This afternoon I approved a comment submitted on my post from yesterday about Donald Rosenberg’s dismissal as the music critic of Cleveland Orchestra concerts. The comment wasn’t just from any old reader; it was from Gary Hanson, the Executive Director of the Cleveland Orchestra. (In the interest of full disclosure, I do know Gary Hanson, and have had some business dealings with him in my role as Deputy Director of the Kelvin Smith Library at Case Western Reserve University.) Gary’s full comment can be found here, but the gist of it is in his first couple of paragraphs:
In recent days, the music writers’ blogsphere has been rife with assumptions and even accusations that the management of The Cleveland Orchestra engineered personnel changes at Cleveland’s daily newspaper, The Plain Dealer. These accusations are false.
I want to set the record straight: I was completely surprised by the news last week that Plain Dealer music critic Donald Rosenberg has been re-assigned and will no longer cover The Cleveland Orchestra for the newspaper.
He goes on to state his admiration of Rosenberg’s history of the Cleveland Orchestra, and his respect for journalistic freedom without interference from the Orchestra.
I have no reason to disbelieve Gary Hanson (other than from a very cynical viewpoint that, as a former PR man himself, he would say anything necessary to put the Orchestra into the best possible light), and he undoubtedly does have a public relations problem (hence posting a comment on an pretty much unknown—albeit Cleveland local—blog such as Virtual Farm Boy). Whether the Orchestra did or did not intervene directly in a personnel and editorial matter at the Plain Dealer is at this point somewhat irrelevant; the perception is out there that it happened, and it does not take a brilliant mind to leap to what may be an erroneous conclusion. To my knowledge, the management of the Plain Dealer has so far been silent on the situation. Another interpretation is that the Plain Dealer editorial staff just got tired of the complaints about Rosenberg’s consistently negative reviews about Franz Welser-Möst and decided themselves to reshuffle the music critic deck. Unfortunately, if so, they didn’t do any favors for their friends at Severance Hall.