A critic who gets it, and a critic who doesn't.
Let me share with you the final paragraphs of recent pieces by two prominent classical music critics. First. here's Anne Midgette in the Washington Post, wrapping up her assessment of the pianist Lang Lang:
Listening on Sunday, and battling my dislike of the way he played the Mozart, I wondered if my negative review might be the kind of thing people quote 40 years hence to laugh at the cluelessness of conformity when confronted with a new voice doing things as they hadn’t ever been done before. Is Lang Lang a sell-out, or a genius, or a little of both? I don’t know, but he makes me think and he makes me listen — which I can’t say of every artist.
Next, here's Lloyd Schwartz in the Boston Phoenix, adding some final thoughts to his most recent set of reviews:
After all my years here, I still don't understand what attracts Boston audiences. Sarah Caldwell's stunning 1986 production of Janácek's The Makropulos Case, with the great Anja Silja in the title role, probably the first Janácek production in Boston, got some of the best reviews of Caldwell's career, but nobody came. I'm still shaking my head in disbelief at the poor attendance a few weeks ago for the BSO's extraordinary double bill of one-act operas by Stravinsky and Ravel — two of the most ravishing, poignant, and unthreatening works in the repertoire, with a superb cast and one of the world's great orchestras led by a star conductor, Charles Dutoit. Boston audiences are surely among the most sophisticated in this country. But sometimes they baffle me.
Two critics, both excellent reviewers, both writing of the gap between his/her taste and the audience's taste. How do they each deal with it? One gives it some thought, looks in the mirror, and questions her own certainty. The other offers it as an aside, expresses bafflement, chides the audience (after condescendingly patting it on the head) for not getting with the (i.e., his) program, and shows not the slightest inclination to examine the issue further. One critic takes the audience's taste seriously enough to examine it. The other only takes his taste seriously. One critic writes for the audience and for the music. The other writes for himself and for the music. One gets it. The other doesn't. Why does this so interest me? Because here we have, in a nutshell, the battle for the soul and future of classical music. Either the music breaks out of its insular world and engages with its current and, more importantly, potential audience, or it continues along its not-so-merry elitist way, and becomes even more marginalized than it already is. I think it's time that all involved in the making, presenting and yes, critiquing of classical music ask themselves what they can do to move the music along into a brighter, more engaged future. If that means it leaves behind those who want the music confined to their cozy ivory tower — well, it's about time.