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Posted at 10:06 AM ET, 03/ 1/2011

Links: Flórez, Hahn, City Choir and Chinese orchestra

By various critics

In Tuesday's Washington Post:

Juan Diego Flórez sets gold standard, by Anne Midgette.

Hilary Hahn holds audience rapt, by Robert Battey.

From City Choir of Washington, expressive triumph over a tragedy, by Cecelia Porter.

China's Anhui Traditional Orchestra offers energizing sounds, by Joan Reinthaler.

I tried to link to other views, but couldn't find any (though I think Ionarts will weigh in sooner or later). Exhibit A as to why it's important to have multiple reviews of a single concert; how can we possibly get discussion going if the Post remains the only voice in town?

Here are some potential talking points from the reviews linked above: do you think Juan Diego Flórez's singing is nasal, as I do? Do you agree with Robert Battey that Charles Ives is a second-tier American composer? Discuss.

By various critics  | March 1, 2011; 10:06 AM ET
Categories:  Washington  
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No one could possibly intelligently argue that Charles Ives is a second-tier American composer.

First of all, what is the second-tier referring to? Is he a second-tier composer, a second-tier American, or a second-tier "American composer"?

To the first charge, I would say that Ives is one of the greatest composers of the past century, who wrote some of the best songs and symphonies since Mahler. A wide variety of brilliant musicians have championed his music for decades, and scholars have constantly brought new insights into his works.

To the second charge, I would say that there are few people besides our Founding Fathers that are more quintessentially American than Charles Ives. This is an insurance salesman who proposed amendments to our constitution while living the ethics of Thoreau and writing music about the Fourth of July.

To the third, what is the first tier of American composers? Who are Robert Battey's favorite American composers, if not Ives and Antheil? Copland and Ives are on the tip of anyone's tongue when the question of American composers comes up.

A review like this goes beyond mere opinion to blind, even dangerous ignorance. Hahn has boldly programmed repertoire outside the standard violin fare, works which deserve to be played. To critique her for doing so is a misuse of a critic's pen. Fine, you don't like Charles Ives. Fine, you don't like George Antheil. Somehow, you like Fritz Kreisler better. But don't offhandedly dismiss their music, and Hahn's effort. Hundreds, if not thousands, of composers since the late 19th century have written music that includes "coarse" sounds and involves banging out "chords". Let's not dismiss something you don't understand as unruly. I expect better from the Washington Post.

(It's also very insulting to use a phrase like "freak of nature," but that's an argument for another day)

Posted by: billyrobin | March 1, 2011 10:48 AM | Report abuse

I am not sure if I would call it nasal, but my problem with Mr. Flores, whom I have heard live, is the same as with many tenors. They just try to hard, most of the time they seem to be forcing the tone, forcing the voice. It almost seems like they are trying to prove something- that they are insecure about what they are trying to express. It tires me to listen to them for any length of time.
The best musical performances (in any genre) come from a sense of bedrock conviction, of nothing to prove, of complete ownership of the material, and humility in the service of the music alone. In jazz, Shirley Horn was gifted with these attributes; in Classical piano, Arthur Rubinstein.

Posted by: kashe | March 1, 2011 3:33 PM | Report abuse

Re: juxtaposition, the first classical concert that I went to was 40 years ago in Los Angeles - the LAPO under Mehta. The first half featured a concerto by Bach for two harpsichords. Interesting enough for that young person. But, then, the second half of the concert. Ives' fourth symphony. It was wild and raucous to say the least. And it was great.

I've seen many concerts since then, and have forgotten many of them, but not that one.

Posted by: GRILLADES | March 1, 2011 9:09 PM | Report abuse

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