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Music critic is sacked over global oboe storm

June 30, 2016 by norman lebrecht

143 comments.


When Wai Kit Leung, a reviewer on MusicWeb International, received a new release by Katherine Needleman, principal oboe of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, he was none too enthusiastic.

Mr Leung, a Hong Kong-based oboist, gave reasons for his disaffection, in minute detail: ‘I wish Ms. Needleman had used the forked F fingering instead of the left F fingering for some of the Fs, because the numerous descending A-F-D sequences are marred by less-than-perfect finger coordination that results in glitches between notes.’ The review, as a whole, was no more than averagely disgruntled.

But what followed was a hate storm of social media messages from the oboe community, attacking the reviewer, his personal status and his business. It has been the talk of the oboe world all month.

A few lone voices piped up in defence of free speech, among them Robert von Bahr, owner of the indepepndent BIS label, who wrote that ‘Mr Leung has written an exemplary review’ and went on to say why.

But when Mr Leung sought support from Len Mullenger, owner of the review site, he was told that MusicWeb ‘cannot cope with the distraction of dealing with numerous incoming e-mails from myself, the artists and artist’s friends’ and that his services would not be required in future.

Music Web went on to post an equivocal comment to the foot of the reviewMusicWeb International acknowledges the controversy created by this review, and the negative comments made therein.  We support our reviewers’ right to be honest in their assessment of a recording, as long as they support their opinions; this has been done very thoroughly here. 

There are two disturbing aspects to this ugly little episode:

1 If, as Mr Leung alleges, Ms Needleman organised an online hate mob, that is reprehensible conduct. Every artist learns to cope with bad reviews. Ms Needleman has been principal in Baltimore since 2003. She’s experienced enough to take a few knocks and bounce back. Slipped Disc invites her response to these events.

2 If Mr Leung was sacked because the website could not bear a swarm of angry oboists, that becomes a credibility issue for Mr Mullenger and an existential one for MusicWeb. They, too, are welcome to respond.

Now go ahead and read the full story from Mr Leung’s standpoint here.

 

katherine needleman


Comments (143)

  1. Maria Kelemen says:

    If an artist is convinced of his /her interpretation to be true to his her convictions than the artist should show his /her integrity by a symbolic and very french shrug of the shoulder.
    By censoring the critic than what happened to the freedom of the press?

    1. Catherine says:

      agreed.

    2. Yani says:

      Critic not censored. Review still on site, easy to Google. Link included. Read the comments below for statements from MusicWeb. Critic won’t stop talking.

      http://musicweb-international.com/classrev/2016/Apr/Oboe_duos_GEN16407.htm

  2. Couperin says:

    The IDRS (International Double Reed Society) is a powerful lobby. Their facebook page alone numbers over 6000 very proactive, international members. They protect their own. Ms. Needleman is a highly regarded member of this group. She is a suberb, well respected player.

    That being said, Mr. Lebrecht, let us take this opportunity to call to your attention to the results of the final round of the 2016 IDRS Gillet-Fox Bassoon Competition which was held yesterday. There were 5 finalists & the event was live streamed internationally to a very enthusiastic audience.

    The winner was the young Italian bassoonist Riccardo Terzo. 2nd place went to NY based bassoonist Nanci Belmont.

    Complete coverage of this event on the IDRS facebook page.

    1. Gerhard says:

      “The IDRS (International Double Reed Society) is a powerful lobby. Their facebook page alone numbers over 6000 very proactive, international members.” I know this organization because I have been a member for many years. Among them are a lot of wonderful people. But eventually I couldn’t help noticing that some their most influential officers behave like schoolyard bullies. “They protect their own.” This sounds to my ears like a euphemism for this behavior. When I realized it I left. Therefore I’m not quite surprised by this story.

      1. Wayne says:

        Double talk, double trouble, double faced, double reeds. And I thought it was dangerous to hang around clarinetists.

    2. Robin Tropper says:

      The IDRS is, by definition, international … it MIGHT be true that Americans are more numerous and active than other countries, but I believe this to be a natural result of population numbers and the fact that the publications are English-language. I personally find that the IDRS does make efforts to be inclusive, they openly ask for submissions from all over the world using the most open-ended tools they have.

