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September 18, 2008

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.

Franz Welser-MostMusic critics are hired to deliver critical opinions. If those opinions are not popular with some people, tough. As long as the critic demonstrates musical knowledge and a keen ear for what is involved in the art of music-making, the critic is fulfilling the job requirements. Don's musical background is as good as it gets, his evaluations reasoned and sensitive. He has covered the Cleveland Orchestra for nearly three decades (including a stint with another area paper), and he's the author of the definitive book about that orchestra. So what did he do wrong? He has questioned, more than once, the sanctity of the Cleveland Orchestra's music director, Franz Welser-Möst, who started in 2002 and has had his contract renewed a couple times, the last extension taking him all the way to 2018. Don has judged that Welser-Möst is lacking in certain abilities in certain repertoire, that he doesn't necessarily get the best out of music or the eminent ensemble. Yet, Don is also the first to admire what the conductor does best, as was the case a few months ago after a performance of Dvorak's Rusalka. Don wrote that Welser-Möst "was in his element ... shaping a performance full of atmosphere and energy. He emphasized flexibility and shaded Dvorak's luminous paeans to nature with tenderness." Don went on to suggest that more spacious phrasing would have benefited a couple of passages, "but  Rusalka is surely one of the highlights of Welser-Möst's tenure."

Take a look back through the Plain Dealer archives and you'll find plenty of balanced examples like that. A critic hell-bent on bashing a conductor wouldn't hear a single worthy note. But, apparently, some Cleveland Orchestra boosters can't accept any negative words about the music director. I imagine they dismiss as irrelevant the fact that the orchestra, while on tour, has been known to generate reviews by other critics expressing reservations about Welser-Möst. Of course, there's nothing that can be done about out-of-town naysayers, but there's always good old-fashioned lobbying that can be tried at home. That, it seems, has now been successful. 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.

Like Somerset Maugham wrote: "People ask you for criticism, but they only want praise." Any orchestra's player, conductor, board member, lofty patron or ordinary ticket-buy who only wants to read praise has missed the whole point of the artistic process. Not to mention a free press. Then again, any newspaper that would silence a serious, bona-fide voice because some people don't like hearing it may need a refresher course, too.  

AP PHOTO       

Posted by Tim Smith at 1:21 PM | | Comments (147)
        

Comments

Wow!! Shame on the Plain Dealer!!!

Thanks to Tim Smith for his eloquent reporting on this scandalous situation, which has implications for every working critic.

Tim Page
Los Angeles, CA

Over the years, if one reads enough Rosenberg reviews of FWM, one comes to the inescapable conclusion that Don's problem with Franz was somehow personal, not just professional. Only undeniably incandescent performances (like "Rusalka") could coax grudging admiration from Don's pen. Otherwise, it was a credibility-straining procession of bad--sometimes insulting--reviews.

I would let this play out before drawing any conclusions. The powers that be at Severance Hall apparently have been trying to change the main music critic at the Plain Dealer almost since Welser-Most came to town. The fact that it has taken this long could be an indication that the P.D. would not cave and may have had other reasons for making the change. After all, the hard core patrons of the Cleveland Orchestra would only constitute a very small percentage of the P.D.'s readers, and many of them would be inclined to get their news from other sources on the internet and/or the New York Times.

What a shame! I knew this was coming though, the mighty powers do not like free press. Why don't we just pre-print newspapers with all the news they want you to read? We could save money and get only good news. Also, it is strange that we all found this out from a Baltimore newspaper and not the Dealer itself.

I have written the PD more than once over the past years, suggesting just this move! Probably others have also. Unfortunately, Don is NOT objective when it comes to Welser Most, and it is known that he has a personal grudge which has fogged his remarks. Many of us music lovers feel that his views, although well-written, are mistaken.

If this move WAS pressure from the Musical Arts Association, there are many of us listeners-at-large who support them!

This was long overdue, in the opinion of many knowledgeable persons who follow the Cleveland Orchestra very closely. Rosenberg simply had no objectivity when it came to Welser-Most, and Rosenberg should have been removed from the Cleveland Orchestra beat no later than the conclusion of Welser-Most's second season in Cleveland. I am amazed that Rosenberg was allowed to hang on as long as he did. No one who has been reading Rosenberg closely can defend him. For example, please examine Rosenberg's 2007 article summarizing the Cleveland Orchestra's 2007 European tour, in which Rosenberg completely misrepresented the tone and content of the European reviews. Another good example is Rosenberg's 2007 review of the Cleveland Orchestra's performance of Berg's Chamber Concerto. If I had been the Plain Dealer's Editor, I would actually have fired Rosenberg after those two 2007 articles appeared. In my opinion, Rosenberg should consider himself lucky that he still has a job with the paper.

As a general radio interviewer I had the pleasure of talking to Mr. Rosenberg a few years ago to discuss his book about the Cleveland Orchestra. I had been told by a fellow who had attended many Orchestra concerts, and whose opinion I respected, that "he didn't care" for many of Mr. Rosenberg’s reviews. So I had a bias when it came to Don Rosenberg. A couple of years later I attended a concert featuring Welser Most conducting Tchaikovsky’s 6th which I had been waiting for the Cleveland Orchestra to perform. I looked forward to the evening because I cannot attend many concerts. For me it is a moving work and the Orchestra’s performance under Chrisoph von Dohnanyi touched me. The Welser Most concert I attended was a disappointment. A couple of days later I read a less than exciting Rosenberg review. From then on, I knew that I could personally count on his opinion. That’s what the critic-reader relationship is all about. Some agree, some do not. But there is really nothing new here. The Orchestra brass won; many readers, including me, lost.

It is a bit disturbing to see some blame Rosenberg for having a personal grudge against Welser-Most. Maybe it is a music critic consipracy where a vast majority of other critics in the world follow Rosenberg's lead. Let's be a bit more objective folks. Welser-Most has garnished some pretty bad reviews throughout the world, notwithstanding the excellent ones from the recent European tour. They're all there on the internet now for folks to read, and can even be translated from other languages. If Rosenberg gets fired because the last round of tour reviews were so good, then he should have been promoted and given pay raises due to all of the bad reviews that Welser-Most received on tour in prior years.

A link to Welser-Most's recent DVD with the Cleveland Orchestra, and a typical response. I think that we can all agree that Don Rosenberg had nothing to do with this.

http://www.classicalsource.com/db_control/db_cd_review.php?id=6271

A link to Welser-Most's recent DVD with the Cleveland Orchestra, and a typical response. I think that we can all agree that Don Rosenberg had nothing to do with this.

http://www.classicalsource.com/db_control/db_cd_review.php?id=6271

Andrew writes (above) "Another good example is Rosenberg's 2007 review of the Cleveland Orchestra's performance of Berg's Chamber Concerto." Really? I thought it was amazingly tactful. I was there. Franz started the piece three times. He was clearly unprepared. I know it's hard to believe that critics evaluate on an impersonal level, but they do. Why? To honor the music--it's a higher loyalty. I think this whole thing must be terribly awkward for Franz because it makes him look as if he needs "protecting." He does not. It's a sad day for the paper and I'm sorry that this decision was made.

I have no Worse-Than-Most recordings. I see no reason to change that thinking.

A famous musician here in town once told me he thinks that music critics are whores and leaches. They feed off of his work and cannot do what he does.

I think that the deposed critic was biased and that his head should roll.

signed,
Plush in Chicago

I seem to remember hearing Martin Bernheimer, who won a Pulitzer for criticism (they don't have a category for whoring and leeching, as far as I know), responding to the kind of argument advanced by your "famous musician" by making an observation along these lines: "I don't have to be able to lay an egg to know when one is rotten." -- T.S.

This is truly shocking -- the only time I can think of that a critic for a major newspaper has been muzzled because of writing negative reviews.

People who feel a critic is too negative often allege personal bias, almost invariably with no basis in fact. But I've known Don Rosenberg for two decades, and of the many music critics I know, none has more authority and integrity. The very idea that his integrity is in question is outrageous.

I've only seen Mr. Welser-Most conduct "live" twice, seen a DVD and heard a couple of recordings. Almost across the board, I have found the performances dull and lifeless. In other words, pretty much as Don has been describing them.

I hope every self-respecting critic everywhere besieges the Plain Dealer with protests.

Scott Cantrell
Classical Music Critic
The Dallas Morning News

Dear Critics Tim (Page and Smith)

This "scandalous situation" does indeed have many "implications for every working critic." The scandal is that critics so routinely pass off their personal prejudices as unbiased journalism. Don Rosenberg did not immediately call Tim Smith because he was an unbiased reporter. He called him immediately because he knew his cohort would do exactly as he did - give an unbalanced prejudicial self-serving account of affairs. Tim Smith would like you to think that his background with Rosenberg puts him in the perfect position to tell us all the truth, but it only reveals to the reader that Tim Smith is the last person whom we can trust for the truth. Tim Smith worked as hard to find a positive Don Rosenberg quote about Welser Most as Don did to find negative quotes from other critics of Cleveland Orchestra tour concerts. Don Rosenberg stood alone in his overall negative stance against Welser Most. This is confirmed in a comprehensive article in the New York Times about the Cleveland Orchestra. It clearly identified Rosenberg as a solo voice bucking a chorus of positive Welser-Most-sentiment. So we must conclude that Don Rosenberg is either grinding his ax, or he is ignorant. And Don's good buddy Tim has told us clearly that his very experienced friend is not ignorant.

For someone so determined to seek the truth, I note that you didn't mind jumping to conclusions without any basis of fact. As it turns out, Don did not call me immediately. I learned of the matter inadvertently a day after he was informed of his reassignment, and I called him. Might I also suggest that a lone voice is not automatically a wrong or ax-grinding voice. This is true in any number of areas of human endeavor, not just music, of course, as history readily attests. T.S.

We have been the recipients of many of Mr. Rosenberg's evaluations and have always found them to be fair and unbiased. In fact, he is the one critic in Northeast Ohio that we can all count on: good writing, open mind and a strong basis of knowledge. The Plain Dealer has been deteriorating rapidly in the past few years, and this is the latest rung down.

The new editor of the Plain Dealer, Susie Goldberg, is very sensitive to criticism from the powers-that-be in a community. This was also the case at her previous stop, in Northern California.

With all due respect, Don was a staunch fan of CvD during his tenure in Cleveland (and rightfully so), yet rarely has a good word to say about FWM. Are there personal issues? It does seem rather odd - - especially since FWM enjoys the support of members of the CO

Regarding the above reference to the "comprehensive article in the New York Times," I would have to disagree that with the word "comprehensive." One could only search the New York Times for its own reviews of Welser-Most. About two years ago, the Financial Times covered two Severance Hall concerts, and reported on its own reservations. The latest FT reviews of Welser-Most and the Orchestra were outstanding, as were ones from other London papers, most of which were less than impressed when they played the London Proms a few years back. One could find bias, or one could just conclude that the critics are trying to be objective based on the performance they are reviewing. Ulimtately, I do not think that this is going to be very good for the Cleveland Orchestra's worldwide reputation. The latest reviews from Europe were sensentional, Jay Norlindger and the New York Sun notwithstanding, and this will episode will not sit well with those who control the classical music media. The best thing that Welser-Most could do is to write a public letter to the Plain Dealer asking them to reconsider its decision. It would certainly make him look magnanimous and like a strong leader.

It isn't the first time and place for this type of caving in by an editor. When Daniel Barenboim first came to Chicago, the Sun Times' terrific music critic Robert Marsh was canned because he criticized DB from the start - and not unfairly in the minds of many here including the orchestra members themselves. Marsh was eventually replaced by Delacoma who (surprise) wrote more bland, non-committal reviews, seldom criticizing DB or the CSO administration. Later in DB's tenure as music director in Chicago, the competing Chicago Tribune's von Rhein was "visited" by the CSO president and board members about the tone of his increasingly critical reviews and basically pressured to lighten up. Us concert goers (and orchestral players) rely on ANY kind of real or perceived objectivity since the only other line in town is awe-struck happy talk meant for the society page. Would you please print Ms. Goldberg's eamil as I am sure that there are many that would like to ask her why she didn't stand up to the powers that be? That's the real story behind the story...a good job for an investigative reporter. Thank you.

Would that Seattle had critics over the last 20 years who had *** enough to question the real ability of Seattle's over stayed conductor.

Mr. Smith,

It is true that I jumped to conclusions based on the timeline you revealed in your own words. I stand corrected on the source of your information, but not on the substance of my remarks. I do not claim impartiality by any stretch of the word. However, I am simply an anonymous reader responding on a blog. Who reading this thinks that I should be held to the same standard as you. I am not a journalist, however I am quite aware of the history of the Rosenberg discussion. But again, who am I to say. We all need to be forgiven to some degree for our human inability to separate ourselves from our personal perspective and self-serving positions. Don Rosenberg unfortunately displayed too great a weakness in this area for one given his responsibilities. I hope these remarks reflect more consideration and less emotion than my last.

