in: News & Features

September 1, 2010

BMInt Regrets Error in BSO Review

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Much as we enjoy the extensive musical analysis in reviews by Eli Newberger, who has covered so many Tanglewood concerts this season, we have heard from multiple sources that some assumptions were unsupported by facts on the matter of the orchestra’s reactions to Guest Conductor Susanna Mälkki on August 21.  In a review for a previous concert on July 15, in which the Dr. Newberger discussed Judaism, we culled his thoughts on the subject  from the review for an interesting separate article, “Journeys from Judaism and Persecution in Mendelssohn and Mahler.” Would that we had done the same with his comments on sexism. We do subscribe to the newspaper dictum, “We do not necessarily agree with views expressed by our columnists.”

Bettina A. Norton, executive editor and F. Lee Eiseman, publisher

7 Comments

  1. Neither the Globe nor the Herald (what…the Herald not bothering to print a classical review, while providing coverage of every pop/rock/rap event for miles around!) printed a review of this concert, but the Berkshire Eagle did. Their writer did indicate some problems with the conducting of Susanna Malkki, but seemed to indicate that the problem was not due to any resistance by the players, but the tempi that were chosen.

    Comment by Laurence Glavin — September 1, 2010 at 6:04 pm

  2. The orchestral resistance is normal thing and history knows many famous events when orchestral resistance took absolutely ridicules forms and shapes but was it what Eli proposed? I find Eli Newberger’s observations about the Mälkki ‘s event very interesting as I am the one who do not like Tanglewood and listen to events over FM. However, I do find Eli’s CONCLUSIONS and SPECULATION are invalid as he turned everything explicitly to sexism. I remember that last fall,(when GBH still was broadcasting on Fridays!!!) Levine was out at sudden surgery and podium took Shi-Yeon Sung. It was a farewell concert of BSO principle harpist of I am not mistaken. Good! I wish BSO always was able to play like this – from 8PM to the very last bar of the evening – it was a perfect celebration of artistry of GREAT music playing. So, do I have to attribute the success of that event to the fact that a woman was a leading BSO? I do not think so. I did mock Eli Newberger’s play of the sex cards as I am not willing to acknowledge that BSO (or any civilized orchestra at this point) would exhibit any sexist tendencies. Sorry, it is 21 century and it is damn Massachusetts. We do have some true problems to address not the hallucinatory one….

    Comment by Romy The Cat — September 2, 2010 at 10:25 am

  3. Bravo to Newberger for daring to raise such an important issue. He does not charge the orchestra with sexism, but raises questions about their resistance to Malkki’s tempi, in the context of a music world in which women are participating as players, but rarely as leaders on the podium. How sad that Norton and Eiseman are unable to participate in a thoughtful discussion of the questions raised in this review. Isn’t this what a blog is supposed to be about?

    Comment by eleanor morris — September 3, 2010 at 7:25 am

  4. To the contrary- Toni and I are participating in the discussion- in the blog portion of our site where personal opinions or agendas belong. Why there aren’t more women conductors is a great question to ask- but it’s tangential at best in Eli’s generally very enthusiastic review of the BSO’s playing for a particular woman.

    There are more appropriate places than music reviews for the discussions of sexism, antisemitism and other isms.

    Absent any objective evidence we must disassociate BMInt editorially from Eli’s charge of sexism at the BSO. We let it stand as his opinion, however.

    Please also see Toni Norton’s comment under the actual review.

    Comment by Lee Eiseman — September 3, 2010 at 11:17 am

  5. Lee and Toni: Who do you think you are? Perhaps the know-nothing, say-nothing board of WGBH whose smothering pretensions you pierced so effectively last Spring? Your comments sound huffy, stuffy, fluffy, pressured, inauthentic … shall we say: tin-eared and entirely orthogonal to the BMInt’s design and profession to be (yes, finally, thank you) a free grown-up forum on the coruscatingly brilliant and blessed Boston musical scene.

    Your astonishingly observant and articulate reviewer develops an elegant inquiry into what feels to him like an emotional blockage and contest over tempi between guest conductor and BSO: might the local anomaly of a woman with a baton have anything to do with the tension? You refer to “Eli’s charge of sexism at the BSO” — first big mistake, because he made no such “charge.” But, worse, you rush to report authoritatively, as if from party headquarters: No Sexism Here! And then you reassure us, and the party bosses, that Eli’s review was “generally very enthusiastic.” Whew!

    The strangest part of this tempest is that you sound petty, jealous, protectionist and old-hat precisely when you should be taking deep bows for birthing the liveliest voice and the most enviably tuned ears that have ever been enlisted in helping us all listen deeper and better to works and performances of unfathomable genius and ultimate mystery.

    By the way, did George Bernard Shaw or any other giant of music criticism draw Lee Eiseman’s fatuous line between his “personal opinions” and his “review”? Obviously Eli’s BMInt commentaries have his individual spin on them, but why else would anyone read a public notice of an artistic performance? The point you seem missing entirely, Lee and Toni, is that Eli Newberger is far the best thing that ever happened to BMInt. He may make it a household word, a cultural necessity, the talk of the town.

    Comment by Christopher Lydon — September 3, 2010 at 9:38 pm

  6. Correction: make that “a woman with bare, beautiful hands…” Chris Lydon

    Comment by Christopher Lydon — September 3, 2010 at 9:38 pm

  7. I encourage those on both sides of the debate to turn down the volume. Toni and I were inconsiderate in the timing of our remarks, but we said nothing negative about Eli the man or the reviewer. Nor did we alter his review or censor it or take it down. It’s still there as his opinion.

    I hope there is something we can all learn from this discourse.

    Comment by Lee Eiseman — September 3, 2010 at 10:24 pm

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