  3. Katherine Needleman says:

    I have contacted Mr. Mullenger (you spelled his name wrong) about his quote here just now, because it is simply not true. I celebrate freedom of the press, and never called for the firing of Wai Kit Leung, nor do I know of any of my friends or anyone else who did, as he claims. I frequently share my reviews on my Facebook page, whether they are positive or negative. This review was particularly interesting and amusing to me, as I had never seen one like it before. I do not know of any reviewers who would speak of fingerings, clock a performance with a metronome, or complain about a fingering choice of the performer. I believe it took off on the IDRS Facebook page because many oboists were incensed that one oboist would write such a review about a colleague. We are normally a pretty supportive and lovely community. The IDRS Facebook page administrator deleted the thread mentioned here, and I wish I had saved it, as it spoke for itself.

    1. Wai Kit Leung says:

      Oh really, Ms. Needleman. One of your fans posted on the thread you started on the IDRS Facebook page that he had emailed MusicWeb to ask for my dismissal, and asked others to do the same. Have you forgotten about him so quickly?

      1. Jim says:

        She is not responsible for the actions of others, fans or not.

        1. Wai Kit Leung says:

          Jim, are you sure? If someone slender you, saying that you wanted to do something bad to a mafia mob, and the mob kills you, with the slanderer standing on the sideline doing nothing, is the slenderer responsible?

        2. Wai Kit Leung says:

          She did email MusicWeb the day before I got sacked. Mere coincidence I guess?

          1. Katherine Needleman says:

            This is quite simply a lie. I did not contact MusicWeb until today, and I have never called for Mr. Leung’s firing. Please read the correspondence below regarding his status with MusicWeb. The “activities on Facebook” Mr. Mullenger is referring to have been mostly deleted by the IDRS admin.

            From: “Len Mullenger of MusicWeb” <len
            Subject: Re: Wai Kit Leung's Review of My CD
            Date: June 30, 2016 at 3:42:41 PM EDT
            To: "Katherine Needleman"
            Reply-To: "Len Mullenger of MusicWeb" <len

            We did not say that. Because his activities on Facebook had brought MusicWeb into disrepute I put him on probation and asked him to complete the reviews of the outstanding discs he still held and I would then review the matter. As you know we have not removed the review. It would seem he refused to accept this probation as I have not received those reviews.
            Regards
            Len
            —————————————————
            Len Mullenger
            Founder of MusicWeb International
            http://www.musicweb-international.com
            mobile 07913 999009
            95 Arnold Avenue, Coventry, CV3 5ND UK
            —————————————————

            From: Katherine Needleman
            Sent: Thursday, June 30, 2016 3:45 PM
            To: Len@musicweb-international.com
            Subject: Wai Kit Leung's Review of My CD

            Dear Mr. Mullenger:

            Please allow me to share a quote from Slipped Disc regarding Wai Kit Leung’s review of my CD on your site:

            "But when Mr Leung sought support from Len Mullinger, owner of the review site, he was told that MusicWeb ‘cannot cope with the distraction of dealing with numerous incoming e-mails from myself, the artists and artist’s friends’ and that his services would not be required in future. – See more at: http://slippedisc.com/2016/06/music-critic-is-sacked-over-global-oboe-storm/#comments”

            As I did not contact you, nor am I aware that any of my friends did, I hope you can discredit the quote above. Did you make it? It looks like they spelled your name wrong, too.

            Thank you.

            Sincerely,
            Katherine Needleman

          2. Robert von Bahr says:

            I folowed the whole sorry chain from beginning until it was deleted. I don’t believe that Ms. Needleman asked for Mr. Leung’s dismissal and I agree with “Jim” (so funny that most participants cannot reveal their names!) that she is not responsible for that Woodwindrepair person’s attacks and letters to MusicWeb.

            Having said that, I also couldn’t find any trace of Ms. Needleman trying to hold her minions/the lynch mob back at any stage. She really ought to have tried to rein them in, when things got really ugly.

            She didn’t – not then, not now.

            That speaks volumes for me.

            Robert von Bahr

    2. Steven in Seattle says:

      Macrov is absolutely correct that there is an entire school of reviewing in which comments on tempi, with and without metronome markings, fingerings, and other technical details are commonplace: in early music. Ms. Needleman, do keep playing in the same beautiful way as you do on your CD and with your orchestra–and also read widely. Mr. Leung, I believe you can find a more gracious editor, or at least one with more patience, and you can further enrich your knowledge of different schools of playing–for your own playing, and your future reviewing. We can all do our part to build a more supportive world, whether amongst performing musicians in IDRS, as editors and reviewers in arts publications, or in the greater online community on message boards, social media posts, and threads.

