March 9-15, 2006
Suite Spot - On Classical
Rottenberg is back, now in the electronic media, with a new online publication, Broad Street Review. "I started it in self-interest; I'm doing it to educate myself. A lot of people write letters to the editor, but most of it is venting, with little insight. Our audience tends to be more doctors than patients, because there is no other media for them."
Broad Street Review will, for now at least, include criticism in the categories of music, opera, dance, art, theater and cross-cultural topics, plus a culling of articles and links from sources of interest to the editor. The musical section is almost exclusively classical, and includes work by writers who have worked with Rottenberg in the past, including Dan Coren and Bernard Jacobson (that esteemed writer, alas, has moved to Washington), but also a good dose of engaging pieces by the retired Inquirer critic, Dan Webster, who is now writing with a flourish and enthusiasm that was rarely evinced in his Inky days.
Which raises an interesting point. The current Inquirer critics, Peter Dobrin and David Patrick Stearns, as representatives of the city's paper of record, have something of a monopoly on musical criticism here (which I must personally admit with all due modesty). In my opinion, their breadth of knowledge and critical acumen are beyond reproach, even if I often disagree with their conclusions. But there is a general sense amongst the music-loving public that they are often too harsh, in particular when it comes to our major institutions such as the orchestra and the opera company. It is Rottenberg's counterintuitive contention, however, that if anything, these two "pull their punches," restrained by their institutionalized positions.
Will his newest battlefield of ideas open up the field? The first batch of reviewswide-ranging, laden with first-person singular construction and frequently provocativeare a bolt of energy, and if nothing else, it is highly entertaining (and yes, edifying) watching the critics have a go at it.