Offensive BSO review ‘fails completely’

After reading Judd Greenstein’s article entitled “Mazzariello shines in BSO concert,” I felt a compelling urge to write in to the Record for the first time in my brief two-year on-campus existence. I was greatly offended by the sentiments expressed in the aforementioned article, and not because of any personal insult to myself, but because of the overall statement the article was expressing. The only piece that Greenstein seemed to enjoy on the concert was the new piece by his “good friend and esteemed colleague” Andrea Mazzariello, thus further emphasizing what Greenstein and Mazzariello have been commenting on in former Record articles – their undeniable preference for new music. Was Judd writing a review, or furthering the already outspoken “No Dead Composers” campaign?

As a review, his article fails completely. Out of seven pieces on the concert, Greenstein mentions that he hated five of the works – regardless of their performance – leaving only two pieces: the Saint-Saens, which he remarked he was undecided about, and the new piece. How can you critique a concert when you claim to despise all of the works on it? Greenstein vetoes his own article as an objective review when he claims a prejudicial distaste for the works on the program.

“I really despise most Tchaikovsky, and this piece is no exception… This work is little more than a showpiece for a solo flautist… Chaminade is a better composer than this piece indicates… Listening to someone play Kol Nidrei is like listening to someone play one of those records of the orchestral accompaniment to a concerto… a self-indulgent piece of garbage… Alberto Ginastera’s Variaciones Concertantes, a sort of half-baked concerto for orchestra… unbearably dull… Tchaikovsky’s Suite No. 3, another drawn-out set of theme and variations…certainly was not of any real interest… virtually identical to every other one of his orchestral compositions.”

Not to mention the hurtful comments toward the soloists, who worked incredibly hard all year to bring those works to their listeners’ ears. There was hardly a mention about the performances, which were quite wonderful, except to say that they shouldn’t have chosen the pieces they chose. The only compliment given by Greenstein to any of the performers was a brief paragraph about Joo-hee Suh, whose performance he compared, inexplicably, to a French pastry. I personally enjoyed all of the soloists’ selections this year, and I think most of the audience did as well. So why does a review of the concert miss the boat?

This was not a review of a performance; this was an editorial about Greenstein’s opinions about the state of music, and belonged in the opinions section, not in the arts section. I don’t think a review of a concert should consist of a maniacal rant about personal taste. I don’t mean to give Greenstein a hard time or a bad name. I consider him a friend of mine, and he’s written very competent reviews before – he has a good ear and a strong musical sense. I’m also not saying that Greenstein is wrong to have his specific set of opinions; he’s entitled to whatever opinion he wants, and he’s entitled to express it, but in a proper medium. This article as an editorial would be acceptable, but as a review was inappropriate. I encourage future reviewers to, if they plan on writing reviews about a concert, leave their personal agendas aside and judge the concert presented to them objectively and constructively.

Jon Salter ’02