Top critical review
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on 5 April 2010
Eric Siblin starts this book with his Pauline conversion to the music, after many years as rock critic for a newspaper. For a self-confessed neophyte in this elaborate world, he seems remarkably sure about the quality of his own insight thereafter.
It starts when he describes a visit to a recital, where he speaks disparagingly of the way classical music events are staged and presented. Mainly they appear to be too stuffy and lacking in sparkle. This rings a little hollow to me as a refugee from rock concerts, where the marshals treat the paying guests like lepers, the band always arrive hours after advertised, the sound is engineered without care for the paying customers, etc etc. Does he not consider that a different type of attending is taking place?
Later he dismisses the whole of the historically-informed performance movement, describing it as musical "fascisim". He parrots the old chestnuts about dry, scholarly performances without soul. With his vast several weeks of experience in this music he knows where its heart lies, and sees fit to dismiss in one line the efforts of many studious, well-trained musicians who have thought long and hard about their approach to it. There are long and complex arguments to be made both for and against historically-informed performance, but Siblin engages with none of these and dismisses it all with one wave of his pen.
I didn't get any further in the book, I'm afraid. There were good things in it, but I had lost patience with the too-familiar cocksure voice of a journalist who knows all about a subject and its moral core after a few months' study.