Tuesday, December 09, 2008

The Underappreciated Critic

Joshua Kosman, fellow blogger and classical music critic of the San Francisco Chronicle, comes in for a lot of stick from his readers, as do all critics. Goodness knows, I disagree with him often enough (he was wrong wrong wrong about Die tote Stadt and The Bonesetter's Daughter, for example, just going back a couple of months, and apparently he was immune to the luminous beauty of the last Runnicles Tristan).

One criticism I've heard is that he's burned out, and this I really do not get. His reviews are consistently enthusiastic, perceptive, and often very funny, regardless of whether he loved or hated the music and performances. I read a Kosman review, I wish I'd been there.

Take, for example, his review of this past weekend's Elliott Carter Centenary Celebration concerts, which I'd consider a model: there's enthusiasm for the performers and respect for the composer and what he inspires, even as Joshua ruefully admits that the music itself leaves him in "a state of bewildered incomprehension." (I, a Carter fan, must admit that if you've been grappling with the music for a couple of decades and still don't get it, you probably won't.)

I wish critics' jobs gave them more opportunities to write about music beyond concert reviews. Joshua's extremely good at this, at taking a moment of music and explicating its meanings. See, for example, his remarks on Mahler in the comments section of this Detritus Review posting. Or the series of postings he calls This Magic Moment on his own blog. Give us more!!


Anonymous said...

The funniest classical concert review I have ever read was Kosman on Glass's "Book of Longing".

Any other favorites?

Lisa Hirsch said...

Whenever he writes about Saint-Saens, whom I love and he loathes. :)