I've always found Don Rosenberg to be a perceptive critic since his days in Pittsburgh; his book on the Cleveland Orchestra is one of the best in this genre. But the sad reality it that this is hardly an anomaly; one can add Joe McClellan, longtime critic of the Washington Post who was booted for daring to suggest that the daughter of the then Chairman of the Kennedy Center was a pianist who shouldn't be regularly soloing in a venue of that level. This is nothing new, the surprise is that Rosenberg wasn't fired, although this will probably have the same effect.

What a pity they ever hired Welser-Most, and have kept him on for so long. He was never of the caliber of a Szell. It takes a critic to say it. The administration should have no influence on the press, shame on them all.

SHAME on the Cleveland Plain Dealer! How many critics of orchestras do you know who have enough institutional knowledge not only to make fair musical judgements, but to author a 700-page, beautifully written, history of that institution? I consider the Plain Dealer spineless in this matter, and feel horribly bad for Rosenberg's successor who sees, even before he writes his first critique, what happens to critics who don't toady to the party line.

As a devoted follower of the Cleveland Orchestra since 1956, I think this decision is detestable!

I wonder if the Bill O'Connell, who posted the negative comments about Don Rosenberg above, could possibly be the program director of WCLV, the Cleveland radio station that has broadcast and syndicated the Cleveland Orchestra's concerts since 1965? The same WCLV radio station that is operated by the WCLV Foundation which makes sizable donations to the Cleveland Orchestra each year.

As a regular Cleveland Orchestra concert-goer, I am rightfully proud of this orchestra but I also generally agree with Don's reviews. And at times the the negative ones do make me feel a bit uncomfortable, but I agree one hundred percent with the consensus of Don's peers that he is one of the finest critics working today.

By the way, I just heard that the Plain Dealer is going to 're-assign' some sports writers for covering the Browns objectively.

If you want to reach the Plain Dealer editor directly, she is at
Sgoldberg@plaind.com

Don Rosenberg is an excellent music critic for sure; what he did less and less and should have done exclusively is "critique" the performances of the Orchestra rather than criticize the conductor (i.e. Welser Möst). Unfortunately, he did the latter almost exclusively as the years went by. It became glaringly obvious that he had a personal ax to grind when Welser Möst was on the podium, especially when Donald went so far as to praise guest conductors who did a poor job at best. The Rusalka review this past June was the first time Rosenberg wrote a completely positive critique: this was right after Welser Möst signed a new contract. Maybe Donald saw the proverbial writing on the wall or maybe he finally realized that he was not a "king maker" when it came to Music Directors of the Cleveland Orchestra.

Ursel

Yes, I work for WCLV, and my comments are my own and do not reflect those of the station or its sponsors. My observation about Don and FWM was not "negative." It was my impression based on years of reading Don's (mostly negative) reviews of Welser-Möst concerts.

Everyone has biases, everyone has personal likes and dislikes, and if music critics were limited to writing about things about which they could be "neutral," (HA!) where does that leave us? Reviews are by definition opinion pieces. Subjective. Individual. Informed, yes, but personal. And, at their best, they sting. So the cruel ink-stained despot at the Cleveland paper was unfairly wielding his massive and unbridled power against the defenseless and powerless music director. I've got a violin around here somewhere.....

My comments above about WCLV should not cloud the fact that I have nothing but the highest regards for that institution. WCLV managed to save classical music on the radio in Cleveland by turning its operations over to a non-profit foundation (and thereby out of reach of the corporate conglomerates) whose income from advertisement is generously distributed to arts organizations, including the Cleveland Orchestra.

But since the focus of this article is Don Rosenberg, I just wanted to point out that the writer of at least one negative comment here has much more at stake in the image of the Cleveland Orchestra than most others.

As a member of the Cleveland Orchestra, I was dismayed as I heard this very sad news. I am not a friend of Don, but I have great respect for his ear and writing. Did Don go overboard at times with his criticisms? Yes, perhaps. Was he right in his opinions? Absolutely. Should the Music Director be held to a higher standard than other other conductors? Once again yes, because of the long established standards of the orchestra. Unfortunately, Welser-Most is not near the caliber of recent Music Directors. I sadly hate to think of what will be left of the Cleveland Orchestra in 2018. Shame on the Plain Dealer for caving in to management of the Cleveland Orchestra.

Just received a reply from CPD editor Susan Goldberg.....She says that they consider it simply an internal personnel matter and that it will not be discussed further. Talk about arrogance. The music going public - no matter what your opinion on this particular subject - deserve better than that. Wow!

Fascinating. Although I do not know Mr. Rosenberg personally, and am unfamiliar with his work (except for his history of the CO, for which, if anything, he could be mildly criticized for being a bit TOO much of a "homer),
I am shocked that a widely respected music critic could be replaced for merely expressing his educated opinion of the performances he is reviewing, which is simply the job he was hired to do. Having personally attended roughly 400 concerts by 120 different orchestras over just the past half dozen years, I have frequently disagreed with reviews I have read on these programs, including some written by Mr. Smith and Mr. Page. However, I sincerely respect these opinions even if I do not share them, since I realize that each of us is entitled to forming our own impression of what we have heard, and such impressions are undoubtedly shaped by a lifetime of experiences which extend far beyond the concert, hall and performers in question. Also, most of us that try to be open-minded usually appreciate the opportunity to hear an alternate opinion and consider what merits it does have.

As regards the current MD in Cleveland, all I can say is that I have come away disappointed from every one of his concerts I have attended in recent seasons, simply because his generalized, emotionally detached, one-size-fits-all-composers approach has left me feeling totally unmoved by virtually everything he has performed. Incidentally, the NY Phil used to be rumored as having a reputation for spoiling performances ON PURPOSE for conductors they particularly did not like, but the only time I have actually seen this happen (I'm only 60, so I cannot attest for the period of time when this supposedly took place with some regularity), was for a performance of a Beethoven symphony under Welser-Moest that the orchestra could have played in its sleep. W-M has not been back there since!

I'm no Keeper of the Cleveland Orchestra's flame, believe me. TCO doesn't need anyone (least of all me) to rush to the defense of its image. Don's attitude toward FWM in the PD was...puzzling. Negative reviews are defensible and understandable. But misrepresenting the general (and sometimes specific) tone of out-of-town reviews--and calling it journalism--is quite another. Don's ax-grinding is all-too-obvious. All you have to do is hear the concerts and then read the reviews. The only question is: why?

I have been a conductor of the Blossom Festival Band, the Blossom Festival Orchestra and have conducted the Cleveland Orchestra (for educational concerts) for the past 13 years. Mr. Rosenberg has reviewed many of my concerts over the years and in each instance his review has been honest and educational. My most recent review was in August for a Bernstein on Broadway program which got a less than stellar review. It should have. The program didn't come together as it should have and Mr. Rosenberg review was completely correct. It's no fun to get a bad review---but I do admire Mr. Rosenberg's honesty, musical tastes and his excellent writing.
I am Very upset about this---such a shame.
Loras John Schissel

I have been a conductor of the Blossom Festival Band, the Blossom Festival Orchestra and have conducted the Cleveland Orchestra (for educational concerts) for the past 13 years. Mr. Rosenberg has reviewed many of my concerts over the years and in each instance his review has been honest and educational. My most recent review was in August for a Bernstein on Broadway program which got a less than stellar review. It should have. The program didn't come together as it should have and Mr. Rosenberg review was completely correct. It's no fun to get a bad review---but I do admire Mr. Rosenberg's honesty, musical tastes and his excellent writing.
I am Very upset about this---such a shame.
Loras John Schissel

Thank you, Mr. Smith, for breaking this story, which the Plain Dealer shamefully did not report. As a professional musician in Cleveland, I have to say that there is *great* discontent amongst the musicians of the Cleveland Orchestra, due to the lack of meaningful artistic communication between the podium and the players at Severance Hall.

It's always difficult for concertgoers to understand the role that a conductor plays in the performances they're hearing, but the board members and supporters of the Cleveland Orchestra need to ponder why so many of the orchestra's musicians, including principal players, have resigned in the last 2 years. Musicians are deeply frustrated at having to perform concerts that lack any compelling interpretive force.

It was clear to me from FWM's first concert here as Music Director that he would be an excellent Opera conductor, and belongs in the pit. Conducting orchestral concerts onstage is about motivating and empowering the players to reflect the conductor's shaping and characterization of every phrase - indeed, every note. If the conductor is unable to communicate to the musicians what emotional character he feels for each phrase, then the musicians have nothing to reflect. The result is notes on the page, and nothing more.

FWM is a fine and thoughtful musician, but his completely abstract and intellectual rehearsal style is not effective in communicating with this American orchestra.

The supporters and board members who pressured the Plain Dealer to take the scandalous action of removing their nationally respected music critic think they are helping their beloved orchestra. They are mistaken. An orchestra whose finest musicians are leaving, and whose audience at home is dwindling, and whose success lies in invitations to the Music Director's home country, is not on a healthy path.

Don Rosenberg is not only an extraordinarily insightful musician but also a journalist of the highest integrity. Apparently journalistic integrity is no longer allowed at the Plain Dealer. So what the Cleveland Orchestra's emissaries to Ms. Goldberg's office have actually accomplished is merely to ruin the reputation of Cleveland's newspaper.

Tim,

Thanks for bringing this to wide attention and keeping the topic out there.

I've had two items -- and another coming today -- on the move by the Plain Dealer to remove Don Rosenberg from reviewing the Cleveland Orchestra.

My initial website post following up on Tim Smith's/your initial web post:

http://viewfromhere.typepad.com/the_view_from_here/2008/09/courageous-critic-cut-off-at-the-knees-by-cowardly-cleveland-newspaper.html

And one in the print edition of Sun- Times and on the suntimes.com website:

http://www.suntimes.com/entertainment/music/classical/1176366,CST-NWS-cso21.article

which is also available here:

http://viewfromhere.typepad.com/the_view_from_here/2008/09/cso-season-opener----and-more-on-don-rosenberg-and-cleveland.html

best,

Andrew Patner
WFMT Radio Chicago and wfmt.com
Chicago Sun-Times and suntimes.com

Tim,

Thanks for bringing this to wide attention and keeping the topic out there.

I've had two items -- and another coming today -- on the move by the Plain Dealer to remove Don Rosenberg from reviewing the Cleveland Orchestra.

My initial website post following up on Tim Smith's/your initial web post:

http://viewfromhere.typepad.com/the_view_from_here/2008/09/courageous-critic-cut-off-at-the-knees-by-cowardly-cleveland-newspaper.html

And one in the print edition of Sun- Times and on the suntimes.com website:

http://www.suntimes.com/entertainment/music/classical/1176366,CST-NWS-cso21.article

which is also available here:

http://viewfromhere.typepad.com/the_view_from_here/2008/09/cso-season-opener----and-more-on-don-rosenberg-and-cleveland.html

best,

Andrew Patner
WFMT Radio Chicago and wfmt.com
Chicago Sun-Times and suntimes.com

Tim,

Thanks for bringing this to wide attention and keeping the topic out there.

I've had two items -- and another coming today -- on the move by the Plain Dealer to remove Don Rosenberg from reviewing the Cleveland Orchestra.

My initial website post following up on Tim Smith's/your initial web post:

http://viewfromhere.typepad.com/the_view_from_here/2008/09/courageous-critic-cut-off-at-the-knees-by-cowardly-cleveland-newspaper.html

And one in the print edition of Sun- Times and on the suntimes.com website:

http://www.suntimes.com/entertainment/music/classical/1176366,CST-NWS-cso21.article

which is also available here:

http://viewfromhere.typepad.com/the_view_from_here/2008/09/cso-season-opener----and-more-on-don-rosenberg-and-cleveland.html

best,

Andrew Patner
WFMT Radio Chicago and wfmt.com
Chicago Sun-Times and suntimes.com

This is horrifying and sad. Also, I fear, a sign of the times. I had some, er, issues with Zubin Mehta and the Philharmonic during my long tenure at the Los Angeles Times. My editors and publisher always defended/supported me, even when it hurt. Always grateful for that.
Martin Bernheimer

Mr. Welser-Most is an essentially talentless conductor, whose leadership is questionable at best. A young, fresh talent he is not, more like someone who grew up much too fast, say from the 19th century. Though the Cleveland Orchestra is known for a "Cleveland sound," I and many others describe that sound generally in three words: pristine and boring. Mr. Rosenburg told things like they are, and he ends up being a martyr. Shame on you Plain Dealer, but then again what can we expect, this is the Midwest.

Please. Please write Susan Goldberg at sgoldberg@plaind.com ! All of this is ripe material for her and the owners of the CPD to read. The wringing of hands here can be turned into action with enough pressure. This is too important an issue to let stand.

