the critic who dared to criticize

Submitted by Susan Miller on Sun, 09/21/2008 - 08:27.

Cleveland Orchestra 2008-09 season a feast of musical riches

by Donald Rosenberg / Plain Dealer Music Critic

Sunday September 21, 2008, 12:00 AM

The above is the season preview for the orchestra. It's a big chunk of free advertising. There's nothing better to put thew butts in the seats. You can't buy that kind of advertising. The space allocated and the depth of coverage is astounding.

Interestingly it is written/compiled by Don Rosenberg. I was surprised to see this since a  friend sent me this story from the Baltimore Sun, Cleveland critic who dared criticize is reassigned

"Don Rosenberg, music critic at the Cleveland Plain Dealer for 16 years, was told yesterday by the paper's editor that he will no longer be covering the famed Cleveland Orchestra. He has been given the option of reviewing other musical events in town, as well as dance. Another writer at the paper, Zack Lewis, was told he will now be orchestra's reviewer. First, the full disclosure: I've known Don and Zach for years; both are members of the Music Critics Association of North America and its board of directors; Don is the immediate past president of that organization; I'm the current president. Now, the full, unbridled response to this news: It stinks."

When I first moved here in 1979, I hung around with a faculty member at Cleveland Institute of Music. We often attended orchestra concerts. One such evening he noticed me wincing while they played. Afterward he said, "You have perfect pitch." I was blank. "I don't know what that is", I said. He told me that every time the orchestra was out of tune, I squirmed or winced. Well, I'm sure it was involuntary because I was enthralled. I was in a big city listening to a world class orchestra. It never occurred to me that they could make a mistake. He said it was fairly common for large string section players to lapse and expect the section to override their mistakes, but apparently my (unknowing) ear had picked these mistakes up. Oh well... I dismissed it since I had other things to do rather than pursue some small flaws in the playing of the "best band in the land". Besides, I was not nor am I now a classical music critic.

But now it seems that the orchestra will be forever faultless to NEO readers. Our orchestra is Cleveland's "good news" and it's gonna remain that way, by God, at least as reported by the PD. 

I had a dance company and presented dance in this town for years. The reviews were not always as favorable as we might have wished, but we were glad to have the coverage. "All ink is good ink", we'd say. Sometimes I had to "give it to her" - agree that we could have done better. I did notice that sometimes she seemed to be doing what Don has done here - tout something that I suspected she might later criticize sharply.

It's a sticky wicket - criticism. You want it, but you wince to hear it. I commented a while back on this topic at a blog in NYC on dance (Downtown Dancer). The discussion revolved around a choreographer who was angry with a review. I argued that critics can teach the curious viewer, that the critic's role in describing and criticizing is helpful to newer viewers who might indeed be lost in that artistic experience - it can be a handle giving words to things the viewer experienced but cannot articulate. "with an assumption that we are performing to the choir, audiences may not only not grow, but may in fact wither and die."

I did my share of bitching about snarky reviews, but without good criticism I do believe that laziness and complacency can set in.

The other side of this story - reduced arts coverage in the shrinking PD and patrons who can "get their way" with the editor. Patronage at the PD is apparently alive and well even in the "entertainment" pages.

Yes... don't expect to see this story in the pages of the PD. I guess as the orchestra's season begins we'll see if Lewis can be "directed", too.

( categories: )


Remember Hans Christian Anderson's The Emperor's Clothes?  The sad thing is we don't even know who the emperor is these days.

Please view this powerpoint presentation from NEOhioNext with thanks to Hunter Morrison for preparing this and to Ed Morrison for still bothering to care about us from Indiana.

"but they only want praise"

This is huge news... and no shock we are reading via REALNEO, via the Baltimore Sun, about our Plain Dealer and Cleveland Orchestra.

I hope Rosenberg takes a huge payout package to leave the PD and has a more exciting career elsewhere, as the PD fades away... as in The Sun...

The Plain Dealer has clearly caved into pressure from a
faction representing the orchestra and the man on its podium. By
silencing Don, those myopic folks must think they've achieved a great
victory. They haven't. They've made a venerable newspaper look cheap
and act cowardly. They've made a sterling orchestra look a little less
so. Ultimately, this calculated attack on a music critic doing his job
casts a suspicious light on his detractors and their motivations.

Disrupt IT

Interesting global feedback on Rosenberg

I was looking through some of the comments on the Sun about Rosenberg, and followed a link to a blogger in Boston who is a Cleveland Orchestra fan, who hates Rosenberg... he and others who are following this, who are everywhere in the world, seem very much like sports fans.

The Cleveland Orchestra has a huge global fan club... and performs just 10 blocks from my home

Disrupt IT

Zachary Lewis, new man behind Welser-Most

Less than a week after learning news on REALNEO, via Baltimore, that one Cleveland Plain Dealer music critic, Don Rosenberg, was replaced by another, Zachary Lewis, to cover the Cleveland Orchestra - a move clearly forced by/on the PD because of a perception Rosenberg was unfair to the Orchestra conductor, Welser-Most - we see the ultimate fruits of these labors... "Cleveland Orchestra's Welser-Most: the man behind the baton"... where there is brief mention of Rosenberg, which seems intentionally hurtful:

Other listeners detect a habit in Welser-Most for reducing or
leveling out musical extremes, perhaps related to the silence or calm
he has sought since his accident.

Former Plain Dealer Classical Music Critic Donald Rosenberg often
interpreted the restraint as blankness, but has admired Welser-Most's
direction of opera.

I don't recall ever before seeing a newspaper go out of its way to discredit one of their own staff who does not seem to have broken any laws. Are our newspaper and community leaders really so cruel and petty? Very sad. 

Does PD leadership intend to harm all their staff as they escort them off the premises? Perhaps this is their insurance against such folks ever working on anything but greeting WalMart shoppers in this town again? 

Disrupt IT

more on Rosenberg decision at PD

Removal of Plain Dealer critic draws worldwide attention

Music Critic vs. Maestro: One Loses His Beat

Another Rosenberg "executed"

With friends like this, Franz Welser-Most hardly needs enemies

 from this LATimes article:

"Clearly what Cleveland — and anybody who cares about this orchestra — needs is conversation, not censorship or partisan criticism.  Don's expertise cannot be discounted.  But other points of view can be expressed  as well.  The Philadelphia Inquirer has two music critics of equal standing.  One is progressive.  They trade off reviewing the Philadelphia Orchestra, and every so often they have a dialogue in print.  Both sides are well served.

The Plain Dealer, on the other hand, now gives the impression that it will deal its reviews from a stacked deck.  In one impressive fell swoop, it has destroyed the career of a respected critic, created a sticky situation for the conductor and orchestra it hopes to serve and harmed the paper's credibility at a time when newspapers need all the help they can get." — Mark Swed

What's black and white and (not) red all over? *

And today's Scene picks up the controversy in Chatter as well as Letters. Pointing out with great acerbity that:

"... decisions are sometimes in response to outside pressures. In noting the relocation of Connie Schultz's popular column to the opinion pages, Goldberg wrote, '[T]his year's compelling political race has made it increasingly apparent that the Opinion page is a better fit...'"
Scene also notes that PD "Reader Representative", Ted Diadiun "proceeded to walk all over his own logic..." in defending the decision.

 When the Fourth Estate caves on critical coverage for the Arts - can we trust them to stand up to Power Pols and Demented Developers? Money is tight for newspapers - but there's enough to cover fashion week in NYC. Costumes> Halloween> emperor's closed news.

*lipstick on an discredited newspaper