Wednesday, October 19, 2005

positive double negatives

Two local papers published reviews of Saturday's opening night concert of the New World Symphony, and both were quite positive. Lawrence Budmen's Miami Herald review has me scratching my head though, due to lines like this one:
The Immortal Beethoven offered a program of familiar works by that ultimate creative revolutionary. Tilson Thomas's perceptive, intellectually probing performances redefined Beethoven's musical discourse and uncovered sonic layers often obscured in less fastidious, matter-of-fact renditions.
Does the word 'less' modify 'matter-of-fact' as well as 'fastidious'? Is there an insult hiding beneath all these superlatives? No wonder I'm chronically insecure, I can't stop digging negatives out of positives.

Perhaps I'm reading too much into these reviews - I sometimes wonder if they are less about the concert itself and more about the reviewer's skill with adjectives. Nevertheless, it would be hard to not enjoy a line like this one, from Lawrence Johnson's Sun-Sentinel review:
With fleet tempos and precisely observed dynamics, the conductor and New World players put across Beethoven's epic canvas naturally, without special pleading or obtrusive gestures. Not a single bar sounded routine; the dislocating harmonic shifts were aptly jarring and the playing had a coiled intensity and polished gleam, with daunting muscle in reserve.
He makes us sound like less an orchestra than a gang of paramilitary soldiers. I'm pretty sure it wasn't any of my muscle that daunted Mr. Johnson, as I didn't leave all that much in reserve. Still, it's nice to be written about in such glowing (as well as coiled and polished) phrases. Thanks to both Larrys, and to everyone else who attended the concert last Saturday!


patty said...

I have often said that I believe reviewers have a card file of adjectives they love and want to use. They sometimes, at random, pull out a card and work a sentence around it. That's all. I can't figure out any other way to justify the use of some of those adjectives!

I always find the negative in the positive. I think it's part of a "musician type" and I guess I'd rather be that way than to be the other type -- the ones that never think anything is wrong. (For some reason many of those folks are the weakest players. Go figure.)

Enjoying your blog ....

jess said...


i was just reading ure blog. its actually the first ive ever read!!
just wondering what sorta stuff u can put on blogs.