Concert reviews

I was pleased to see that harpsichordist and fortepianist Tilman Skowroneck has started a blog. I’ve been enjoying what he has to say on the harpsichord mailing list for a few years now. He wrote an article about choosing concert reviews to post publicly on a website, which bears comment.

The challenge of choosing which reviews to show people isn’t something that I’ve run into, simply because I don’t have any press clippings at all – I don’t think a review of a performance of mine has been published since I was in high school, with the exception of some large ensemble concerts at McGill in which I played a very small part and certainly wasn’t mentioned by name! I wish I could get a review done of one of my concerts, but unfortunately, it’s next to impossible here in Canada, it seems. Most of my performing is either in Montreal or else in the much smaller city of Fredericton. In the latter, the local newspaper hasn’t actually had any arts reviewers on staff in many many years, and I haven’t seen a classical concert review since I was in high school. It’s a real shame – there’s a small enough amount of classical music that you could put a review of every single concert in town into the paper without taking up too much space, but the interest just isn’t there on the part of the editors.

In Montreal, it’s a different story: there are professional music critics writing for some of the newspapers, and they do cover many classical concerts. That said, the main dailies here have concert reviewers that cannot stand early music – one goes so far as to state the fact clearly at the beginning of almost every early music review he’s forced to write. It’s quite ridiculous that they can’t find someone with a hint of interest in the music to cover the scene here, and makes the music look bad quite unfairly. The other issue in a large city like Montreal is just that there are so many concerts and established professional ensembles in town, that even in a style of music that the critics might appreciate, it’s rare to get anything written up about a small concert, especially for a new group.

Increasingly, I think private critics writing on blogs are becoming a more useful look at what’s really happening in niche styles of music, though I expect, and hope, that the situation is better in Europe. For now, every time I see an application that requires the inclusion of press clippings, I wonder if the person requesting them really knows what they’re asking for!

Perhaps I’m just at too early a stage in my career right now, and I will accumulate some mention in the press in coming years, but honestly, I don’t see it being too likely. Perhaps I’m also putting too much emphasis on print reviews – serious, informed writing about the kinds of performances I do seems to be confined to the net. Perhaps it just makes sense that way!

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