  4. Terry Orcutt says:

    The review seemed very pointed and almost like a personal attack, even though these two didn’t know each other prior. I do vouch for Ms. Needleman that she in no way asked that the reviewer be fired. Her comments were merely a retort to what I deemed a silly, almost worthless review.

    1. MacroV says:

      Personal attack? All in the eye of the beholder, of course, but I didn’t find anything at all to suggest a personal attack. He even called her playing exquisite in a couple places.

  5. Derek says:

    Anyway, it’s a CD by Genuin. Who cares.

  6. Wayne Blackmon says:

    Disgraceful outcome that reviews are now to be only those that pass a plebiscite. If it was an organized claque that took down the reviewer, than this site is forever worthless!

  7. Halldor says:

    How can a reviewer tell from a CD what fingering a performer used? At best, they can have a strong but unconfirmable suspicion.

    1. Wai Kit Leung says:

      Dear Halldor, thanks for raising the question. Certain glitches could only be the result of a particular fingering used, as the alternative fingering is guaranteed to be glitch-free. Only an oboist could tell in this case.

      1. Rodrigo says:

        Not clear. Are you writing a review or giving oboe lessons here?

        1. Bruce says:

          Looks to me like he’s writing a review and incorporating his knowledge of oboe technique.

          (I’m not an oboist. Is he wrong about this?)

          1. Rodrigo says:

            Not “incorporating”, he is telling her what he thinks is a better way to do it. Sounds like an oboe lesson to me.

            This is the Principal Oboe of the Baltimore Symphony. A reviewer in Hong Kong is trying to tell her how to play her instrument. What’s wrong with this picture?

          2. Wai Kit Leung says:

            Rodrigo, there is nothing wrong with an oboist from Hong Kong giving anyone a fingering. I gave an oboe fingering to a principal of the Met Opera orchestra. She didn’t take offence (at least not on the surface). I also have FOUR fingerings to a bassoon professor in the US. He thanked me for it (more than once) and passed them onto his students.

            In any case, back to the subject, I have heard this particular passage played smoothly, I have played it smoothly, it bothered me to hear it not played smoothly, and I wrote it in my review, and explained that the glitch could have been avoided. It was not a piece of detail that anyone at MusicWeb saw fit to remove.

          3. Wayne says:

            Of course someone “lesser” can propound knowledgeable reviews. Silly. What seems to gall people about this flap is that some one published a view, and then supported his view, whereas most reviews these days are no more than “he played real pretty, and I liked it.” I think the thing about this that is fascinating, is he felt he could hear what the performer was doing to get around problems in the score, and then detailed why that approach may not be as good as others. Since most people don’t know what they are hearing anyway, it would be nice if the readers appreciated an intelligent view, even if others liked the performance. Firing the reviewer because a lot of fans are upset is scandalous.

        2. Bruce says:

          I agree it can be infuriating when someone of lesser professional standing points out a flaw in the work of someone who is [most likely] their superior…

          One thing that perplexes me a little here is the utter abdication of the reader’s own capacity for discrimination. Has nobody ever bought a recording because of a bad review? I remember hearing an extremely negative review of this recording http://tinyurl.com/jjte9vq years ago on the radio, and the more things the reviewer listed that he hated about it, the more interested I got. By the time he was finished talking, I had resolved that I needed this CD. (I did buy it, and IMHO it’s wonderful.)

          I can easily imagine someone reading Mr. Leung’s review and deciding to purchase this recording because of his quibbles, not in spite of them.

          1. Bruce says:

            ^ (P.S. I’m pretty sure that reviewer on the radio was a less accomplished conductor than Leonard Bernstein)

        3. John says:

          He was asked a question and he answered it.

      2. David says:

        Did you stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night?

    2. Terry Orcutt says:

      This particular note would be noticeable to an oboist. I think the bigger issue with the review is it was more about the reviewer not liking the American school of oboe playing. More than any other instrument, there’s a HUGE gulf in playing/reed style that makes both demonstrably different. Most American oboists i know would avoid forked f whenever possible because it sounds false and lacks consistent color to those notes around it. I certainly have my issues with European style oboe playing, but I wouldn’t publish a review slamming someone’s CD merely because they have a different school of playing. That’s what was most juvenile about the review to me.

      1. Cigleris says:

        Sadly it happens. I had my debut disc “reviewed” in the American Record Guide and the reviewer (I later found out was a failed clarinettist) didn’t like English players and as such his bias was all over it. He claimed things about my reed/mouthpiece set up that wet clearly untrue because I know my own set up. I was one of many he’d taken a pop at over the years and so best consigned to the don’t bother pile.

