Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Forget me (not)

Squabbles between performers and their critics have entertained onlookers for as long as performers have been critiqued.

Whole books have been written on the subject: Nicolas Slonimsky’s “Lexicon of Musical Invective,” sampling denunciations of acknowledged masterpieces, is probably the best-known. My favorite is a much less widely circulated title, “The Music Monster,” Charles Reid’s biography of the mid-19th-century London music critic James William Davison, who found fault with most every significant composer of his time except Mendelssohn.

The next such book presumably will mention Dejan Lazić, a Croatian-born pianist whose 2010 recital at the Kennedy Center was the subject of a largely negative review by The Washington Post’s Anne Midgette:

In September, Lazić wrote to The Post, asking that the review be removed from its online archives. The review, which the pianist described as “simply over the top in sheer negativity and toxicity” and “in my opinion defamatory,” is one of the top entries shown after a Google search of his name, Lazić wrote:

Midgette’s response:

Especially striking is the pianist’s justification of his request by citing the “right to be forgotten” law enacted last year in the European Union countries. This may the first case of a professional performer asserting this right. (Be careful what you wish for.)

Lazić doesn’t bolster his case by citing the infamous review of Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto by the Viennese critic Eduard Hanslick, excoriating the piece as music that “stinks to the ear.” Pungent as Hanslick’s assessment was, the Tchaikovsky concerto survived and continues to thrive.

Google search results for “Dejan Lazić,” as of this date: (1) “Pianist Dejan Lazić Defends His Takedown Request By Pointing Out That The WaPo Reviewer Is Really Mean” ( and other “in the news” citations; (2) Lazić’s website, whose home page leads with his letter to The Post; (3) Midgette’s 2010 review.

In a search of “Dejan Lazić” on the Bing search engine, the Midgette review is not on the first page. One of the top results, though, is an article by Jay Gabler on the Minnesota Public Radio website titled “Why does pianist Dejan Lazić want to be forgotten?”