Classical Critics Survey
6. Who do you think are the most important and influential classical critics writing about the music today?
Tony has a chance to be influential, as well as widely read, because he doesn't like the new music director of the New York Philharmonic, Lorin Maazel. Lots of other people don't like Maazel, and if opposition starts to develop in the Philharmonic's audience, and, most important, on the Philharmonic's board of directors, it might rally around Tony, especially if he states his views strongly.
Generally, though, I don't think that classical music critics have any great importance today. And that's our own fault. Taken as a group, we're just not good enough. In the '80s, musicians and people in the music business used to read Andrew Porter in the New Yorker with enormous interest and respect; I can't think of anyone, or at least anyone prominent, who's respected that way now. In the '70s, Tom Johnson, then a critic for the Village Voice, turned readers all over the country on to what was then called "downtown" new music, most crucially including Steve Reich and Philip Glass. John Rockwell, of the Times, helped a few years later to bring this music toward the mainstream. But I can't think of any music critic today who's doing anything similar.
And neither Andrew, Tom, or John ever emerged either as spokesmen for the entire field, or else as the kind of crucial critic everybody has to read, whether they agree with her or not. Where's the classical music equivalent of Pauline Kael, a critic everybody absolutely has to read? Where's our Arlene Croce and our Deborah Jowitt (to name two important names in dance criticism), our Gary Giddins (inescapable in jazz), our Dave Marsh, our Greil Marcus, our Robert Christgau?
Classical music criticism, I think, is somewhat impoverished these days. As far as I can see, it doesn't have much influence on classical musicians, or on the people who run the classical music business.
(Danny Felsenfeld, a young composer who's starting to write criticism, has written an essay on the lack of important classical music criticism. It's in the September issue of the NewMusicBox webzine.)
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