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My name is Avior Byron and I am a musicologist, blogger and composer. I write books, articles and a blog about music, performance, research, and theory. Read more at my about page

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Feeling bad about my concert review

Feeling bad about my concert review

Last week I attended an all Schoenberg concert in Jerusalem. I reviewed the concert in my blog and the review was not positive. Lady R, who is one of my subscribers, wrote to me arguing that she did not like my review. She claimed that it was too harsh. I used the word ‘murdering Schoenberg’ and she said that this was too much. She said that I should think about these young performers as if they were my children and avoid hurting their feelings. She told me that I do not want to be like the critic Hanoch Ron who is notorious for hurting performers’ feelings without justifying his arguments (Lady R did acknowledged that my criticism was not without explanations).

After writing the review, I noticed that another subscriber sent me an email (about a week before the concert) telling me about the concert, and that he got the information from one of the performers. This made me feel even worse, since I really do not want to hurt anyone, and especially young performers attempting to play Schoenberg.
 
As a result I lowered the tone of my review. I removed the ‘murdering’ and used ‘distorting’ and wrote that it was a students’ concert so that my review will be considered in proportion. However, the basic criticism stayed almost the same.
 
There is some difference between my criticsim and that of the critic Hanoch Ron. As lady R wrote, I do try to explain why I think the way I do about a concert. Moreover, I have about 60 subscribers and this is much less than the readers of Hanoch Ron. It should be remembered that I did mention the first violinist of the 2nd quartet, who played in a professional way. I liked how he performed. The idea behind the concert was brilliant and some of the lectures were better than others (I did not go into too many details since I preferred to speak about the playing). The whole idea of making such a project is great, yet I am not sure that the ideal place should have been the hall of Mishkenot Shaananim and not the School’s facilities.
 
After I changed my review, Lady R was happy from the result. The question of how to make negative criticism in a productive and not destructive manner is an important one. When I did a course on how to lecture in higher education, in Royal Holloway, University of London, we were told that a criticism should start and end with positive remarks. This gives the students a feeling that not everything is black. I truly think that what the student performers did has value.
 
As students, they probably were very busy with other duties. They may not have had too much experience with performing Schoenberg’s music. Some of the movements were reasonable. Nevertheless, I do think that with a few more rehearsals, and with listening to recordings, they could highly improve the result.
 
There is also value in presenting criticism to young performers. Without knowing where one can improve, one cannot advance and do it better next time. This, however, should be conducted in a gentle manner.
 
What do you think? Was my review too harsh? Is there a better way to write things when there is a chance that students will read it? Feel free to comment in the form below.

 


 

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