I have been to many CO concerts over the years and have heard many others live on WCLV's website. For whatever reasons, the orchestra generally plays less well for FWM than it does for most of its guest conductors. They don't play terribly for him, just not as well. Don Rosenberg is a very knowledgeable critic, but he surely isn't perfect. In my opinion, he is too enamored of modern works of questionable artistic merit. However, I think he's an honest man who didn't want to say he loved something he heard when he really didn't. Can't blame him for that. On the orchestra's morale: I hear that most of the orchestra likes FWM. In fact, very few top players have left the orchestra. By all accounts, FWM is a fine and decent man. I see that Principal Cello Desmond Hoebig is leaving; I don't know why. Perhaps he wants to teach full-time. Beyond that, turnover has been normal and not because of artistic disappointment. Yes, a couple of players have left because either they weren't promoted to principal or were going to be surpassed by a new hire, but that's not a sign of general musical unhappiness.

The Plain Dealer is certainly reprehensible, but not alone in kowtowing to the home-town orchestra. When I was still unfortunate enough to be working as a music critic, I applied for a job at the Baltimore Sun. I was quickly asked how well I could get along with the Baltimore Symphony. I replied that I was unaware I was proposing to work for the Baltimore Symphony. Needless to say, any contact from the Sun ended there.

Michael Fleming

I am happy to say that, years later, when I was contacted by the Sun about the job I now hold, that particular question did not come up (I was on my guard because I had heard of what MIchael refers to). However, after getting here in 2000, I soon became aware of just how close the paper and the orchestra had become. I complained about some practices that I felt crossed the line. All of the newspaper management, in the arts section and on up the line, changed quite a while back. There have been a lot of changes at the BSO, too, of course. I believe that the two institutions have since maintained normal and proper relations. T.S.

Dismissing Don is an act of cowardice on the part of the paper's management, and a disservice to readers who expect -- and who are energized by -- critical thought and inquiry. I don't envy his successor. This could have been better, and more intelligently, handled.

I wonder if Don's criticism of the Board of the Columbus Symphony (one member of which is the Publisher of the Columbus Dispatch) during their latest crisis was not another, but unexpressed, reason for his punishment by the Plain Dealer.

As a member of the CO, I was not very hopeful of our partnership with Franz in the first 5 years or so. The concerts were not very inspiring and we were not at our best with him. Lately, I think the relationship has worked much better and am hopeful for our concerts and artistic product to improve. Having said that, there are many times I have agreed with Rosenberg's reviews and many times I haven't. Most frustrating was when he would write a favorable review of a guest conductor which I thought wasn't that great, or vice versa. But he always wrote about what he himself heard based upon the hundreds of concerts he had in his memory, including our concerts with the music director. Rosenberg did nothing to deserve this, let me spell that out for everyone, N-O-T-H-I-N-G. I guess having perspective, a thoughtful opinion, and then writing a review that not everyone agrees with can get you in trouble, at least at the PD. Susan Goldberg isn't even worthy to clean the dust off Rosenberg's computer keyboard. Oh, wait, maybe she is just a puppet, being told what to do by higher-ups. Even more of a reason for disdain from those of us who actually have a brain.

As reported, it certainly appears possible that the Cleveland Orchestra demanded that the Plain Dealer deliver what it wanted.

Nonetheless, many music critics of major newspapers are carelessly destructive of the arts institutions they review. Though Mr. Rosenberg is now criticized for brutal reviews, it is equally common to find a critic who is so in the hip pocket of a major orchestra's management that objective criticism is a rare occurrence.

It is understandable that other critics will leap to Mr. Rosenberg's defense, for it is to their OWN defense that they leap.

And it is true that critics are hired to be critics. It is also true that many critics are arrogantly ignorant both of music and of performance itself. Their tiresome obsessions with mediocre American music (justifying their own existence, I believe), their willingness to demean some of the world's greatest music because they are weary of it, their frequent inability to abandon themselves to music itself without mocking those who do, the glaring fact that music critics are music critics because they CAN'T PLAY -- anyone who loves music deeply enough to become a music critic would rather have been able to PLAY --- well, these faults contribute to a situtation like Mr. Rosenberg's.

Critics often come to think that it is they, not music, that is sacred. They should be more careful.

Tim, you were first alert for some musicians here in Cleveland. Thanks. I am sure we are all forwarding the message. The Plain Dealer and Cleveland's musical community has lost a fine writer with fine ears. And, alas, Don's insulting "reassignment" will not make Welser Möst a conductor capable of recapturing the fabulous music making era of the Cleveland Orchestra. Too bad for the orchestra. Too bad for us--the listeners. Maybe 2019.

I've been thinking about this. Could it be that editor Susan Goldberg has very wisely done what the powers that be have asked her to? She must know that unhappy people will complain and happy people will not praise. By this clever strategy of forcing people to lament the loss, praise the critic, and so on, she has brought out all the reasons she probably has been holding off the yahoos for the past several years. It has been not just with an eye to journalistic integrity, but to the PD's benefit (that is, so the paper won't look bad). Now, the dogs have been let loose. Woof woof.
Anon 1

In recent days, the music writers’ blogsphere has been rife with assumptions and even accusations that the management of The Cleveland Orchestra engineered personnel changes at Cleveland’s daily newspaper, The Plain Dealer. These accusations are false.

I want to set the record straight: I was completely surprised by the news last week that Plain Dealer music critic Donald Rosenberg has been re-assigned and will no longer cover The Cleveland Orchestra for the newspaper.

A half dozen critics have called or emailed me this week asking if I met with the newspaper’s editors to lodge complaints. The answer is I have never met with them to protest Donald Rosenberg’s opinions. In the normal course of business during my tenure with the Orchestra, I have spoken with every editor, past and present, about the newspaper's coverage. In those meetings I have delivered compliments and concerns about their news and feature coverage as well as their editorial positions and decisions. But in every case I have also said, very explicitly, that the Orchestra’s management understands and respects the paper's and the critic’s role in expressing opinion about our artistic activities. And whether or not we agree with the opinion we fully accept and support their right and responsibility to publish it.

Donald Rosenberg has written about The Cleveland Orchestra for decades. I worked directly with him for many years, especially during my early tenure here as Director of Public Relations. In that role, I opened the Orchestra archives to him for research on his comprehensive history of the Orchestra “Second to None.” I very much enjoyed the productive and professional relationship we’ve shared. I appreciate and admire a great deal of his work on the subject of the Orchestra and I am grateful for his dedication to regular and comprehensive classical music coverage. Over the years we have agreed and we have disagreed. All the same I will miss working with him.

Gary Hanson
Executive Director
Cleveland Orchestra

Mr. Hanson,

You say that you never met with the Plain Dealer's editors to protest Rosenberg's criticism and I don't doubt that at all. I admit that I don't know what the structure of the Musical Arts Association is but I never really thought that you had anything to do with Rosenberg’s situation.

But can you say the same thing about Terry Egger, president and publisher of the Plain Dealer, who is also a trustee of the Musical Arts Association (parent organization of the Cleveland Orchestra) and one of the twelve individuals, corporations and foundations who pledged financial support less than a year ago so that the orchestra could achieve a balanced budget in the 2006-07 fiscal year, and implement a turnaround plan through 2009?

Blaming an amorphous group like ‘the management’ is probably what’s going around in the blogosphere, but I believe that it’s people like Terry Egger, individually, that the blogos are blaming even if they don’t mention him by name.

Those eleven other entities can’t be happy with Rosenberg’s criticism as they generously donate large sums of money to support the orchestra. And wouldn’t it be a bit uncomfortable for Egger to sit in the middle of financial discussions when the others have just come from reading his paper’s criticism of last night’s concert?

Reportedly, Susan Goldberg responded to an inquiry and said it’s an internal matter that won’t be discussed further so I certainly wouldn’t expect any statements from him either. And believe me, I can understand the situation from everyone’s point of view but I also feel that it’s quite unfortunate that a conflict of interest appears, at least to me, to be at the center of things. I don’t envy Egger’s job at all. Would I want to keep the orchestra solvent? Yes. Would I want to maintain integrity of the press? Yes.

And it seems like a good time to add another disclaimer as I did with a previous post. I have nothing but the greatest respect and admiration for those twelve individuals, corporations and foundations, not to mention the board, for doing everything they can to keep Cleveland’s greatest treasure alive and active.

Rick D.

Despite what Mr. Hanson says, I know that it was the intention to "control" or at least "muzzle" Mr. Rosenberg. We are not that naive to believe total innocence from him or FWM.

Dear Mr. Hanson,

In light of your remarks, how do you explain this comment by WCLV President Robert Conrad?:

"I know that the PD did receive at least one visit from Orchestra management and many letters from concert goers. "

http://viewfromhere.typepad.com/the_view_from_here/2008/09/the-rosenberg-cleveland-affair-continues.html

Should we parse your words and assume that you personally did not visit, but others in the administration did?

The bottom line is that a lack of criticism, arrogant, yet ineffectual leadership, and allowing FWM to continue leading this orchestra for 10 more years will result in its continuing decline. Anyone who has watched or listened the last 5 years has started to see the edifice crumble from the top. (That horrible Deutsche Gramophone release??) Well, at least we aren't Columbus, yet. Please do not allow Ms. Goldberg to be a board member.

I have conducted in Cleveland for over 12 years both in Severence Hall and at the Blossom Music Center. Mr. Rosenberg has reviewed many of my concerts and in each instance, whether it was a good or bad review---Mr. Rosenberg was always "spot on." I've always found Mr. Rosenberg's reviews to be very enlightening and informative. What a loss for Cleveland. Very sad.
Loras John Schissel

I lived in Cleveland from 1998 through 2006, and was an "A" series subscriber to The Cleveland Orchestra every year. I attended every Thursday night concert during those years, and returned for some Saturday night concerts if the program and performance were compelling. I heard the Orchestra perform under innumerable conductors, and heard the Orchestra play the widest imaginable repertoire.
Without question, Welser-Most is the weakest conductor that the Orchestra has on its podium. I write these words not out of personal malice, for I have nothing against him, and I couldn't, because I don't know him personally. I only know what I see and hear when he stands on the podium, and what I can clearly hear in radio broadcasts and recordings. Welser-Most creates a flat, compressed sound that runs from insipidly lithe at one end of the energy spectrum to overblown and chaotic at the other. His phrasing is flawed or non-existent, with little concern for the pacing and punctuation required both to allow music to breathe and to give the music sense and structure. His exaggerated tempos--all prestissimo--might work if he attended to the shape and syntax of music, but because this tonal grammar is absent, the music flies by in a meaningless succession of ungrounded sound waves. It's the sonic equivalent of being held under water, and when coupled with the uncontrolled, frenetic energy that he feeds into faster passages, the music feels like a perverse struggle against drowning. Couple all of this with interpretations that fail to relate the part to the whole, and the result is an offensive caricature of music itself.
I hear this in Welser-Most almost every time he conducts, and I'm not alone. I know many, many people who have the same reaction that I do. Not one of these people has anything personally against Welser-Most, and neither do I. I've spoken with Don Rosenberg on many occasions, and I know he has nothing against Welser-Most. In fact, he actively hopes for good interpretations and performances from The Cleveland Orchestra by Welser-Most and whoever else stands before the ensemble. Don has devoted the past 16 years to chronicling the Orchestra, and he took on the task of writing its biography, perhaps the first book of its kind. Don wants the orchestra to succeed; he cares deeply about it. This is why he has maintained such high standards in his reviews, and why he has taken Welser-Most to task time and again. It has nothing to do with personal feelings; it has only to do with the perceived quality of the music making, something that large numbers of people similarly perceive.
I do not understand those who cannot hear the things I've described above. I could only imagine that they are only perceiving the brilliance of the musicians, something not in dispute by anyone, and thus they cannot understand how unfavorable reviews could be written about the performances. To them it could easily seem that a personal vendetta is responsible for negative criticism, but it's not. Perhaps an analogy is in order:
I happen to love Brahms. I have a friend who can't stand Brahms, and complains that Brahms' music rambles on incessantly without any point. I have to perform elaborate mental gymnastics to be able to see from my friend's perspective, and from there I can see how Brahms might not appeal to everyone, even though this perspective is entirely alien to my musical apprehension. Does my friend hate Brahms for personal reasons? No, and how could he? Brahms' music simply doesn't speak to him. But is his opinion without validity? No, not at all, and to silence him would be criminal.
There are larger questions here, particularly whether there has been undue influence by the administration of The Cleveland Orchestra over editorial decisions at The Plain Dealer. If there has been, then Rosenberg's reassignment would call into question the integrity of the paper and its ability to offer unbiased, objective reporting, untainted by political motivations. In a time when the media cares more about a political candidate's eyeglasses than the substance of a campaign, I believe we have cause for concern.


