Friday, February 5, 2010

Editorial Negligence (or Absence) Strikes Again

The headline from the Telegraph Arts feed to my Google Reader immediately attracted my attention:

New York Philharmonic: Barbican, review

However, it was the subtitle that piqued my curiosity:

Gustavo Dudamel lacks the magic touch at the Barbican

I knew that Dudamel's schedule with the Los Angeles Philharmonic would allow him time for guest appearances with other orchestras, but was he really touring Europe with the New York Philharmonic when they had a new conductor of their own?

No, he was not really there. This was just another case where Web-based journalism was suffering from incompetent, if not absent, editorial responsibility. It was probably also a consequence of a first paragraph that said nothing about the primary subject matter but only served to provide context for it. There was a time when one would have expected more from the London Telegraph (my newspaper of choice on my past visits to London, entirely on the basis of its arts reporting rather than its politics). That time is now clearly the distant and barely visible past.

Getting down to details, here is how Ivan Hewett began his review of the New York Philharmonic's Barbican appearance:

Nothing matters more to an American orchestra than finding the right maestro. Chicago recently captured the suave Italian Riccardo Muti, while the LA Phil is cock-a-hoop to have bagged the Venezuelan superstar Gustavo Dudamel.

This seems to have been enough to convince the headline writer that this review would be about Dudamel (and it probably did not help matters any that we had to wait for another two sentences in Hewett's text before learning that Alan Gilbert was conducting the Philharmonic in the performance under review). Of course that theme of lacking "the magic touch" permeated the review itself, turning the whole affair into an attack on Dudamel's "superstar" reputation. It is hard to imagine how one newspaper could have made a bigger mess out of the appearance of a major American symphony orchestra in London.

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