Opinion: why classical-music reviews matter

Posted on: March 14, 2017

“In 1992, when I moved to New York and began to write about classical music, every major city newspaper had at least one writer covering the field,” writes Alex Ross on Monday (3/13) at The New Yorker. “In the intervening years, the ranks of the profession have steadily dwindled… Fewer than ten American papers have classical critics on staff…. Reviews don’t catch eyeballs. They don’t ‘move the needle.’  The logic seems irrefutable. Why publish articles that almost nobody wants? … The trouble is, once you accept the proposition that popularity corresponds to value, the game is over for the performing arts. There is no longer any justification for giving space to … any … artistic activity that fails to ignite mass enthusiasm…. Virgil Thomson immortally defined criticism as ‘the only antidote we have to paid publicity.’ … Ultimately, though, the review is the grounding of what critics do and is the source of whatever authority they possess. Furthermore, criticism is cumulative: its impact can’t be measured by however many hits one piece receives…. Perhaps the profession is destined to fade away, but others will have to take up the critic’s simple, irritating, somehow necessary job: to stand in a public space and say, ‘Not quite.’ ”

Posted March 14, 2017