I write as a London-based critic. I have no idea whether Don Rosenberg has an axe to grind against Welser-Möst’s neck or not; I don’t know his writings and so have no view on the issue that has triggered this row. It’s how the paper has reacted that is at fault, and most of the comments online appear to miss the point of principle. Don Rosenberg may have his biases; all writers who care about their subject should do. Do his biases interfere with the degree of objectivity required of a reviewer reporting to his readership? If they do, then he should not be in the job full stop; if they don't, he deserves his salary and complete freedom in his writing. If there was a decision to be taken, that should have been it. The losers are the readers of The Plain Dealer -- and Zack Lewis, who has been assigned the orchestral brief, since his reviews will now have to tread a political tightrope: if FWM does turn in a pig's ear of a performance, will he be able to say so in plain English? The critics from history whom we still read today -- people like George Bernard Shaw -- had prejudices by the boatload and indulged them freely, and their writing is the livelier for it. If Zack Lewis sits down to each review with the feeling he has masking tape over his mouth, he will hardly be able to give of his best to his readers.
Martin Anderson

Whether this change is warranted or unwarranted, the talk at every pre-concert dinner or party, intermission chat, and post-concert get-together in greater Cleveland is going to be about music and how it is covered. That is a very good thing, especially in a time when arts reviewers are dropping like flies. Having written arts criticism for over 10 years for a daily newspaper in the midwest, I have great empathy for Don, but I also don't envy the new guy. His reviews will be endlessly dissected by people looking for the barest hint of attitude.

I am happy to see that Mr. Hanson appears to be aware of this blog. For many years, Mr. Hanson, I have continued to provide financial support to The Cleveland Orchestra after I moved away from Cleveland. I realize that it was not the level of support that fixes budget gaps, but it was much higher than the average contributer. I stopped due to FWM. I have gone to his concerts with an open mind and hoping for the best. However, I have heard to many mediocre performances from him and have been dismayed by so many bad reviews worldwide. Some reviews were good and recent ones from the European tour were great, but it remains to be seen how long Welser-Most can keep up those standards.

My own view is that Mr. Hanson and the Board of Trustees are playing a high risk strategy of trying to acquire media prestige for TCO by having as its music director the head of the Vienna State Opera with contacts at the prestigious Salzburg Festival. By ignoring the lack of consistent quality in his conducting abilities, they pursue this strategy at the risk of the long-term quality and reputation of the orchestra. The recent great reviews notwithstanding, FWM simply does not sell very well, his few recordings/DVDs with TCO have not been well received and worldwide audiences are going to see the Donald Rosenberg situation as an act of insecurity more than anything else. Some of FWM's reviews on tour were just down-right bad, as has been some of his concerts. Yes, some of his reviews and concernts have been excellent, but not enough to justify an extension of his contract. Mr. Rosenberg dared to question the powers that be in Cleveland, and for good reason. Instead of listening to what Mr. Rosenberg and much of the world have been saying, Mr. Hanson and company have decided to stick with their decision. Overall, I would say that most of the classical music world remains in disagreement. Now, thanks to Tim Smith, people finally have a forum to speak out, and thankfully this forum includes members of TCO.

Rosenberg is not just a bad critic but a flagrantly dishonest one. He should be fired outright, not just reassigned. Not only has he allowed his reviews to be distorted by personal prejudice (to the point where I have sometimes wondered if he actually attended the performance I heard); he has even been caught (as already referred to above) giving deliberately misleading summaries of reviews published in cities on which the orchestra has played on tour- in any kind of journalism that should be a firing offense. This move was actually long overdue.

By the way, I'm just a music lover and amateur musician who has been appalled by Rosenberg's writing for years. Don't bother hunting for my "connections".

(Also by the way, orchestral musicians are well known to be among the cattiest beings in the universe. Take anything one of them says with a heaping helping of salt.)

A nattering nabob of negativity? Don Rosenberg? Yes, I know him personally: he is a sweet-tempered, fair-minded, serious and very bright man. Those inclined to question his competence as a musician/journalist should be reminded that, as a young man in his early twenties, he successfully auditioned for and performed as a
French horn player at the most famous chamber music festival in the world, the Marlboro Festival. Few

members of The Cleveland Orchestra, excellent as they are, can claim that distinction.

I am myself a former member of The Cleveland Orchestra. I usually disagreed with Don's reviews of CvD:
for my tastes, neither Dohnanyi nor the current music director are capable of lighting the fire of direct
emotional involvement with the music they are leading, in the concert, the moment it absolutely must
happen for a concert to come to life. It's all very well, and even admirable in an extremely limited way, to be the the hard-working, grim-faced, tradition-defending kapellmeister, carrying the burden of the Germanic musical heritage, like an over loaded backpack, into the 21st century. As someone who sat and endured this kind of dogged and workmanlike leadership, well..........after all, it's just my opinion.

But that's the point, isn't it? News is one thing, commentary and opinion another. Neither Don nor any
other musical journalist is engaged to report the " news " but to offer an informed, personal response to
an event in their area of knowledge, expertise and experience. Reviewing a book, a play, a museum
opening, a political event, any area of political, religious or artistic controversy........if the column appears in
the category of commentary and opinion, it is to be read as part of the public debate about all matters public
which makes a democracy, with its violently clashing and open public forums, all it can be. Suppressing opinions and voices with which some part of an audience disagrees...........well, as Voltaire wrote,
I do not agree with what you have to say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.

In Don's case, we are not talking about an uninformed voice but about a man, and a mind, formed by more than 30 years as a journalist in the field of music with a background which no one, no matter how much they may dislike what he writes, can make light of. For those who only like to read what they like to read and have their opinions confirmed in print, muzzling him may make sense. Some people seem to feel that what is said and written about matters of importance to them should always be of the nature of a campaign event for their personally held points of view.

For those of us who enjoy debate, disagreement, even being annoyed, or outraged, by someone who thinks and responds differently to life and the world around us, but who nonetheless recognize that, as part of that experience, we have been provoked to think freshly and perhaps more deeply, we will miss Don's independent mind and admirable style of written expression. Make no mistake: his voice will be heard again.


Wouldn't it be interesting to hear from Terry Egger? I believe that the real and perceived integrity of the CPD and the CO is at stake until we hear from the person seemingly in the middle of such questions.

Someone needs to get to the bottom of this whether one agrees with DR's reviews or not. Muzzling those who are doing their journalistic job at the highest professional level is a freedom of the press/expression issue.

One word: payola.

Imagine how long Claudia Cassidy would have lasted in Chicago if the Tribune's editor had acted like that of the Plain Dealer?

I'm curious: how much does an editor go for these days?

Steve LaBonne said:
"(Also by the way, orchestral musicians are well known to be among the cattiest beings in the universe. Take anything one of them says with a heaping helping of salt.)"
----------------------------------------------

I believe that, as an orchestral musician performing at the highest level, this statement qualifies as just another bigoted statement meant to denigrate performing artists and artistry in general. It's code for "artists can't be trusted", an old cliche meant to insult those at the top of their profession and somehow morally or ethically challenged as a result. It should be rejected by anyone who know and love the performing arts.

Let's keep this kind of thing out of the discussion unless we start to assign these bigoted remarks to every profession of which there are certainly proportional numbers of said "cattiness" in each.

I just realized the irony in all of this...perhaps I'm a little dense and late to the party.

Most people, nationally, were probably not aware of the local feelings regarding FWM. The CO, by asking for the removal of Rosenberg, has created a national story, thanks to the complicity of the PD. Now, so many more people are aware of the local discontent. After the recent stories about Preucil, nepotism, and harassment, you would think they would want to stay out of the press.

And, let us not have disdain for Zach Lewis, who now has the worst newspaper job in the world. The first positive review he writes will be taken with a grain of salt, except by the geniuses that sit on the Musical Arts Association board.

A possible explanation of why Donald Rosenberg has been a bit overly critical of Franz.

I have no documentation to back up what I am saying here (though it may exist in the Plain Dealer’s online archives) because I am writing my thoughts from memory.

When the Musical Arts Association set out to find a replacement for Christoph von Dohnanyi there was quite a bit of speculation as to who would be chosen to succeed the departing maestro. The MAA is not a public organization and their inner workings and rationale for decision making is virtually never made public.

As I recall, the MAA had a relatively long period of time to conduct a search due to Dohnanyi’s significant advance notice. It was assumed that a list would be developed and then trimmed with the remaining candidates invited to conduct at Severance Hall over the next few seasons.

As it turned out, that did happen. I heard Welser-Möst conduct at Severance Hall shortly before the announcement was made that he was chosen to be the new leader, and I distinctly remember not being very impressed. Rosenberg wasn’t either. No one outside of MAA knew that Franz was actually auditioning, but of course it was widely assumed that he was.

But long before Franz stood there on the podium late into the selection process, something distinctly odd happened in Los Angeles. Esa-Pekka Salonen, music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, announced publicly that he had been offered the position in Cleveland and had summarily turned it down. If I remember correctly, Salonen’s announcement came barely two weeks after Dohnanyi’s resignation.

Why would Salonen make that announcement if no one knew of the offer but him and the MAA? Well, I can’t answer that question, but the fact that he did make public the hasty offer - meaning that the MAA felt strong enough about this decision to bypass the entire normal selection process – along with the fact that Franz was ultimately selected, led me to only one conclusion that I believe was shared by Rosenberg.

It is no secret that classical music is having a difficult time attracting a new, younger audience that will assure its success in the future. In fact, the problem is so acute that I would guess that it is the number one issue facing classical music organizations today (or at least second behind funding). All one has to do is take a look at Salonen’s (b. 1958) publicity photos, and again, remembering that Franz (b. 1960) was the ultimate choice, and it should be obvious that a youthful image was the primary consideration that factored into the decision.

To be fair, Salonen and Welser-Möst turned 44 and 42 in 2002, which is right in line with virtually all of the previous music directors of the Cleveland Orchestra, but these are much different times than when George Szell (age 49) or even Christoph von Dohnanyi (age 55) were selected. For the same reason that classical music is failing to attract an adequate-sized youthful audience, the pool of young conducting talent has been greatly reduced. In other words, there is now a vast majority of senior conductors who are substantially more qualified to uphold the stratospheric reputation of the Cleveland Orchestra.

I felt that way in 2002 when I came to the conclusion presented above, and I am sure that Rosenberg did too. I have heard some very fine performances by Welser-Möst, but most sound dull and just leave me uninspired. I recall that Cristoph Eschenbach (who turned 62 in 2002) was one of the conductors who publicly expressed interest in the job but was never a serious contender.

I believe – and I want to stress that this is just my opinion – that Don Rosenberg was just as disappointed as I was that a decision had been made based on criteria other than musical. These days, I still attend quite a few Cleveland Orchestra concerts to varying degrees of enjoyment. I got over it and I sadly admit that we are entering a new era for classical music where things just can’t be the same as in the Szell era. I don’t think Rosenberg ever did get over it.

Rick D.

To those who practice the fine art of “ready, fire, aim”, it might be useful for you
to contact us before making accusations. For the record:

No one from the management and board leadership of the Cleveland
Orchestra has ever asked the Plain Dealer management to remove Don
Rosenberg as critic of The Cleveland Orchestra. Many of us, me
included, have had our differences with Mr. Rosenberg's views and the
choices he makes in expressing them, but we have never challenged his
right to say whatever he wants. More importantly, we are not a party
to internal decisions made at the Plain Dealer or within any other
newspaper. We had neither notice of the change nor participation in it.

We have hundreds of reviews from all over the world to inform our
audiences as to critical opinions. Don Rosenberg is one voice out of a
great many critics, all with significant credentials.

Most important, we have complete faith in our audiences, both at
Severance Hall, and in the music capitals abroad, to judge the merits of what is
communicated by The Cleveland Orchestra and Franz Welser-Möst from the stage. It is
their vote that counts, whether in Cleveland or in Salzburg, for example. They are
completely able to place critics’ views in perspective and form their own opinions
of both the performances and the reviews.
End of Story.


Sincerely,

Richard Bogomolny, Chairman
Musical Arts Association and
The Cleveland Orchestra


Mr. Bogolmony,

In light of your remarks, how do you explain this comment by WCLV President Robert Conrad?:

"I know that the PD did receive at least one visit from Orchestra management and many letters from concert goers. "

http://viewfromhere.typepad.com/the_view_from_here/2008/09/the-rosenberg-cleveland-affair-continues.html

How is the grocery business? Please do not let your continued arrogance bring down this institution as well.

Mr. Bogolmony said:
'To those who practice the fine art of “ready, fire, aim”, it might be useful for you to contact us before making accusations."
-----------------------------------------------

What? And expect a straightforward answer from the MAA that is not a public organization and inner workings and rationale for decision making is virtually never made public?

You may think that this is the "End of Story" but there's alot that doesn't add up - including yours and the CPD's stonewalling.

