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In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

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Thursday March 29 2007

imageNorman Lebrecht is getting a lot of friendly ribbing from bloggers for (a) hating bloggers and blogging, but then, finally, via all kinds of (b)s, arriving at (c), himself becoming a blogger.  Until now I have only been able to go here.

Lebrecht is an ideal blogger, because of both his huge strength and his huge weakness as a writer about classical musical.  His huge strengths are his eye for detail and his ear for a story and his willingness to speak his mind, whatever it happens to contain at this or that moment.  His weaknesses are his grand theories, which seldom add up and often seem to contradict themselves in the same paragraph or even sentence.

Consider the title of his big book called The Maestro Myth.  If this was a book about how conductors contribute nothing to the making of orchestral music and the worship of them is all bunkum, well, bunkum, but a logical title.  But the book is nothing of the kind.  It’s just lots of stories about maestros, some of them (he says) superb, others (he says) rather or very over-rated, and about many other things classical that spring to his mind that are too juicey to omit.  (Strongly recommended by the way.)

One moment he denounces public subsidy, and later he says that the government should pay for violinists to have Stradivarii.  But the government would be no better at picking winner violinists than it has been at picking winner car-making companies.  The true would-have-been winners would be crowded out.  And once that became hideously clear, Lebrecht would be the first to say so.  Plus, Lebrecht has a giant blind spot about pop music (Abba is not crass to start with – it only becomes crass when sung operatically), which he regards as not really music at all, which is why he is so irrationally desperate about the alleged death of classical music.  Like many classical obsessives, he confuses classical music (a blink in the eye of history albeit a very impressive one) with music (which will last as long as humans do – or smart aliens with anything like ears elsewhere if there are any).  But, worrying that music itself is doomed gives his writing the desperate feeling that this is all terribly important which it might otherwise lack.  (I know that music is safe and needs no saving, by me or by anybody.  Which means that I can safely ignore writing about it for weeks at a time and just listen to it.)

But the point is, Lebrecht’s stuff is always interesting and worth reading.  Each bit contains fascinating truths and delightfully entertaining stories.  Lebrecht loves gossip, more than he can possibly fit into his various paid outlets.  Which makes him a perfect blogger.  If he fails to see the big picture properly all the time, well, that’s good because this doesn’t then blind him to the entertainingness of the next entertaining anecdote.

His latest bit of fun is this, about two CD covers by different companies, taken in the same place.  What does this mean?  Nothing probably.  But: heh!

And as if to prove my point, while just now googling for The Maestro Myth, what did I find?  Another book by Lebrecht called The Book of Musical Anecdotes.

There are stories of appetites (Handel eating dinner for three), embarrassments (Brahms falling asleep as Liszt plays), oddities (Bruckner’s dog being trained to howl at Wagner), and devotions (a lovely admirer disrobing in tribute to Puccini). There are memorable accounts of Stravinsky telling Proust how much he hates Beethoven, of Tchaikovsky’s first bewildering telephone call, of Dvorak’s strange love of pigeons, and of Verdi’s intricate maneuvering to keep the now-famous melody of “La donna è mobile” top secret.

...

Collected from thousands of books, articles, and unpublished manuscripts (with historical sources provided in extensive notes), these anecdotes appear in their original form, throwing fresh light on familiar figures in the musical hall of fame. For browsing, reading, research and amusement, this book is a grand entertainment for concert-goers, record-buyers, operamanes, gossips and music lovers everywhere.

The blogosphere is the perfect place for this kind of thing.  Welcome to it, Mr L.  You will quickly discover that you have written another book, and another ...