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Link: Kristjan Järvi at the NSO

In today's Washington Post: Estonian talent erupts at the NSO, by Charles T. Downey.

By Anne Midgette  |  June 11, 2010; 12:20 PM ET
Categories:  Washington  
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Comments

I was at that concert. I think the review is fine as far as it goes, but where does the reviewing stop and the reporting start? This is a NEWSpaper after all.

What I'm referring to: At the end of the Ellington (and the end of the concert), the audience is standing and won't stop cheering after about 2 sets of bows. The conductor, Kristjan Jarvi, comes out, and starts the "band" musicians jamming, first the percussion, then in turn the rest of the instruments, finally the entire orchestra is playing (string players had music open to a page in their music, I could see from row 2). Jarvi is grooving up there on the podium as if he were a big band leader. Not fake, but responding to the music. The audience ate it up. So non-traditional at an "orchestra concert", and so refreshing.

And for something else that could/should have be REPORTED by the newspaper, there was a talk afterwards with both the soloist and the conductor, very interesting, at least some of which was newsworthy, and I think worthy of being covered in the newspaper article. I'm not a reporter and didn't take notes, but Glennie talked about how she approaches a new work (first figure out what percussion instruments are needed, where they must be placed), Jarvi talked about how he got started conducting with his group Absolute (sp?), and his approach to contemporary composition in general.

To read this review, it's as if none of what I heard and saw at the end of the concert happened at all. That's not accurate newspaper ocverage, is it?

Posted by: c-clef | June 11, 2010 2:29 PM | Report abuse

On the other hand, the reviewer's job is to write about the performance rather than the audience's reaction to it. What you are describing is, in a sense, the audience's "review" and that should be kept distinct from the reviewer's perspective, if the reviewer really wants to maintain independence.

As for the encore and the post-performance discussion, I would have loved to have been present for both of them. However, having to write and file this review within an hour of the end of the Ellington selection (in order to make today's edition!), made that impossible.

In any case, many thanks for adding your observations!

Posted by: Charles_D | June 11, 2010 2:48 PM | Report abuse

Was there and I agree with Mr. Downey's observations though I could not have written what he did about the Tüür. Before going further, I should say I had a whale of a good time and most of the audience did as well. A couple of times during the concert, the audience started applauding before the piece had ended (the program had the wrong sequence of movements for the Grieg) and he turned and gestured to the audience that he wasn’t done yet with such a charming mannerism that the audience broke into quiet laughter. No question, Järvi is a lot of fun to watch and I would go out of my way to see him again. As for the Tüür, I had made a pledge to myself that I would give this piece a chance. I had never heard of Tüür before (as a point of reference to those of you more musically sophisticated than I) but I have appreciated the work of his countryman Arvo Pärt. Mr. Downey heard a lot more than I did, try as I might, and he describes it eloquently. To my ears it was just a very loud sound and I sometimes had trouble hearing Dame Glennie. In fact, I thought at the end that I might have enjoyed it more if it had lacked the orchestra. Glennie’s music was very obviously written for her versatile and athletic abilities. But the orchestral accompaniment just made it very difficult to hear. I will say that I was not bored, found it interesting and even entertaining, but it lacked for me an emotional resonance that I look for in music. But I will end with my starting message. What a grand evening of great diversity. I left the concert hall satisfied and happy.

Posted by: William Kirchhoff | June 12, 2010 10:42 AM | Report abuse

Mr. Downey responds, "On the other hand, the reviewer's job is to write about the performance rather than the audience's reaction to it." with which I would mostly agree though in this case the audience reaction was a little more interesting than usual. However, having watched the Midgette Sprint from her seat to wherever her laptop resides in order to meet the Friday morning paper deadline, I fully appreciate your comments as well. But as a point of argument, if you had been charged with reviewing the first performance of "The Rite of Spring" (which my clumsy fingers, obeying my subconscious, initially typed "The Riot of Sprint"), to pick an example at random, you would surely have had to say something about the audience reaction. After so many years of listening to the NSO that I can't bring myself to abandon them for the closer performances of the Baltimore at Strathmore, I have become more and more interested in to what extent, if any, the audience reaction to music becomes entwined with my reaction to the full concert experience.

Posted by: William Kirchhoff | June 12, 2010 10:57 AM | Report abuse

I realize the review was written as a "review", not a news story, and ne'er the twain shall meet, apparently.

I'm suggesting that's inadequate service to the readers, and part of the reviewer's role should be reporting, objectively. It's not hard to separate the two. I often read reviews where the reviewer comments the audience liked it a lot more than the reviewer did, for example. That's fine with me. I think I can tell the difference between the writer's opinion on the performance/work, and telling those who weren't there what happened. The example given above of the Rite of Spring premiere is a case in point.

I'm suggesting you see what your editors think, and consider changing your practice when warranted (i.e, report what happened in the hall that's above and beyond the usual DC standing O).

Posted by: c-clef | June 13, 2010 8:25 PM | Report abuse

I reviewed the Saturday performance (couldn't make Thursday). My thoughts:

http://dmvclassical.wordpress.com/2010/06/13/from-the-core-of-the-earth-national-symphony-orchestra-june-12-2010/

I didn't stay for any encore that may have ensued because I thought the Ellington was terrible.

Posted by: Lindemann777 | June 13, 2010 10:52 PM | Report abuse

There isn't a hard-and-fast rule on reporting on audience reaction; I do it when I think it's appropriate. And I think every newspaper critic would agree that part of the reviewer's role is reporting. However, as Charles Downey already indicated, there really is no time after those Thursday night NSO performances to stick around to see what that audience reaction might be, much less to attend in the post-concert discussions, particularly since the Post moved up its deadlines.

Posted by: Anne Midgette | June 14, 2010 12:15 AM | Report abuse

Anne is right, of course, that this comes down to the reviewer's personal choice. I often include at least a mention of encores and sometimes the length or volume level of an ovation. I still think that neither column inches nor precious writing time should have been sacrificed to reporting on either one in this case, especially since I enjoyed the concert as much as the Thursday audience did, at least according to these reports.

Teasing out the "Rite of Spring" example, the NSO Thursday audience certainly did nothing as memorable as the one that made that ballet's opening night so memorable, right? If the police had entered the Kennedy Center Concert Hall as I sat writing on my laptop, I probably would have noted that in my review.

Furthermore, what would knowing about the audience's reaction at the premiere of "The Rite of Spring" have told a newspaper reader in 1913 about the score of the work, its performance that evening, or the work's prospects for future performance? The audience's judgment might have aligned with the negative opinion of a reviewer, or it might have been the opposite of what a reviewer thought. One hopes that a clear-headed reviewer would have left the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées as quickly as possible and tried to write about only what he thought of the performance and the score and not about what an entire theater full of people thought. After all, although it was all loud, half of them were jeering and half of them were cheering.

Posted by: Charles_D | June 14, 2010 11:22 AM | Report abuse

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