Re: Rick's post at 1:22 on 9/24:
I've been going to Los Angeles Philharmonic concerts since the mid-70's, when my dad would take me to the Hollywood Bowl. If people in Cleveland think they have it bad now, you have *no idea what bad is*, compared to the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the end of the Andre Previn era and the 3 years that there was no official MD. Those years were ghastly, the orchestra sounded terrible and if management hadn't papered the house so heavily, the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion would have been 1/2 empty every night. Mr. Salonen has done a great job with orchestra building, but I'm willing to bet that Mr. Salonen turned down the Cleveland Orchestra job because he had no interest in coming to a conservative, risk-adverse situation. Considering that Mr. Salonen has little apparent interest in the core 19th century Germanic repetoire but a taste for Stravinsky, Bartok and Messiaen, I bet people at Severance Hall would have been complaining within the first two years "why does he play all that modern stuff?! We want to hear TUNES!".
As for all the "FWM was hired because he's young" stuff, who knows? I think, however, that orchestras and opera companies desperately wanting 20 and 30-somethings to show up is sad; symphony orchestras will always appeal to an older demographic with time and money on their hands, it's been that way since I've been going to concerts. *That's not a bad thing*. It may not be sexy or hip or cutting-edge, but really, it's an insult to 20 and 30-somethings to imply that if they simply have someone in their age cohort on the podium, they'll show up to hear an all-Brahms concert. Don't believe the hype about Salonen attracting a younger audience here; maybe for one-off concerts, but the crowd is basically the same age range now as it was in the mid-70's: 40's and up.

Mr Bologomy -

Current and immediate past publishers of the Plain Dealer are on the Cleveland Orchestra board. To suggest that no conversations on the subject at hand ever occurred, that no complaints were aired, seems untenable.

Surely you must understand, especially in light of those high-level connections, that manipulation would cross the mind of any thinking individual, whether they wrote as much or not.

We live in an age of polarized opinions. Republicans watch Fox news and read their favorite news sources, and others of us (with perhaps more liberal political opinions) listen to NPR and find different sources to read.
Evidently now some want to find their own sources of artistic criticism as well.

My personal feeling is that the troubles in print journalism today will have a ripple effect in the arts, and that
effect will be negative. The kind of people who read a city's daily paper are often the kind of people who attend
arts performances.
Reading previews, reviews and arts news helps keep the arts alive in the public consciousness, and therefore
helps generate interest, and consequently, better attendance at arts events.
Not all papers have fired their critic, but many papers have reduced and diminished their arts coverage, in a
feeble (and misguided) attempt to either "make the paper more readable to a general audience" or to save money.
In previous eras, newspapers felt almost a moral responsibility to cover the local cultural scene, both to help
keep it alive and so that readers would know that the paper valued local cultural institutions. And perhaps some editors
also suspected that newcomers and/or out-of-town readers would look to the local paper to form an opinion of the city,
and decide if it was a sophisticated location with a variety of cultural offerings, or whether it was a cultural backwater
and best avoided.
The cliche has been put forward "Who remembers who was Mayor when Beethoven was composing?"
I offer that as a desperate plea to newspapers to help restore the arts to their rightful place in the city's
consciousness.
I have not heard the Cleveland Orchestra nor have I read Rosenberg's reviews, but on the surface, a paper's
attempt to muzzle a critic's voice is a dark episode in the history of journalism.
Did Rosenberg's reviews get people talking about the Cleveland Orchestra and its music director? This alone
is worth something, no matter what they said. If they agreed or disagreed, did his reviews cause them to think
about what they heard and discuss this with their friends? If so, isn't this what we want from the population?
I would guess that Rosenberg's reviews did not affect ticket sales, but I would be willing to listen to the facts
from someone who knows. My guess is that such lively criticism would actually INCREASE ticket sales.
Critics should help spark opinions, instigate discussions, and help people evaluate their own opinions
and impressions.
Why would we want to curtail free thinking? Is the existence of the Cleveland Orchestra so precarious
that it cannot withstand a negative review?
This reminds me of a certain prominent political candidate whose handlers don't want her to have to
face prolonged exposure in a debate because of her inexperience. If she can't handle a debate, how can
she handle a major political office, if she is elected?
Others have commented that Rosenberg's successor will have a tough job. How will anyone be able to
take his writing seriously after what has happened?
Censorship in any area is deplorable. Those of us who are or were involved in journalism can only
weep and mourn.
Are better days ahead? I hope so, but right now, things look bleak.
Susan Raccoli
Indianapolis

Mr Bologomy:

Perhaps you should have payed better attention to the reviews throughout the world. Not even in the Maazel era, which on balance is under-rated, were so many reviews so bad. I have been following them hoping that they would be positive, but all too often they were not. Apparently, the New York press is rumored to be purusing the story further; you may have noticed an unflattering piece on a New Yorker blog on FMW and the New York Times will not be far behind (as per another, independent Cleveland paper). You may wish that this was the "End of Story," but it is not going away. FWM does not seem to do particularly well under pressure, and it looks like the pressure is only starting. We will see how long the Orchestra members will continue to carry him through. The MAA Trustees better have a back-up plan in place. My suggestion is that he should demand Mr. Rosenberg's return and let him demonstrate to the world that he can build on recent success and has what it takes to be music director of the Cleveland Orchestra.

Dear Mssrs. Bogomolny and Hanson,

With great respect for your institution, and sympathy for the challenges you face, I must express some disappointment in your remarks. It's a bit disingenuous to protest that there was no connection between your Board and the Plain Dealer's action against Rosenberg, while the President and C.E.O. of the Plain Dealer (Terrence Egger) sits on your board.

The independent voice of a qualified and respected critic is crucial to the survival of every musical organization in Cleveland - including yours. The pawn in this situation is the young Zach Lewis, who was Rosenberg's INTERN, and whose writing has so far appeared in the "Lifestyle" section of the Plain Dealer, on topics like rock-climbing, physical fitness, and stretching. No doubt he is also a fine musician. Nevertheless he can only be viewed as the Puppet Critic. Surely that concerns you?

The PD's treatment of Rosenberg is a shame and embarrassment for the city. You have said that you respect him and will miss working with him. In that case I challenge you, as respected leaders of the musical community, to call for his reinstatement.

Jeannette Sorrell
Music Director
Apollo's Fire
The Cleveland Baroque Orchestra

Rosenberg's reviews of Welser-Most were fair and accurate. There was absolutely nothing personal about them. It appears that a kind of civic boosterism has possessed the audiences in Cleveland, in place of the cultured sensitivity that I used to brag about. Now the standing ovation is mandatory, and contracts are thrown at the current director in 10 year bouquets. Provincialism is digging in and it is sad to see.

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/25/arts/music/25crit.html?_r=1&ref=music&oref=slogin

Unfortunately, according to this article, it was just a "business" decision by the editors...NEW editors who seemingly just didn't want to put up with the pressure anymore.

Hey. Who can blame them when they know that the CO has signed someone for a rediculously long tenure?

The path of least resistance looks ever so more enticing in that type of atmosphere. I've always gawked every time the CO has renewed FWM for eye-popping long periods. I always knew as a professional musician that that kind of thing doesn't necessarily make for a more healthy artistic relationship (less accountability for the contractee) and this is just one of the symptoms of that kind of less-than-judicious re-upping..

It's interesting to me how few people, if any, bring up the business angle. The Plain Dealer is designed to be a profit-making enterprise. Isn't it possible that because of the sameness of Mr. Rosenberg's reviews over the years, people have stopped reading his columns? The Internet would allow The Plain Dealer to track readership. If nobody is clicking on Rosenberg links, why not make a change?

Tim , I want thank you for reporting on this story, in the absence of any info Here In Cleveland. I am the Bass Trombone operator of the Cleveland Orchestra, and I have been a proud member for 23 years. I have been reading your blog all afternoon, and I must say I am astonished at the level of both the interest and the level of discourse on this odious episode. I wrote a letter to the edtor a couple of days ago, which you can read at www.cleveland.com at the opinion tab. For me the real issue here is whether or not the press is free in this country anymore. Think of all the bad things that are going on here and elswhere and you find a common thread. In each case, the flow of information has been managed to suit the purpose of a few well-heeled interests, to the detriment of the community at large. And here, we've caught some of these folks red-handed. In my opinion that's what we should all be angry about. I have to go play a Bruckner symphony now, someone please pray for me. Tom Klaber

Although I often disagreed with Don Rosenberg, I am perplexed by the Plain Dealer's torpedoing of his career simply for doing his job as music critic. Editor Susan Goldberg's boilerplate response to the NYT notwithstanding, the integrity of the Plain Dealer is very much open to question. Her poorly thought out decision has sullied the reputation of her paper and in effect diminished the stature of the Cleveland Orchestra far more than Rosenberg's critical reviews ever did.

Joseph Serraglio
Lakewood, Ohio

I am saddened by the reassignment of Mr. Rosenberg. I am a blues guitarist and not an authority or huge fan of classical music, but I always read his reviews in the Plain Dealer as much for his fine writing as for his opinions. Good critics challenge artists to stretch and be their best; cheerleaders only expand the the space between the artist's ears to their detriment. Mr. Rosenberg was the former. I will miss his coverage and wish him well.

My gosh, all of the drama. Mr. Rosenberg covered the CO for something like two decades. Maybe the editor just decided that Mr. Rosenberg had done it long enough, that a new voice was appropriate and hence a change was necessary. I've guided two editorial staffs in my time. Sometimes it's good to make changes in responsibilities to keep things fresh and see what people can do in different roles. There may be nothing sinister about this change at all.

Goldberg is a coward. Her predecessors would never cave to orchestra mgmt. or community bigs who didn't like 100% praise of their institutions. I don't know who put the irons to her, but she evidently has no integrity or courage. She's now been tested and found malleable. Look for more like this.

Mr Marksal :

Changes of this magnitude are not done in the cavalier way that you suggest. There's allot more involved than just a simple "change" considering all of the "players" and all of the history involved.

This demands an investigative journalist of the highest order to do their job in uncovering the story behind the story. Cleveland Orchestra listeners, fans and the Cleveland Orchestra itself deserve no less.

To make light of such a situation is simply irresponsible. .

Follow the money and you will find clarity... Cleveland is a dying city and they knew this long before Forbes Magazine said so. They lost BP, MBNA, TRW, big-steel and now big-auto. The Cleveland Orchestra has bills, very large obligations as operating revenue is being squeezed every quarter. Welser-Most's contributions are not so much artistic as financial; he brings in the European money and tours and the Florida concerts are probaly paid in full as well. Clearly the CO is not the same caliber ensemble as it was as little as fifteen years ago but I it is not because the players suddenly decided to stop practicing. Rosenberg is a hell of a music critic-he tells it like it is and in the case of Welser-Most's Mahler and Mozart he's spot-on. This move to censor a music critic will resonate in a much larger way nationally than the paper of the CO management could even have imagined. What will be next, the guy who writes an article about corruption in the banking industry? Here is a writer who wrote the definitive book on the CO, who engaged in untold hours researching and telling the Cleveland Orchestra story, all the while reviewing over two decades of concerts-one would think he has the credentials to write a critique worthy of publishing, but if it begins to effect ticket sales-he's gone. Is that really what happened or was this another historic clash between music critic and music director? Either way, when the smoke has cleard this move by the paper will be a merit badge for Rosenberg and another black eye for the paper and the orchestra. The orchestra shills in Cleveland need to get out more. They might be surprised at what they hear in other cities with comparable orchestras...

Having grown up in Cleveland during the Szell, Boulez and Maazel years and having heard the CO at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center in New York under CvD many times, it is very apparent that FWM does not possess the same abilities as his predecessors. A recent CO concert at Carnegie and a few of their radio broadcasts only reconfirmed this to me.

Given the negative reviews he received while conducting in the UK, I was surprised FWM landed the CO directorship. Any MD of a major orchestra who has to start a piece three times (re: Berg) deserves a bit of scorn. Mr. Rosenberg may have been overly critical, but on evidence it doesn't seem that FWM really can deliver the goods in a manner that folks in Cleveland have been accustomed.

The fact that several CO musicians have voiced their concerns about their MD speaks volumes.

Yes, finances play into this (as it did when Maazel was chosen to succeed Szell) , but Mr. Rosenberg should be allowed to do his job, which by most of the comments posted here, he did with a high degree of professionalism.

DMichaelE

Let's not tolerate censorship! The many comments posted on Tim Smith's blog and other blogs reveal widespread outrage against the Plain Dealer. It's now time for us to write to the PD. There have been examples in other cities where newspapers have attempted to devalue the roles of their arts critics, but relented in the face of opposition from the community.
If enough of us write and demand Rosenberg's reinstatement as Music Critic, the PD may back down.
If you prefer safety in numbers, (especially if you are a musician in Cleveland, fearing reprisal) you can join us in signing this petition (see below). Please email me at FreePressCleveland@live.com, to indicate that you want to be listed as a signator on the letter. If you are willing to have your title or affiliation also listed, please indicate that. Tim Smith has kindly agred to post this petition as an update on his blog, so send your friends to http://weblogs.baltimoresun.com/entertainment/classicalmusic/ to view the petition.


When we have collected a healthy number of signators, we'll send the letter to the PD.

If you prefer to write your own letter, go to www.cleveland.com/plaindealer/lettertoeditor.ssf and send 200 words or less.

Free Press
Free Criticism
Free Rosenberg!

