Bye Bye Bernie

Musical America brings news that will most certainly warm the cockles of Lisa Hirsch, Tim Rutherford-Johnson, The Detritus Review and The Standing Room’s respective hearts.

NY Times classical music critic Bernard Holland will write his last review on 23rd May.

Celebratory Craft Project
paper-chain.jpgFor those that are leaping with joy and wishing to make a paper chain with which to countdown, you’ll need 11 rings. That includes one for today because ripping is just so much fun. Here’s what you need to do:

1) Go to the NYTimes site and find the two reviews that you found the most frustrating.
2) Print them out and with a pair of sharp scissors, cut each page into 6 equal strips.
3) Take one strip and make it into a ring. Use tape, glue, gum, whatever you have to hand.
4) Repeat this process until you have eleven rings. The twelfth strip can be discarded or saved in case the integrity of your chain is compromised prematurely.
5) Tear one off for each day. Gloat and rub hands together gleefully as appropriate.

Alternative Method:
1) Print out your two favourite reviews and go through the steps as before.
5) Tear off one for each day. Weep/lament/get out sackcloth as appropriate.

Miss Mussel has no strong feelings either way on Holland himself, having only recently started to read reviews of any kind. Instead she is rather more worried about the axing of his post and it’s knock on effects. Sure, there are other ways to be a critic outside of a full time newspaper post but at this point, the view from her rung on the ladder is looking very bleak indeed.

Perhaps it would be prudent get in touch with Sally Struthers, just to be on the safe side.

Image (c) Dorling Kindersley


  1. My name most definitely does NOT belong on that list of those the cockles of whose hearts will be warmed by this distressing news. The removal of Holland from the NYT’s staff of classical music critics means that the _Times_ is now left with no-one on staff who qualifies as a genuine classical music critic.

    Sign of the times (pun intended).


  2. Miss Mussel

    Fixed. I did think it a bit strange to have you on the list but my cursory scan of the feed reader lumped you in with the rest on the back of your post entitled Oh Dear.

    Of course, two more seconds spent reading the rest of the text would have revealed that it was not Mr Holland’s words you were lamenting but rather those of his critics.

    It may please you, in some sort of karmic retribution way, to know that this post was carpet-spammed in the last few hours.

    So, I’m curious. How does one qualify as a genuine music critic?

  3. So, I’m curious. How does one qualify as a genuine music critic?

    I take it you mean beyond the prerequisite of knowing more about music than even one’s most informed readers, right?


    Well, the very first thing after that is that a genuine classical music critic never panders to proles or plays to the house. Beyond that, it’s a matter of gift — literary, philosophical, psychological, etc. To get an idea of the gifts required, read the best work of classical music critics such as (and in no special order) Ross, Holland, Rich, Bernheimer, Rothstein, and Porter, to name off the top of my head contemporary classical music critics still writing. Then there are the classic masters such as Shaw, Newman, Downes, and Thomson, not to mention old-time part-timers such as Berlioz and Wagner.

    Well, you get the picture, I’m sure.


  4. Oops:

    My sentence, “Well, the very first thing after that is that a genuine classical music critic never panders to proles or plays to the house,” is incomplete. That sentence should have read: “Well, the very first thing after that is that a genuine classical music critic never panders to proles or plays to the house, and is generally well-informed in all the arts.”


  5. Miss Mussel

    @ACD — thanks…I’ll have a read through some of these when some spare moments present themselves.

    @Bryant — I have now become privy to the brilliance of wood and polyurethane. It’s my favourite sort of metaphor…a little bit random but apt. I referenced mac and cheese in a review this weekend but the rest of it was poorly constructed, so it didn’t go over that well.

  6. philip amos

    The real problem here — I hold no brief for Holland — is that yet another newspaper has chucked serious music criticism (in both senses of that phrase)overboard. A.C. Douglas gives good advice indeed. Andrew Porter’s books — Music of Three Seasons; Music of Three More Seasons; Musical Events: A Chronicle — especially repay examination. He is exemplary, and something of a comfort in a time of sad decline in the quality of music criticism. Something else that will be highly instructive will be coming along in September: Gramophone is putting its entire 85-year archive online, and free at that. I first subscribed to Gramophone in 1960, and a comparison of reviews and review articles from times past with what they offer now will also demonstrate a general decline in the quality of critics, a gentle decline that began about thirty years ago. Much fine and instructive criticism will be found in the archives preceding that, especially from the fifties, sixties and seventies, when reviewers included such luminaries as Edward Greenfield, Deryck Cooke, Mary Berry (one who was still reviewing at the time of her recent death), Joan Chissell, et al. Now owned by some sort of conglomerate, it was independent in those days, had no compromising connections with the big labels, and critics well-qualified, at the least, in music and musicology. These last have been all but expunged from the media.

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