elgar. Certainly, there was much material which could have enhanced the screen, but it was symphonic, it was worked out, it does understand instruments. It does love the poor doomed orchestra. In fact perhaps when a future generation wants some musical documentary evidence of our age, with its dross, its yearning, its violence, its sentimentality - but not particularly its intellectual and mathematical puzzles and despairs, it might well find something to its advantage in the open-hearted honesty of this Falstaffian figure.
There is a popular meme usually misattributed to George Orwell that 'Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed; everything else is public relations'. Although apocryphal, the meme contains an important truth. Which means that D. Richards' 1972 Musical Opinion review quoted above of Malcolm Arnold's Fifth Symphony*, published when the Boulez/Glock axis controlled classical music in London, is penetrating journalism. By the same token, much of today's music journalism is public relations by another name. It is currently fashionable to blame the demise of music criticism on philistine and parsimonious media owners. It is currently very unfashionable to blame the demise of professional music critics on the bread being taken from their mouths by the highly disruptive music industry funded business model devised by self-serving, click baiting scribes whose primary sources are press releases and social media gossip.

* The bizarre New Philharmonia Orchestra concert in the Festival Hall which Sir Malcolm's symphony concluded also included Tchaikovsky's Romeo and Juliet Overture, Prokofiev's Fifth Symphony, and Richarde Strauss' Burleske for piano orchestra. The portrait of Sir Malcolm Arnold is by June Mendoza. Any copyrighted material is included as "fair use" for critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Reluctantly also on Facebook and Twitter.

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