Rosenberg’s Latest Hatchet Job

Yesterday’s Cleveland Plain Dealer had a so-called “Cleveland Orchestra Season in Review” by the PD’s music critic Donald Rosenberg. Rosenberg has had an ongoing briar in his butt about Franz Welser-Möst, the Music Director of the Cleveland Orchestra. Rosenberg routinely publishes negative reviews every time Franz conducts the orchestra. So this “season review” is just more of the same writ large. He picks and chooses negative blurbs to print from other recent reviews elsewhere of Franz’s performances to buoy Rosenberg’s thesis that Welser-M??st doesn’t have any individual ideas to project.

Interestingly enough, the conductor to whom Rosenberg compares Welser-Möst is Leonard Bernstein, on the basis that Franz has apparently expressed admiration for Bernstein. But admiration does not necessarily translate to slavish copying of style. Bernstein, of course, was capable of extremely exciting performances, but also highly mannered, affected and quite musically odd performances that were more Bernstein than the composer. Welser-Möst’s temperament is not that of Bernstein and never will be. One might also ask Rosenberg about Lorin Maazel, who indeed has individualistic ideas about performance; however, they are not universally admired, and especially were not so admired during Maazel’s Cleveland Orchestra tenure in the 1970s.

I have to wonder what Rosenberg’s motives are for this piece. What is the outcome he is seeking? Does he want the orchestra to fire Welser-Möst? (Franz’s contract runs through 2012.) Is he suggesting that people stop attending? Should donors stop giving money? Does he not like Franz because Franz is not Christoph Von Dohnanyi or George Szell? Folks, they’re either dead or they’ve moved on and we are in the Welser-Möst era now.

So, Donald Rosenberg doesn’t like Franz Welser-Möst’s conducting style and interpretive ideas. Should we care? Since I regularly exercise my God-given American right not to read the Plain Dealer, Mr. Rosenberg’s opinions have never had much effect on me. You should skip the critic and make your own judgments. (Let’s face it, Cleveland audiences are not that critical, or there wouldn’t be standing ovations at every concert. But that’s another sermon….)

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