FreePressCleveland@live.com

--------------------------------
LETTER TO THE PLAIN DEALER
To: Terrance Egger, President & C.E.O.
Susan Goldberg, Editor

We, the undersigned, protest the Plain Dealer's treatment of nationally respected Music Critic Donald Rosenberg. Your decision to ban him from reviewing the Cleveland Orchestra is an act of censorship and an embarrassment to the city. Since you failed to clearly report the action to your readers, we had to find out the truth from the New York Times, the Baltimore Sun, the Boston Globe.com, etc.

Rosenberg did not resign, as the Plain Dealer seemed to imply. He was demoted, for having respectfully and intelligently criticized a conductor who has met with mixed reviews around the world.

As stated by Musical America.com, Rosenberg is “among the most respected music critics in the business.” His reviews were not biased; he reported what he heard, and fostered healthy and intelligent debate. That is a critic’s job.

The integrity of the Plain Dealer is in question. Your action has sullied the reputations of both the PD and the Orchestra. Since Plain Dealer C.E.O. Terrance Egger is a trustee of the Orchestra, the politics behind the decision are obvious.

Restore Donald Rosenberg to his post as Music Critic, with no restrictions. Restore our faith in the Plain Dealer.


Most of the people here are overreacting. Mr. Rosenberg is a fine music critic, but there are hundreds like him in the U.S. who can do as well a job covering The Cleveland Orchestra. (Perhaps the new guy on the job is one of them.) In any event, if Mr. Rosenberg's opinions on the concerts of The Cleveland Orchestra are so must-read, he can attend the concerts on his own, start a blog and post his opinions. If people read them, good for him. Nobody is censoring the guy, but I doubt anybody promised him a lifetime appointment as the PD's critic of The Cleveland Orchestra concerts. The real world doesn't work that way.

Marksal , you seem to have an axe of your own to grind here. I wonder if you have the courage to post your name and title, as I have done here and in the Plain Dealer. Unless you are willing to do this, we should assume you are a company shill,desperately trying to put out the fire that you and your friends have started. Care to take me up on this?

Has nobody looked into the start of FSMs career ? It was the millions contributed by his "step-father" which started things going in Switzerland and Liechtenstein. Most amusing is that FWM subsequently married his step-father's wife !

Mr. Klaber,

My name is Mark Salzinger. I am the owner, editor and publisher of The No-Load Fund Investor, LLC, a leading provider of investment advisories on mutual funds and exchange traded funds. I have no affiliation whatsoever with The Plain Dealer or The Cleveland Orchestra. I look forward to listening to the Bruckner 7 tomorrow night on WCLV.com.

I'm surprised no one seems to have brought up a different solution to this controversy: Most reputable newspapers such as the NY and LA Times and I'm sure many others divide the responsibility for reviewing their orchestras between at least two in-house critics, thereby mitigating the kind of furor spawned by proponents of both sides of this debate. The PD can't claim they don't have the staff, since they do have the two writers on the staff. Irrespective of one's feelings about this affair, I can't find a way to justify their not having chosen this route.

I am happy to hear that someone finally had the courage to criticize Mr. Welser-Möst. His career is not much more than that of a typical European opera house kapellmeister(in the worst sense of the word). Here in Zürich (where I live) he sometimes does a pretty good job in the orchestra pit during operas, but he has the habit of covering over his deficits as a musician by very fast tempi, which, I assume, makes everybody think they are listening to an exciting performance when these performances are really strongly lacking in musicianship. Typical of many young conductors today, but it seems to be a disease with him. That audiences fall for this is source of constant wonderment for me.

I have long been exasperated at American orchestras hiring these European hack conductors, thinking that somehow "European" means better. Believe me, that is seldom the case. From experience I know that they grow up through the system, learn the repertoire in small theaters, get their experience, and have careers based on sheer broadness of repertoire. I have nothing against that, but it is not the only requirement for being a conductor of international format.

It is a shame that Cleveland, with its incredible history as a one of the best orchestras in America if not the world has to make do with such a pedestrian conductor. And that a critic is not allowed to say this is really shameful, especially since it is a truth that many people are aware of. (Here in Zürich as well)

I wonder, who was pulling strings here? Cleveland Plain Dealer, in one stroke you have lost any integrity you might have had! Not good for a newspaper.
Zürich, Switzerland

I haven't heard FWM's concerts in Cleveland and I haven't read Mr. Rosenberg's reviews. But I have heard his concerts in Sweden when he was Chief Conductor of an orchestra my company records, the Norrköping Symphony Orchestra. Without going into detail, we were not interested in pursuing that relationship and he also left rather soonish. Also, it isn't often that a conductor gets instant world-wide "recognition", because he failed to start a work twice in a public concert, but FWM managed that feat.

Having great and long experiences with critics of all kinds, I have to say that the notion of demoting someone, who is doing his job honestly and with integrity, is reprehensive and, for the immediate "positive effect" it might have, is disastrous in the long run. As many have pointed out, Mr. Rosenberg's successor will not have a chance, whether he writes positively or negatively.
Finally, even though I may believe what Mssrs Bogomolny (can't posters even perform the task of getting his name right) and Hanson say literally, it is at least very unfortunate that there are so many ties-in between entities with conflicting interests and, frankly, there are many ways in which one can make one's wishes known without being explicite.
All in all - a sorrowful affair!

Robert von Bahr
CEO, BIS Records, Sweden

With few exceptions, the level of discourse in this instance has been very high. Strong opinions from multiple points of view ---but few attempts to denigrate the individual writer simply of a difference of opinion. Now, unfortunately, we see someone suggesting that one writer must have "an ax to grind" because that writer is not hysterically jumping on the free speech bandwagon.

Maybe Mr. Rosenberg simply spent too much time searching for quotes in the Lexicon of Musical Invective and wore out his welcome. Of much greater importance is why the Cleveland Orchestra would give a 10-year contract to ANY conductor. Especially a conductor about whom there have many questions.

Cleveland remains a magnificent orchestra of a now rare tradition. Its management has acted carelessly by making an admnistrative decision that apparently was intended to make life easy for them, but which subordinates to its convenience the artistic needs of this great institution.

Now, they have tried to bury Mr. Rosenberg, perhaps, in order to silence well-deserved scorn. It does not follow, however,that it is appropriate to sanctify Mr. Rosenberg in order to protest Welser-Most's absurdly long contract.

I wonder how many Cleveland Orchestra musicians -- faced with termination --- will find Mr. Rosenberg (or any other critic) springing to their defense.

Where were the Tim Pages and all the rest of you when the late Joe Mclellan was "re-assigned" because of a barely damning review of a young pianist who happened to be the daughter of the Kennedy Center Chairman. Oh yes - writing about the wonderful management decisions there, including the gutting of the concert hall. Free Speech has it's time and place, I guess. It was wrong this month. It was wrong then. It is always wrong.

The Plain Dealer has no backbone and have concocted the ultimate censorship and they won't admit why they did it to Don Rosenberg letting us believe there is some other phantom reason besides his criticism of the great and powerful FWM. Don Rosenberg was the most interesting critic I have ever read. His reviews were packed with educational material and history. This is a travesty.

Mr . Salzinger. Thanks for indulging my curiosity.No insult was intended. To me the identity of the writer makes a difference when so many comments are posted anonymously. As far as I know,none of us are facing termination, but I could be wrong on this. I hope you enjoy our broadcast.

Please, everyone! These are excellent comments, but we need to be sending them to the Plain Dealer as well as this excellent blog of Tim Smith. If we flood the PD with these letters, we may get them to back down. Go this this link:
www.cleveland.com/plaindealer/lettertoeditor.ssf
and just paste in the same comment you posted here. Thank you!

Greg Sandow has written a brilliant article in the Wall St. Journal, Sept. 27, in which he calls for Mr. Hanson, Mr. Bogomolny and even Mr. Werner-Most to ask publicly for the paper to reinstate Don Rosenberg.
The publisher of the Plain-Dealer should immediately resign from the board of the Cleveland Orchestra if there is any hope of preserving the venerable reputation of this newspaper, the integrity of which is besmirched by this ignobable descent into censorship.
Many years ago, in the mid-eighties, I was summarily dismissed from my $25 free-lance 'job' at the Chattanooga News-Free Press for a less than laudatory review of a Shirley Jones appearance with the Chattanooga Symphony Orchestra. The editor told me that the publisher of the paper (his father-in-law) did not want anything 'negative' ever written about anything in Chattanooga (as if the world noticed or cared).
In this case, the world does notice what the newspaper of a dying city (whose claim to esteem is its museum and its orchestra) does to mangle its integrity.
I have known Don Rosenberg a long time, and the last thing I would ever say of him is that he is vindictive, mean-spirited, or intent upon any kind of vendetta against the conductor of his own venerated orchestra.
He is an honest, educated, really nice person who is, if anything, timid in his reluctance to take sides or do or write or say anything to hurt anyone.

If I were Zachary Lewis I would pack up and return to Harrisburg or wherever he was before landing in this quagmire in Cleveland. What is he supposed to write after all this? Who will ever believe a word of his opinion? What an ignominious situation! How can it ever gracefully be resolved?
George Szell is probably spinning in his grave at the very idea of this. And Christoph von Dohnanyi would never have had to worry about what a critic wrote about him.
I regularly read Martin Bernheimer who dips his pen in acid before he begins a review. Thank goodness for him. Sometimes his is the only revelatory opinion available.

Pity the Cleveland Orchestra, that bastion of supreme excellence. Its reputation is forever sullied if this situation is allowed to continue another day. If Werner-Most can't take the heat, we may need the ghost of Harry Truman to tell him what to do.

Doris La Mar
Westfield, NJ

Jeffery Stone's comments regarding FWM's fast tempi was precisely the problem of his version of Brahms' No. 1 in a Carnegie Hall concert I attended not long ago. The finale was whipped to a frenzy, completely devoid of any majesty or nobility. It was superficial and glib, as was his finale of Shostakovich's No. 5 that I recently heard on XM radio. Perhaps Mr. Rosenberg felt the same way.

DMichaelE

On the 27th, someone commented that the New York Times and Los Angeles Times have multiple in-house critics.

Zell, Chicago owner of the LA Times just fired many staff members. There is now only one critic at the LA Times.

Cleveland Orchestra critic's removal incites newspaper critics - Ted Diadiun

This letter was sent to Plain Dealer columnist Ted Diadiun, who has broken the silence that has existed at his paper since the reassignment of Don Rosenberg, with a piece published today, Sunday, August 28, 2008. The letter was copied to Susan Goldberg and the Cleveland Orchestra’s generic e-mail address. I signed my letter and provided contact information which I withhold here.


Mr. Diadiun,

Your party-line defense of Susan Goldberg’s decision to reassign Don Rosenberg is so weak that it’s laughable. I can only assume that you are nervously scanning the newsroom on the lookout for 31-year-old interns who may be assigned to take over your position tomorrow should you decide to offer an original thought on the matter.

To blame the problem on ‘orchestra patrons’ is completely disingenuous, unless it’s an obfuscated way of saying that Terry Egger is an orchestra patron in addition to being the president and publisher of the Plain Dealer, while at the same time serving on the board of the Musical Arts Association along with the newspaper’s past president and publisher, Alex Machaskee.

Gary Hanson, Executive Director of the MAA, and Richard Bogomolny, Chairman of the Board, have both publicly denied that any pressure was exerted on the editorial board of the Plain Dealer despite conflicting reports from people like Robert Conrad of WCLV (also a board trustee) and Rosenberg himself. And they made their denials without disclosure of Egger’s inherent conflict of interest – disclosure that is also lacking in your defense of the decision.

You are correct about one thing. Susan Goldberg absolutely does have the right to reassign one of the finest music critics working today without comment or explanation. She also has the right to shoot herself in the foot without comment or explanation, even though that would be an extremely dumb thing to do. Or maybe your reference to her ‘honest belief’ that this decision would be in the best interests of the newspaper and its readers was a sly way of implying ‘honest, but dumb.’

Her decision has resonated to a far greater extent than I believe she, or anyone else at the Plain Dealer, could have imagined. The Plain Dealer is being universally condemned by professional journalists in publications as respected as the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, etc., by music critics, professional musicians – including some from within the ranks of the orchestra itself – and angry (for a different reason) orchestra patrons alike.

The fact is that this decision does irreparable damage to the reputation of the Plain Dealer, the city of Cleveland, and yes, the Cleveland Orchestra itself through the actions of its board. To me, it seems a great price to pay to appease the angry ‘orchestra patrons’ who will now apparently be happy with the cheerleading provided by your newspaper.

Greg Sandow, in an article published in the Wall Street Journal, proposed that there is only one way out of this mess that Goldberg has created, and that is to have Franz Welser-Möst publicly condemn the action and call for Rosenberg’s reinstatement. Although the chance of an event like that actually occurring is virtually nonexistent, I second the motion and have copied this letter to the orchestra’s administration.

