Tips for critics

Music criticism as it should be

The writer and critic Norman Lebrecht described the purpose of critics thus:

"That is why newspapers need critics - to protect readers from the routinely awful and the meretricious rubbish that masquerades as novelty, and to excite them with the blood-rush of the real thing. This is also why people read newspapers - to find a voice they can trust to lead them through the barren wilderness to a kind of promised land."

Quite so ... and that voice dear readers I venture to suggest is to be heard loud and clear from BBC Stoke and Staffordshire, their reviews are never routinely awful and they definitely excite something in us. Although sometimes they lead us down paths we weren't expecting on our way to the promised land, they have a unique style and command of the english language rarely encountered these days.

BBC Stoke and Staffordshire Concert Reviews

Stageband ventures to offer a few tips to budding critics using the following extracts from those reviews that we think many could learn from, so Norman, Tom, Rupert, Ivan, et al, read on and learn just how it should be done. Stageband hastens to add that these reviews really do exist and are reproduced faithfully, word for word.

Say what you mean - be direct


Another week, another astounding young performer.

Last night it was 22-year-old Sergey Khachatryan, a curly-haired streak of nothing from Armenia, ploughing his way through the Beethoven violin concerto as if it had been written for him.

Well - maybe not quite that direct...



Know who´s who

Incidentally, the actual new conductor of the CBSO -- replacing Sakari Oramo, not Simon Rattle -- is Andris Nelsons. Curiously, he´s due in Hanley in couple of weeks, conducting not the CBSO but the BBC Philharmonic. They do get around, don´t they?

They certainly do...


Don´t be afraid of the informal aproach

It´s just like soccer, isn´t it? Well - not in the sense that we´re rubbish at it, obviously.

Our conductors, unlike our soccer-players, are world class.

And 4-3-3 is a tricky time signature too...



Remember - wit is an indispensable asset

It was déjà vu all over again in Hanley last night.

The old ones are the best...

There was a young, vibrant, English conductor with tight curly hair inspiring the bright, lively City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. It was 1988 and Simon Rattle was up there on the podium! Hang on a minute, no -- it was 2007 and that was Robin Ticciati.

Wait - There's more...

I won´t be able to see him when he next performs in Hanley -- conducting Verdi´s Macbeth at the Regent next Wednesday and Saturday. That´s because he´ll be down in the orchestra pit, and I shall be able to see -- and applaud -- only the very top of his curly hair.

Laugh? - I nearly did.!

Be historically aware

Then, Beethoven´s first piano concerto (which, according to the back of my disc, was actually his second. They were published in the wrong order.) This was young man´s Beethoven -- but then, Beethoven was young when he wrote it.


Dvorak´s symphony no. 3 is on November 23 with the CBSO. It´s not that long ago that Dvorak´s fifth was reckoned to be his first -- so the third was minus two, if you see what I mean.


And finally the Camerata gave us Beethoven´s forgotten fourth symphony. I suppose it doesn´t get the outings of the others just because it looks back to the classics rather than breaking new ground like the third or the fifth. Beethoven got 500 gulden for it; the Camerata made us believe Count Franz von Oppersdorff got a bargain.

(Stageband ventures to suggest he was done, but that's another story.....)

Mind your metaphors

Jansen gave a chocolate fondant performance (of the Sibelius concerto)-- crisp on the outside, deep and gooey on the inside, and 90% cocoa solids, where all the flavour is.

That's not what a meta´s for...

"And it was wonderful to watch her and Noseda work off each other."

That's a really dubious metaphor...