Monday, February 21, 2011

How not to do it.

I suppose that it's full disclosure when a critic begins an item with a line like:

The City of Angels will be naming a square next month in honour of my late mate Ernest Fleischmann.

But full-disclosure or not, having a music (and music biz) critic confess to having a "mate" in management gives one pause about some of that critic's previous reporting. Moreover, it is no excuse for getting the history wrong:

He broke the mould of US European orchestras hiring elderly Eurpoeans (sic), importing Simon Rattle and Esa-Pekka Salonen while they were still learning to shave.

Well, no. The L.A. Philharmonic had already broken the mould, seven years before Fleischmann's arrival, by hiring the then-26-year-old Zubin Mehta as Music Director. (Lest anyone counter that Mehta is not comparable to either Rattle or Salonen, I will insist that in those early years, the orchestra and Mehta really shined in his core repertoire (Bruckner, Mahler, and Strauss) and talk of Mehta's Phil breaking the old Big Five ranking system was common; he was not terribly committed to new music, but his Varese was vivid and his was perhaps the best of the bicentennial-year performances of Cage's Renga with Apartment House 1776.)

Fleischmann was no doubt a formidable manager of the Philharmonic but, writing as an Angeleno who grew up in his era (and who spent too many noon hours while working at student jobs listening to him schmooze as a guest on KFAC's Luncheon at the Music Center, the most unintentionally hilarious and camp program on the most unintentionally hilarious and camp radio station in the US), his advocacy for the orchestra was often a terrible roadblock to other musical activities in Southern California. Combined with the tenure of LATimes critic Martin Bernheimer — who was perpetually ticked off for the indignity of having to work in a town without an opera house and whose lack of perspective was often the death blow for attempts to establish new or alternative classical programming — Fleischmann's balance in the City of the Angels was not necessarily a net positive.


Archivist/Cultural Liaison said...

The performances of Cage's Renga with Apartment House 1776 was definitely a high point of music in LA.

notker said...

I immediately thought the fatuous "critic" must be Norman Lebrecht. And I was right. How does he do it? Be so consistently innacurate, I mean.