It’s that time of the year again, a time of the year I hate, that being time to write the Fall Arts Preview for the newspaper. I even hate the name of it, because it isn’t a preview of the arts in the fall, but a preview of the whole season — you know, through June of next year — that is published in the fall, or, as in most cases including this upcoming one, late summer.
Anyway, what I hate is predicting the future. I have to pick out the top ten classical events (emphasis on Orange County, but including L.A.) from a variety of classical music organizations’ season schedules. How should I know? Maybe they’ll be interesting, maybe they’ll be good, but maybe not. That’s what I’m a music critic for — to go to the concerts and find out.
OK, I get it. I’m the critic, and people feel I’ll have some sort of insight into what might be great in the coming season. I get it. But looking at my top ten picks from last season, I didn’t do that well. Of my ten picks last fall, one turned out in the event to be great, six turned out OK to halfway decent, two sucked fairly big time, and one was canceled. (See my picks from last year here.)
What’s more, in those top ten picks, I missed a number of concerts that turned out to be among the most memorable of the season. (Such as Lionel Bringuier conducting Shostakovich’s Sixth; Louis Lortie performing Chopin’s Etudes; and Long Beach Opera’s one-woman “Diary of Anne Frank”) They were surprises, sure, but isn’t that why we go to concerts? A top ten list gives the impression that what will be best is predictable. It ain’t.
This season, should I pick the Vienna Philharmonic as one of my top ten? (They weren’t so good the last time I heard them.) Should I choose the Kronos Quartet performing a new work by Steve Reich? (Might be wonderful, but we’ll have to see, won’t we? That’s the point.) Similarly, should I recommend Daniel Catan’s “Il Postino” or Magnus Lindberg’s “Graffiti”? A new production of “Lohengrin” with Ben Heppner? The Pacific Symphony performing Philip Glass or Bruckner?
I might add (I think I will) that the ten concerts in the upcoming season that look most promising or interesting (or whatever) to me, probably aren’t going to be the ten concerts that you’d most enjoy, whoever you are. I’d like to see the Xenakis opera at Cal Arts. You probably want to hear Andrea Bocelli in a sports arena somewhere, if statistics are any indication.
Pick your own damn ten concerts is what I say. Criticism — it’s not a shopping service.
OK, as you were.