Saturday, September 20, 2008

Cleveland critic off the case

Donald Rosenberg, longtime music critic of The Plain Dealer in Cleveland, has had some less than flattering things to say about the Cleveland Orchestra's music director, Franz Welser-Möst. Rosenberg is hardly alone; and he has been more circumspect than musicians of the London Philharmonic, who in the 1990s nicknamed their then-chief conductor "Frankly Worse than Most."

Rosenberg, however, was critical enough to rile certain Cleveland Orchestra patrons, who apparently know how to get their way with the local paper.

So, Don Rosenberg is no longer reviewing Cleveland Orchestra concerts. That evidently perilous assignment now falls to Zachary Lewis, a shorter-tenured music critic at The Plain Dealer.

I've read, and respect, the writing of both. I'm acquainted with both through our membership in the Music Critics Association of North America. I'm confident that Lewis will be as resistant to pressure as Rosenberg has been.

Their employer deserves no such confidence. This episode invites readers to infer that The Plain Dealer's critics are not free to write unvarnished assessments of the city's cultural institutions, and to wonder what a "review" now amounts to in that paper.

More from the Baltimore Sun's Tim Smith (who suceeded Rosenberg as president of the Music Critics Association):

Update 1: “They’ve taken my career away from me,” Rosenberg says in an interview with The New York Times:

Update 2: Lewis, Rosenberg's replacement, tallies the plusses and minuses of Welser-Möst in a season preview in The Plain Dealer: