MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

Howler of the Week (Year?)

A little-known composer of obscurities

A little-known composer of obscurities

Arts journalism in Seattle — it just keeps getting better and more incisive. Here’s the Seattle Times trying to tell us that it’s reliably “covering” an institution as central to Seattle’s cultural life as the Seattle Symphony: see, we’re devoting a whole preview to this ambitious festival!

And so in this preview of Luminous Landscapes, the Seattle Symphony’s Sibelius Festival, which started last night, we are educated about a work alleged to have been obscure for most of its history — the Violin Concerto (!):

Finnish violinist Pekka Kuusisto will make his Seattle debut for [sic] the often-revised piece, which seems almost to have been cursed during Sibelius’ lifetime; its 1904 premiere was a disaster, due in part to its difficulty, and it was unknown to much of the world until 1991.

Yes, the Wikipedia entry contains a discussion of the belated unveiling of the original version of the Concerto in 1991. (Sibelius had withdrawn that score after its ill-fated premiere.) One of the problems with relying on Wikipedia alone — even when the information is pretty good, as in this case — is that without knowledge of the topic in a fuller context, it’s very easy to skim too fast and come away with a false, superficial sense of “knowing” about something without noticing what’s actually at stake. The preview isn’t discussing the ur-Concerto, just the regular one that will be played next week in the second program of the festival: a recent find!

ADDENDUM: I should add that it has occurred to me that this embarrassing gaffe might not be the author’s fault but that of the Seattle Times editor. It’s conceivable that the copy that was turned in correctly explained the (otherwise essentially irrelevant) reference to the 1991 factoid and that this was haplessly mangled by an editor with limited reading comprehension skills (and even less knowledge of music).

I hope it’s obvious that this matter is far from a pedantic point about correct dates. In either case, it means that a Wikipedia article is more reliable than the information published by the Seattle Times. Of course the second scenario — the one about the unreliable editor — would only further underscore my real point here: that the deteriorating state of arts journalism is doing a terrible disservice to a large population of readers who are genuinely interested in the arts.

Surely we haven’t already reached the point where accuracy in reporting by the “newspaper of record” is considered a luxury? Or have we…..

Filed under: journalism, Seattle Symphony

Protected: How City Arts Tried to Hijack a Seattle Symphony Premiere

This content is password protected. To view it please enter your password below:

Filed under: American music, commissions, journalism, new music, Seattle Symphony

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

RSS Arts & Culture Stories from NPR

  • The Legacies Of Black Icons Sam Cooke, Muhammad Ali (Cassius Clay) And Malcolm X
    The film One Night in Miami imagines a night in 1964 where Cooke, Clay, Malcolm X and Jim Brown meet. We listen back to interviews with biographers Peter Guralnick, Jonathan Eig and Alex Haley.
  • Hulu's New Billie Holliday Biopic Falls Short Of Capturing Her Real Story
    Andra Day plays the jazz legend with conviction in The United States vs. Billie Holiday. Nevertheless, the film fails in its attempt to show the heartache and hard living that shaped its subject.
  • Jesse Tyler Ferguson
    Jesse Tyler Ferguson discusses his time on Modern Family and his new cookbook, Food Between Friends. Then, he plays a game about his home state of New Mexico.
  • Gettin' Greasy
    Comics Samantha Ruddy and Luke Mones are hopelessly devoted to hearing Jonathan Coulton remix classic Grease songs to be about, you guessed it, Greece!
  • What's The Word?
    Comics Samantha Ruddy and Luke Mones compete in this game about words that are spelled and pronounced the same, but have different meanings.
  • This That Or The Other: Bath & Body Works, Meal Kit, Still Life Painting
    Nico Santos and Zeke Smithhave a carefree time guessing whether different items are Bath & Body Works scents, meal kits, or still life paintings until they are suddenly interrupted by a smoke alarm.
  • Power-Ups and Medical Medical Medical
    Nico Santos and Zeke Smith reveal what actors in hospital dramas are really saying behind their masks, then play a game about superhero power-ups. Go go gadget, PUBLIC RADIO SHOW!
  • Uptop: Reading Is Fundamental
    Ophira Eisenberg and Jonathan Coulton discuss fighting and succumbing to the need for reading glasses. Not related, but has anyone seen my reading glasses? I swear I just had them.
  • Reading The Game: 'The Last Of Us Part 2'
    Our occasional series on storytelling in video games returns with a look at The Last of Us Part II, which pulls a perspective switch on players that forces them to confront their role in the game.
  • Photographers Make Kids' Wildest Dreams Come To Life
    A husband and wife photography team create avant-garde and futuristic shoots for their clients. The couple hopes the portraits transcend the typical images of beauty.