The Boston Symphony began the new year with a reduced ensemble, brilliantly conducted by the early music specialist Ton Koopman. The orchestra didn’t attempt gut strings or period winds and percussion in any way, but the players responded intuitively to Koopman’s brisk tempi and sprung phrasing, resulting in a satisfyingly vigorous, if not quite revelatory Haydn Symphony No. 98, the last of his first set of Salomon symphonies, followed by Yo-Yo Ma’s exuberant, somewhat exaggerated performance of Haydn’s Cello Concerto in C, a most welcome and impeccably played symphony by C. P. E. Bach, and a very beautiful Schubert “Unfinished,” limpid in texture and phrased with fine taste and feeling. I’ll say more about this in the context of Alan Gilbert’s almost simultaneous concert, which also paired Schubert’s Eighth with a Haydn symphony of an entirely different kind.
…and now I have several items of bad news to report. Absorbed in the intricacies of first-year Latin and stunned by the Karajan Renaissance, I missed a few weeks of music world news. It seems to happen in the spring, whether it is in Atlanta or Minneapolis. Cutting costs right and left, managers in the traditional print media have been busy firing critics once again. Last May the Atlanta Journal-Constitution cut back on arts reviews and eliminated its specifically assigned arts reviewers, the Minneapolis Star Tribune eliminated the position of full-time classical music critic, and New York Magazine fired its illustrious music critic Peter G. Davis. This year it’s the Seattle Times, the LA Weekly, and the New York Times, which ran an article last June about the casualties of the previous spring after the news had done the rounds of various professional journals and blogs, some of which printed letters of protest. This year the toll is even more serious, but so far there hasn’t been much response outside of Musical America and the Music Critics Association of North America Web site. (Click here for their compilation of reports and letters., and here for my own comments, reposted on the Artsblog.) And this year, I doubt we can look forward to an article in the New York Times.