Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Ivan Ilic - 'The American in Paris'

I can't believe that I haven't written anything since the end of September, when I was extolling the virtues of Dragon City - a Chinese takeaway owned by the parents of one of my piano students, and where, since that first meal, we are now regular customers, and think they're the best around!

Similarly, writing reviews of concerts is, of course, a subjective thing. What I might like, or dislike, ten or so other reviewers could have a completely opposite take on what I felt. Good, that's what it's all about!

Equally, as my reviews are published in the leading local newspaper, as well as across the region online, just occasionally people will write in to beg to differ with something I might have said! At the end of the day, it might sell a couple more papers, so no one's going to complain.

Recently I had to review an American pianist of Serbian origin, and now living in Paris. His recital, a lunchtime one, remember, lasted only one hour, so to devote almost 15 minutes to a piece by a fellow-American composer, which supposedly investigated the way sounds die away on a piano, to a mid-day audience wasn't perhaps, the best of planning, and particularly as the rest of the programme was decidedly dreary and largely uneventful, and the piano, as we all know, is simply not up to it, for a solo recital.

I said this in my review, as this was what I, and a good number of the rest of the audience felt. However, it solicited a letter in support of this particular piece, and the pianist's playing in general. Now, I don't mind the criticism, but when the person is best friends with the concert organiser, even to the point of making sure that the organiser's post-nominals are included in the letter - we leave all such things out in the paper, as they're simply irrelevant - it's not quite seen as an unsolicted communication from an agrieved listener. The writer then went on to moan at 'some of us who should have known better' for fidgeting during this almost 15 minutes of banging odd notes on the piano. Of course, she defeated her own argument here, as the fact that this was happening should have said something!

In a way I wish I had sent off my initial review, where I criticised the player's right hand position, and where the 5th finger was almost flat, resulting in missed and inaccurate top notes at the top of chords etc. However, in the end I decided not to comment on this, as perhaps it was the result of some early injury or medical condition, and that would have been somewhat unprofessional. Interestingly, the writer describes themself as a professional musician, and who am I to deny this. But at a recent concert to celebrate the work of some local composers, despite my wish to appear modest, I cannot hide the fact that a number of people referred to me as the 'only real composer' there! Well, true I've had my compositions played by some of the UK's top orchestras, in the Royal Albert Hall, Symphony Hall, Birmingham etc etc - but then, I mustn't boast!

No, at the end of the day, I shouldn't have had the temerity to knock this performer, playing in a lunchtime series in our local museum! Er....I don't think so!

Oh, and on that subject, before the start of the concert I was politely reprimanded for not referring to the concert series in my previews as 'International'! I always thought it was better to include the word 'Lunchtime', as this was more relevant, and far more important than pointing out that the artists each year were 'international'. After all, virtually every school class from infants to secondary is 'international' in the UK nowadays, and it would be quite difficult to pick any performers of purely national origin. But I will do as instructed, and emphasize the 'international' nature, rather than point out that being a lunchtime concert, it can be more appealing to those who might be retired.

If you want to make your own mind up, here's a link to my review, and to a copy of the letter sent in to the paper! I'm not losing any sleep over it, but as a sort of insomniac, this doesn't mean much anyway!

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