I have expressed my opinions on this situation elsewhere, and I have always been quick to praise the Musical Arts Association for the nuts-and-bolts work they do behind the scenes to assure the long and successful existence of the Cleveland Orchestra. But overstepping the bounds of journalistic integrity is not a satisfactory method of achieving those goals.

I don’t have to explain to you the prestige that a sterling institution like the Cleveland Orchestra presents to the city of Cleveland in the eyes of the world, but apparently someone does need to explain to you the tarnish that everyone involved in this scandal – yourself included – has placed on that prestige.

Rick ------
Cuyahoga Falls

Mr. Diadiun's arguments weren't weak. He just has a different point of view than most of the people on this board.

I listened to The Cleveland Orchestra's performance on Saturday night of Bruckner's 7th Symphony, with Welser-Moest conducting. While it wasn't an interesting performance interpretively, it had wonderful balance, a beautiful sound, appropriate tempi and plenty of grandeur. It had a muscular, yet lean, tone palette. I reckon the performance would have equaled, or even surpassed, that of any other orchestra anywhere with the same music. If Welser-Moest can maintain the orchestra at such a high level, he must be a pretty good music director.

PEOPLE! -

The issue is not whether you like Mr. Rosenberg.

The issue has to do with the integrity of both the Cleveland Orchestra and the CPD.

PLEASE stop writing about your own personal opinion as to whether you like a critic's criticism or not!

The issue is about a PERCEIVED conflict of interest and the decision by the new management at the the CPD (real or not) to bow to pressure about what critics do - criticize!

Silence that and one might as well have their serious music reviews appear on the society page of next weekend's social section of the CPD!

PLEASE! STOP!

Hi Marksal,

Sorry to correct such an otherwise knowledgeable guy, but TCO pretty much makes any conductor look like he knows what he's doing. In fact, Dohnanyi and FWM both improved tremendously after a few years of working with us. It's not a matter of a music director maintaining us, it's about us making the career of a conductor. This isn't just the case in Cleveland, but with any great orchestra. The foundation George Szell laid with TCO is still intact today, and after him the roles have been reversed between conductor and musician.

This last comment by COM is curious. If TCO (or any great orchestra) has the ability to "make" the career of a conductor, why has FWM come under such across-the-board criticism for his work? Is he so inept that even a great ensemble like TCO can't help?

DMichaelE

The claim of "peronnel" reasons falls short. Mr. Rosenberg is a calm and measured man. To put forth his dismissal for these reasons is an injustice to him and all editorial employees.

Ms. Goldberg has a reputation of being impulsive and wanting to be a part of the city elite. This just reflects her needs.

I am sure she never expected this decision to become a national and international issue. But it does reflect her approach to running a newsroom.
JG

Marksal,

I think you used to post on the WCLV forum a few years ago, correct? It's good to encounter your informed and common-sense point of view once again. However I can't buy your view in this case that the reassignment was a simple business decision, unless it was a decision made truly without thought. It was just too visible and was bound to prompt suspician even if the suspician were unfounded. Until recently, at least, the "appearance of impropriety" used to count for something.

Correct spelling used to count for something too. Sorry.

It's time to end this blog. All view have been put forward. Whatever the facts of this particular case, constantly asserting the "free speech" argument is tiresome. If Mr. Rosenberg is being wronged, OK, but he has no right to his job "just because" we supposedly have free speech rights. Enough of us are writing to this blog anonymously to make clear our fears of "free speech."

And stop wailing that a critic's JOB is to criticize. A critic's job is to know enough about music and performance to write intelligently, but it is nonsense to pretend that a critic of a major newspaper has no duty to prudently criticize lest he harm valuable institutions. No critic lives in isolation and plenty of critics come rrunning for free lunches and baseball caps when management or maestros beckon.

So, one case at a time. PLEASE narrow the arguments down to whether MR. ROSENBERG has been wronged and set aside the sentimental, cosmic arguments.

Every city’s cultural resources, at least in this country, are governed by boards of that city’s most prominent moneybags, who also own businesses that take out the largest ads in that city’s newspapers. An editor’s door, therefore, is always open to visits by members of those boards when some aspect of the cultural events the bankroll do not follow their own definition of the pleasure principle. It does not necessarily follow that those board members know s*** from shinola about whatever artform they serve – an opera company, a symphony orchestra, a museum. At the end of the day, they expect to be pleasured by that artform, not forced to think very hard about its content, and have their egos massaged by the critics of their local press, to whom they look for confirmation.

Don Rosenberg of the Plain Dealer denied them that confirmation, more often than they would have liked. I don’t know him very well, but I’ve read him fairly often on the matter of the Cleveland Orchestra and its current conductor, Franz Welser-Moest (henceforth: FWM), who currently owns the podium once trod by George Szell, and more recently by Christoph von Dohnanyi, to the orchestra’s greater glory. I love the sight and sound of the orchestra’s Severance Hall; I’ve heard FWM in action there and also here, as guest with our own Philharmonic. Most of the time I’ve been unimpressed, never shocked but never truly moved.
Anyhow, Don Rosenberg – past president of the Music Critics Association, currently still on its board – may be over-reacting just a tad in his steadfast unwillingness to forgive FWM for not being Szell or Dohnanyi, but he has a point. What’s more he has the education, prestige and experience to deserve the job he has held until now. The legendary Claudia Cassidy at the Chicago Tribune couldn’t forgive a whole roster of conductors for not being Frederick Stock. Our own Martin Bernheimer could never forgive Los Angeles for not being Vienna. The worst that can happen to a critic under these circumstances is to become predictable, but that doesn’t constitute grounds for firing, or – in Rosenberg’s case – demotion. I must say, the Plain Dealer’s action in this case – keeping Don on staff but blindfolding him to the existence of the Cleveland Orchestra, the one reason for a music critic to function – is shameless to a fault. On the same day that the NYTimes carried the demotion story the Plain Dealer published a blatant, ass-kissing tribute to FWM and the orchestra, by the intern who’s now been handed Rosenberg’s job, a 31-year-old writer of feature stories, Zack Lewis. I don’t envy him, risking being booed by the Severance Hall audience as he takes his aisle seat.


Alan Rich Los Angeles

Dear James G (about post on 9/29,10:30AM)-

Would you please inform us and the rest of the interested parties here what leads you to assign these personality traits to Ms. Goldberg and her character?

I think it very important that we have a personality profile of the person making this kind of decision. Please reply with something other than hearsay so as to add to the credibility of the information.

Thank you.

TIM Smith, not Steve, dammit; I've been doing that all week. Sorry. Alan

Hi, Lee. Yes, it's me. I hope you are well. I don't think Mr. Rosenberg's removal was a simple business decision. I think the editor didn't want a hassle anymore, thought his reviews were predictable and so made a change. She doesn't share the high-mindedness of those who think a critic's views should be supported if the costs, as she perceives them, outweigh the benefits. I just don't think the removal is a big deal. People get moved around organizations every day. The new critic is probably fine, Mr. Rosenberg is a good critic but not irreplaceable, so it's just not a big deal to me that he has been moved over by his editor. He isn't the only guy who can do a good job as music critic of the CO's concerts.

Oh brother...as could have been predicted:

http://www.cleveland.com/readers/index.ssf?/base/opinion-0/1222590617279050.xml&coll=2&thispage=2

So, the moral of the story is if, as a journalistic institution, don't like what a critic is writing, or even think it's just way too much of a hassle about what they MAY write in the next 10 years, you replace them. Who's to say that DR wasn't on to something that would have been in the interest of the long term artistic health of the orchestra?

The bottom line???

There should have been a critical look at how incredibly long music director's tenures affect a critic's and the concert going public's ability to use their critical listening and thinking skills (even if change MIGHT be needed), through their one and only voice...writing and talking critically about music performance.

This whole decision is upsidedownism at it's most grotesque.
Pity both the CPD and the CO. Their reputations have been substantially downgraded because of "the business" poking it's nose in the wrong direction. Instead of looking at their own reflections in the mirror, they simply pointed the mirror in another direction - exactly the wrong direction.

Now we'll never know "the rest of the story".

Sorry but I've read about one George Szell reference too many. The man has been dead these 38 years and no one (that's NO ONE) goes to Severance Hall expecting or hoping to hear his reincarnation. The issue, as far as the reviews and the audience reaction are concerned is strictly one of good music and good music-making.

Now on that issue there is some obvious disagreement these days. And that's ok too. What is not ok is to conclude that the only reason someone can find Welser-Most's interpretive approach consistently lacking is due to some personal vendetta. The only reason I attend a concert is to hear the music. It is beyond presumptuous for anyone to conclude that when I am disappointed in the performance (which I seem to be in W-M's case at roughly the same frequency as Mr. Rosenberg) I am responding out of some personal grievance. You stick to the simplest theory that explains the appearances, which in the case at hand is that Donald Rosenberg doesn't like Welser-Most's conducting.

As for Rosenberg "repeating himself", he is describing what he hears and he hears the same qualities of interpretation over and over. So where is the true source of the repetition? Should he vary the substance of his reviews by throwing in the occasional rave? To me the hardest part of his job over the last six years has been precisely in finding different ways to say essentially the same thing.

So, if the case is made that Rosenberg should have been reassigned due to some lapse of professionalism on his part, that is completely and emphatically bogus. More plausible is the argument that over the foreseeable future Mr. Rosenberg's views would remain at odds with a sizeable portion of the Cleveland audience and musical establishment. The orchestra has committed to Welser-Most for another ten years (from the perspective of this 50 year Cleveland concertgoer they have for all practical purposes made him Musical Director for life) and Rosenberg has committed to pointing out that this emperor has no clothes. It would not be a promising situation. And no doubt the Plain Dealer has the right to reassign its employees. But, without even touching on the professional and ethical issues of their doing this, possibly, at the behest of the those annoyed by his criticisms, they could certainly have defused the situation with more grace. To cite one OBVIOUS solution, they could have split the orchestra assignment between Mr. Rosenberg and Mr. Lewis, and then used this as a means of transititioning to the latter if that was still seen as necessary. After all, they had done this quite often in the past with Wilma Salisbury before her recent retirement.

(Aside: Hello to you Mark, and I hope you prosper -- if this isn't the wrong time to be wishing that!)

Lee Baker said::
"....they could certainly have defused the situation with more grace. To cite one OBVIOUS solution, they could have split the orchestra assignment between Mr. Rosenberg and Mr. Lewis, and then used this as a means of transitioning to the latter if that was still seen as necessary..."
---------------------------------------------------

This would have been, at the very least, a tactful way of going about the business of "relieving" themselves of sustained criticism and the usual complaints from their sponsors/board members. It might have even been interesting and have generated MORE discussion and interest driving up readership and started the creative and constructive critical juices flowing once again.

In conjunction with that, a substantial investigative piece about the effect of unheard of long tenures offered music directors would have been taking the high road, giving the issue a multi-faceted look at the now one-dimensional story.

Hi, Lee. It's the best of times for your good wishes. Thank you!

I agree with you that splitting the CO duties between the two critics might have been an excellent solution.

I believe Mr. Rich was recently removed from LA Weekly. I have often read his interesting articles, as I often read Tim Smith, Tim Page, and, less often, Donald Rosenberg. It would strengthen his arguments if he provided full disclosure.

Full disclosre, Mr. Anonymous of 9/30? Okay, full disclosure is that the publishers of the LA Weekly, based in Phoenix, decided that cultural coverage -- in all nine papers in their realm -- had become extraneous. So I was fired, with several others, for being extraneous. My publisher, Mr. Lacey, wouldn't have recognized an LA Philharmonic board member from a walrus.

OK Mr anonymous it's your turn now! Full disclosure should cut both ways, should it not? So , either reveal yourself, or maybe you're the management stooge I've been looking for!

I come to this account a little late, but I do appreciate Mr. Smith's blog entries on this topic. As a former journalist, the Plain Dealer's antics regarding Donald Rosenberg cause me great concern.

Interestingly, Zach Lewis' review of TCO's first concert of the season was not without its biting edge towards FWM, and there is a distinct possibility that the tone of the coverage may not improve compared to Rosenberg. Ultimately, the P.D. may save some money if Rosenberg leaves on his own and the younger Zach Lewis costs them less (all newspapers are cutting costs). But the MAA will have gained nothing but a lot of bad publicity to counter-balance the reviews from TCO's recent European tour.

I am curious as to what proof, or even indications, you have that some unidentified "faction" of the Cleveland Orchestra management or Board is responsible for this action on the part of the newspaper editor. You state that this is "clearly" the case, but how do you know?

If you simply mean that there have been complaints about Rosenberg's reviewing, and that many of these have come from Cleveland Orchestra Board members and/or management, that certainly doesn't constitute some kind of dark conspiracy.

Anyone who has been a performer, fan, Board member, or has worked in orchestra management for any length of time, has had the experience of waking up to a panned concert in the local paper. At such times one is apt to fantasize freely about engineering the critic's demise. Sometimes, if the negative reviewing persists over time, Board members and fans of the conductor may go beyond fantasizing and get mad enough to call the editor demanding the critic's ouster. Having been in orchestra PR for two decades, I have seen scant evidence that these complaints have any effect on an editor. If anything, they may be delighted that their reviewer is getting a reaction!

