Tuesday, March 30, 2010


The Washington Post's Anne Midgette considers encores, reycles one of Artur Schnabel's better aphorisms – "Applause is a receipt, not a bill" – and wonders whether critics should review them:


Like Midgette and some of her commenters, I recall encores as being highlights of some concerts. As a critic, I dread them. When an artist performs a piece not listed on the program, even if I think I recognize it, I feel obliged to go backstage and ask what it was. (Reviewing, however opinionated, is also reporting; and reporting should traffic in facts, not guesses.)

The backstage detour, as Midgette notes, used to play hell with meeting a tight deadline for submission of a review. While that's no longer a consideration, a post-concert encounter with an artist breaches the wall between onstage performer and offstage person, which I would rather keep intact, at least until I've finished writing the review.

I feel the same way about receptions, Q-and-A sessions and other mingling with artists before and after concerts. I don't avoid them – the artist may say something informative or interesting, and I don't want to seem stand-offish; but I think it's best for performers and critics to keep a certain distance when they are at work.