Thursday, September 25, 2014

Why Not to Review Concerts

In The New York Times of September 16 was a review of a chamber music performance in a downtown location.  The first thing the reviewer did was to note critically the absence of program notes, even of movements, in the printed program.

I noticed when I was reviewing concerts how challenging it is to describe the event rather than merely regurgitate the prose in the program.  Has our concert-reviewing become like those elementary school book reports in which we were expected to lift a certain amount of prose from the book we had read, rather than report on what said book might have done to us?

There is one good reason why reviewers do not write about what they experience: It is incredibly difficult.   Four days ago I performed at a public event a work I had never played or even heard before.  Though I started out with a certain approach in mind, the music entirely changed my attitude.  By the time I finished I was making a personal statement for which I was not prepared, so exposed was it and so fragile.

I have been thinking about it ever since.

How did the audience receive it?  I have no way of knowing and, in a way, I do not need to know.  If it haunts me to this extent it must have touched off something in the audience.  I will never know what this might have been or might be, past, present, or future.  To me that is the only review a performance needs and all that a "critic" need notice.