In this case, perhaps the volume of complaining was sufficient that it caused the editor to do her own analysis of Mr. Rosenberg's past output, and she reached her own conclusion.

In any event, you seem to single out the Cleveland Orchestra as the primary villain here. I find that curious. The person who is responsible for Mr. Rosenberg's ouster as critic is his editor, period.

To Mr. Buelow:

You have rebuked the blog for its intimation that Cleveland's management is the "primary villain here." You, then, authoritatively identify the PD's editor as the villain.

I find it curious that, as the managing director of the Tacoma Symphony and former exeuctive director of the Traverse Symphony, you can make such a statement. How doest THOU know?

Please kindly enlighten us.

I'm a musician myself and a Clevelander. I must say that I have found Mr. Rosenberg's harsh criticisms incomprenhensible to the point where I wondered if we were at the same concert. I have always sensed a good chemistry between Maestro Welser-Möst and the orchestra which gives the performances a genial quality that I happen to appreciate.

To Anonymous, in RE: "I find it curious that, as the managing director of the Tacoma Symphony and former exeuctive director of the Traverse Symphony, you can make such a statement [that the editor is the primary villain/instigator of Rosenberg's re-assignment]. How doest THOU know?"

Umm, 'cause the Editor is the boss of the newspaper -- and is the one who makes these decisions?

The Plain Dealer's "reader representative" has considered his boss's move, and found it good:
http://www.cleveland.com/plaindealer/stories/index.ssf?/base/opinion-0/1222590617279050.xml&coll=2&thispage=2

The rest of us may still differ on that.

Bryan

He was an awful critic who didn't know what he was saying. He loved Dohnanyi for some reason and has had an agenda to get Welser-Most out since he arrived in Cleveland.

An Open Letter to the Editor of the Plain Dealer

Ms. Susan Goldberg:

The removal of Donald Rosenberg form his duties covering the Cleveland Orchestra is pure censorship. It would be the same as removing a writer from the editorial page because their views conflicted with a political majority. I feel that your readers deserve a justification for this, as Mr. Rosenberg is eminently qualified to write about the Cleveland Orchestra. The problem is one of upholding standards. When the man who has literally “written the book” about the orchestra is not given a voice, then the journalistic standard is no longer the quality of writing and insight, but expedience and point of view.

Mr. Rosenberg has always s been an objective critic. As one who has lived in the area for the past ten years, and received numerous reviews from him, I can personally attest to his impartiality. In fact, he is not a “critic”: he is an evaluator. He may not have liked what he experienced at some of my productions, but the overall tone of the pieces was not stilted. Assessment was never a vindictive personal matter to him, and each performance was taken on its own merits, a quality which is hard to find in anyone these days. Moreover, within each article the views were balanced, and clear on what worked, what didn’t and why. This comes from a lifetime spent thinking about and listening to music. His reviews also cover new music with an open mind, and many times he has been an advocate for a particular piece that received its premiere here. It is a great concern that his reviews are perceived by you and the Cleveland Orchestra as a binary “thumbs up – thumbs down”, when in fact they look at all aspects of a performance.

The Cleveland Orchestra, by their own admission, has complained about his reviews. When I was running Lyric Opera Cleveland neither the management or I ever contacted anyone at the Plain Dealer about Mr. Rosenberg – it was simply too unprofessional. The freedom of the press is a greater good for our community than a positive review. The Cleveland Orchestra may not be directly responsible for his removal, but they are culpable.

When a newspaper does not represent the arts in a community, when it does not represent the highest ideals of writing and journalistic integrity, then there is a problem. It is the problem of credibility of the Plain Dealer. It is the problem of trying to find a writer who will tow the company line. At what point do you cut Mr. Lewis from his new position – after fifteen unfavorable reviews? Ten? Eight? In the front pages of the Plain Dealer you often run stories about the loss of jobs and business in Cleveland, but I would suggest to you that this loss starts with intellectual capital, and that your actions are leading the way.

The Arts section has been greatly altered in the past two years. It no longer reflects the local arts community, and the amount of diversity here. It is not even consistently about arts anymore, but rather about Health, Style and the like. The further insult is that you have writers like Chuck Yarborough and Michael Heaton, and they are given free rein just as long as they don’t write anything interesting.

It is a disgraceful position for a paper that aspires to excellence, and is contrary to that standard. It is hypocritical for an establishment that advocates openness in other organizations to be so closed about the reasons for Mr. Rosenberg’s demotion. As you can see by the link below, it is also becoming a national embarrassment. Finally, it will affect the renewal of our subscription.

Sincerely,

Jonathon Field

Thus far, Zach Lewis has been very critical of the first and third concerts of the Cleveland Orchestra's season at Severance Hall this year. In the first concert he remarked that he did not see the point in having the Bruckner 7th recorded for DVD given FWM's uneven conducting. In the most recent third concert, he remarked that the orchestra and FWM practically triped over themselves in Beehtoven's 5th Symphony. In the second concert, he had reservations over FWM's conducting of Mozart's 25th Symphony, but I would not say he was highly critical.

Mr. Lewis' tone is not that different from Mr. Rosenberg's, although Mr. Lewis is more astute perhaps in praising FWM more often when warranted. The problem is that it is not warranted enough. Particularly in the core Austrian repetoire, he is not that good of a conductor. It is like he has never even been to the country where he grew up. This controversy is certainly by no means over, and it now appears that Mr. Rosenberg was not replaced with a light-weight critic who is going to be kinder to FWM when he does not live up to his status as music director of a great orchestra. It should now be clear that it was not Mr. Rosenberg, but FWM and the shocking decision to extend his contract as music director.

Markin said: "It should now be clear that it was not Mr. Rosenberg, but FWM and the shocking decision to extend his contract as music director."
----------------------

The point all along has been that at the very least what has been shocking is that FWM's contact has been extended for insanely long periods of time - regardless of his past and present reviews by any critic. That kind of practice is what is driving this situation.


But the CPD and editor Goldberg (and not unimportantly the paper's omnisbudsman) have all concluded that extending the music CRITIC's employment for these long tenures will come second.


That kind of dynamic between the CPD, the CO, & FWM cannot be a healthy one considering the results thusfar.

Saturday night's performance of Beethovan's Fifth Symphony was the worst I have ever heard in fifty years of attending concerts at Severance Hall. The conductor was asleep, the sound was monotonous, and the speed was that of an Indy 500 Race, not a musical performance. You did not need Donald Rosenberg to tell you this, having ears sufficed.

My guess is that the powers that be at Severance Hall do not care as long as the orchestra continues to secure big dates at the European music festivals under FWM and they get to go along for the ride. Beethovan's Fifth Symphony can pretty much play itself with an orchestra of this caliber. Thus, another example with FWM of what the Hell is he thinking?

Could someone post a link to Lewis's review of the Beethoven 5 concert? Cleveland.com has not made it easy (for me, at least) to locate his reviews.

(I recently spoke with someone in Cleveland who attended the concert and said the Beethoven was incomprehensible.)

http://www.cleveland.com/plaindealer/stories/index.ssf?/base/entertainment-0/122371397490060.xml&coll=2

The best way to find Lewis's reviews is to use the PD site's search box and enter the name zachary lewis.

Anyone who wants to follow Donald Rosenberg at his new beat for the Plain Dealer can check out this link:

http://www.cleveland.com/musicdance/

Plain Dealer reports this am that the Cleveland Orchestra ranks seventh in the world this year. First time in my memory that it is not in the top 5!

Thanks Tim for writing about this. However this plays out, it's a topic all music critics need to talk about more often.

http://liveexhaust.blogspot.com/2008/12/what-do-you-hate-about-music-critics.html

I think that a certain big law firm did this all behind-the-scenes.

May I, an oft-sacked and now nearly unemployed music critic from the other side of the pond (ex- The Times, FT, etc) add my twopence worth?

Being a professional critic of any kind is a far tougher job than some people think. Most of us have little or no job security, the pay is often miserly, the hours unsociable, the skills we employ, musical and literary, vastly underestimated, and jobs very scarce. And of course we too - as many of the responses here prove - are subject to criticism, by readers and musicians alike. Rightly so.

But none of us should be required to write with an Editor's proverbial gun pressed to the head, nor with a brief to provide - as is becoming all too common these days - copy that is overtly promotional and even sycophantic. That should apply as much to a one-orchestra town as to any other town.

Don has given The Plain Dealer sterling service with his intelligent and sensitive writing over the years. If he doesn't like very much of what Franz does, that's just how it happens to be, and as long as his reviews give the reasons as objectively (and sensitively) as possible that's just fine, even in a one-orchestra, one-newspaper city such as Cleveland, where editors and orchestral magnates frequently rub shoulders socially. Critics should never write a single word with the aim of being agreed with. Their calling is to listen intelligently, and to rationalise in clear, elegant prose their honest responses. Nothing more nor less.

As for myself, quite honestly I've always been equivocal about Franz's work, though I believe he's a greatly different conductor from the young man who took over the London Philharmonic all those years ago. By contrast Christoph von Dohnanyi always brings something stimulating to the table, and seems to me a far less self aggrandising kind of musician, even if also less flamboyant in his physical gestures.

I'm glad for Don that he hasn't so far been sacked altogether and wish you all, critics and readers alike, the best for the festive season.

Thanks very much for laying out the case so clearly and eloquently. And best of the season to you, too.Tim

Great site...keep up the good work. I read a lot of blogs on a daily basis and for the most part, people lack substance but, I just wanted to make a quick comment to say I'm glad I found your blog. Thanks,

A definite great read...:)

I hear this in Welser-Most almost every time he conducts, and I'm not alone. I know many, many people who have the same reaction that I do. Not one of these people has anything personally against Welser-Most, and neither do I. I've spoken with Don Rosenberg on many occasions, and I know he has nothing against Welser-Most. In fact, he actively hopes for good interpretations and performances from The Cleveland Orchestra by Welser-Most and whoever else stands before the ensemble.

I recently stopped writing concert reviews for a German newspaper after being in the business for 25 years, because my critical opinion was likewise not wanted anymore.

These days it may still be possible to criticize singers being indisposed, or stylish young pianists or fashion fiddle girls with good PR but mediocrate technique and musicality, but one thing is unwanted for sure: To criticize bad conductors! Since I studied conducting myself, I know very well about technical shortcomings of conductors, and, thanks to an openminded editor in chief at my newspaper behind me, sometimes I had the chance to describe why a conductor failed. (Once I even got a letter from a musician, mentioning how happy he was at least once to find in a newspaper confirmed how much he and his colleagues had to suffer under a certain maestro.)

Now my editor retired, and I am off too. And thank god! I really can´t stand it any longer to listen to 90% boring concerts with uncapable conductors. And then the lousy payment: 46 Euros for visiting the concert, writing the blurb -- an average per hour below that of a McDonalds attendant.

Regarding your affair, nevertheless it is a scandal how Mr. Rosenberg is treated. I remember to have read Mr. Welser Möst (whose nickname in London was once "worse than most", and he did not improve much since then!) had to stop within a performance of Schönbergs Chamber Symphony, turning to the audience, saying, "at the rehearsal it was all fine". And I remember well my first impression of his conducting: A man with a wall between him and the orchestra, no communication. Looking like the pope in his glass car. Such "professionals" are allowed to continue, while nobody seems to be interested in their shortcomings. Decadence everywhere ...

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About Tim Smith
Born and raised in Washington, D.C., I couldn't help but develop a keen interest in politics, but music, theater and visual art also proved great attractions. Music became my main focus after high school. I thought about being a cocktail pianist, but I hated taking requests, so I studied music history instead, earning a B.A. in that field from Eisenhower College (Seneca Falls, N.Y.) and an M.A. from Occidental College (Los Angeles). I then landed in journalism. After freelancing for the Washington Post and others, I was classical music critic for the Sun-Sentinel in South Florida, where I also contributed to NPR. I've written for the New York Times, BBC Music Magazine and other publications, and I'm a longtime contributor to Opera News. My book, The NPR Curious Listener's Guide to Classical Music (Perigee, 2002), can be found on the most discerning remainder racks.

I joined the Baltimore Sun as classical music critic in 2000 and, in 2009, also became theater critic, giving me the opportunity to annoy a whole new audience. In 2010, my original Clef Notes blog expanded to encompass a theatrical component -- how could I resist calling it Drama Queens? I hope you'll find both sides of this blog coin worth exploring and reacting to; your own comments are always welcome and valued (well, most of them, at least).

Think of this as your open-all-hours, cyber green room, where there's always a performer or performance to discuss, some news to digest, or maybe just a little good gossip to share.
Note: Tim Smith now writes about the fine arts at baltimoresun.com/artsmash. This blog will be kept in place as an archive for an indefinite period. Please visit the new location to get the latest Mid-Atlantic arts coverage.
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