To be a critic is certainly not easy and there is even an article written by the BBC Music Magazine about it. But it is the kind of narrow-mindedness that I find inappropriate and irritating for every critic. Shouldn’t a critic be open to a wide choice and listen to everything with an unbiased ear and mind? Shouldn’t one judge with what one thinks, regardless what others think about the same piece? Are lesser known pieces by famous composers not worth discovering or listening to? I agree for example that Gluck is famous for the reforms he initiated in opera, but is his pre-reform period known as well as his reform operas? Do the pre-reform opera’s deserve oblivion because they were written before his reform? Should one not listen to them just because lesser known, albeit with a critic ear? (“Not worth listening to” was also said about Bach, Janacek and Rossini, among others). So why use the word “unfortunately” when talking about the selection of Daniel Behle’s Gluck arias in BBC Music Magazine nr 23/1: “Unfortunately, of the 11 arias he sings, the first 8 and the last one belong to what is known as the pre-reform Gluck with texts by the dreadful Metastasio”. With Behle we finally have somebody who breaks new ground, I would wish a music magazine (of the BBC nonetheless) to be more attentive with innovative choices. Because this is EXACTLY why I won’t renew my subscription: the constant reviewing of the same old. And by same old I am referring to the big public ‘s repertoire, the prevailing taste, the popular pieces, the Beethovens, the Brahms, the Williams, the Shostakovichs. But precious little interest for Fibich, Kalinnikov, Kalkbrenner, Mercadante, Finzi etc. A safe choice, certainly, but stale and repetitive on the long run. A follower and not a leader, they would say in business.
By the way what is so dreadful in Metastasio? Isn’t it a bit too easy to disperse derogatory comments without any explanation? Is the BBC Music Magazine not aware that Metastasio was one of the leading librettists of the time and that Gluck’s choice might have had several reasons, dreadful or not. A clear example of a mismatch of intentions. Also, are we sure that “Gluck could do things as well as other people”? What are the references? Other dreadful composers of the time? By the way the sentence “they (the arias) give Behle plenty of chance to show his phenomenal coloratura skill but none to show that, with his lovely voice, he is able to be powerfully expressive in the way that Gluck came to demand”. How can that be? Since the arias in question don’t represent Gluck in his reform operas how would the singer be able to be expressive in pre-reform operas in the manner of operas written in a later stage? And on top of that, is it implied that coloratura cannot be expressive? I suppose one can’t know if one refrains from listening to a wider repertoire. It is useful though, so that one is able to give e a more balanced account of music history. Incidentally, the review previous to this one lauded one of Gluck’s pre-reform operas.
If this is not enough the following article seems to belittle Livermore’s direction of Pesaro’s Italiana in algeri on the grounds that “the audience rarely laughed“. Equally funny or funnier opera by Rossini with better librettos were given in Pesaro the last decades. Did the audience laugh during those performances? Do Italian ROF habitués even laugh at all anymore after knowing the libretto inside out? Do Japanese, German, and French spectators?