        1. Ilio says:

          I find Mr. Hanudel’s reviewing to be rather narrow minded and petty. it’s hard to take anything he writes about clarinet recordings very seriously.

      2. Emil Archambault says:

        Actually, it seems to me that discussion and debate between the schools is healthy and should be welcomed. It would be a problem if Mr Leung were rejecting her work arbitrarily, but he actually here provides evidence of why he thinks one is superior (evenness of the run). The opposing camp is, of course, free to reply with their own arguments.

    3. Hope says:

      Halldor, a musician with a well-trained ear can perceive the differences in sonority resulting from a true fingering and an alternate fingering. The alternate will vent the instrument differently enough to warp the production of the harmonic spectrum. It will necessarily occlude the clarity of the tone and result in a different tuning and color than the normal fingering will yield. The reviewer, in this case, is a trained musician, something which is not always the case with music critics. Because of his training and his familiarity with the oboe specifically, he can hear the fingering.

      1. Gerhard says:

        I fully agree that to a trained player’s ears alternate fingerings are quite discernible. However, I disagree with the distincion between “true” and alternate fingerings. The “true” fingerings are basic only within a certain mechanical system. The forked F for instance is historically the original F on the oboe, because everything else was added later. This doesn’t mean, of course, that therefore this is the “true” F, and everything else is in some way less true. There are plenty more options than a basic fingering chart will tell us, and each of them has its own sound properties. Whether one wants to use them at all for enriching one’s musical possibilities, and if so, how to employ them, are artistic choices every player should be free to make for her- or himself. In any case it should not matter whether some great player of the past has taught it or not.

  8. OhNoItsAnOboe says:

    Seems to me that this reviewer spent more time clocking in the metronome markings than actually listening to the musicality and interpretation. No self-respecting critic would include a critique of the fingering a performer chose. Can you imagine someone writing about Hilary Hahn and saying “I cannot believe she shifted into 3rd position instead of staying in 2nd?” Sounds absurd.

    While it is indeed full of details, they are mostly trivial, and thus in my opinion this review is intellectually superficial at best.

    1. Wai Kit Leung says:

      Trust me, I would NEVER not mention any good musicality.

      Should I simply say sluggish tempo? Or under tempo? Seems like me quantifying the amount of departure from the printed tempo has offended many people.

      I also used words like “exquisite”, “outstanding” etc. 4 times. Too bad no one notices those. Well, at least Genuin did!

      1. Delphine1962 says:

        “Trust me, I would NEVER not mention any good musicality.”

        Well, having read your review, I don’t trust you precisely on that basis, because I don’t think you have- at least in your role of reviewer – an evolved view of what constitutes musicianship ( not “musicality”). This must be is why you seem to think that getting your metranome out and recommending spurious technical advice in print is all about giving an informed review.
        By all means, do that at home, and then try to translate into something more generallly expressive, but don’t, just don’t do it in a review.

        The fact that you then seek to defend yourself by quoting your own adjectives (“exquisite”, “outstanding”) without explaining to me why, only seems to compound your amateurism.

        You may already be aware that there exists a basic maxim in appriasing a performance from an examiner’s perspective, and basically that is: don’t teach; appraise what you hear, and use appropriate and carefully thought-out language to do so ( you may be interested in searching generic assessment criteria for this).

        For a reviewer of a recording, which is – on a specialist level, further removed, you should be aware (although you don’t seem yet to have learned this ) that you need to address a musically informed audience who generally have even less desire to hear a reviewer show off, and have absolutely zero interest in finding out -at second remove -whether a breathing/fingering/bowing/tongueing/striking/plucking etc choice has been adopted or not. I would suggest that you do something very straighforward and interesting, which is to start reading as many reviews as you can, from every medium, but fromm every source, and star to learn that there is a craft there.

        I am sorry to say that – on the basis of your review and the defence you have so far put up for it – you are currenlty completely unsuited to that role and you most certainly should not have been given the position of reviewing on behalf of any professional organisation without appropraiate training – and I hope your editor is reading this. For you to consider that you have been any sort of victim demonstrates your lack of understanding about your own brief and the quality of the musicians you have been given responsibility for appraising. As it is, you have caused damage.

        I believe in reviewers and the art of good criticism and I have never subscribed to the view that a bad review should just be ignored – no senstive artist will ever do that- they may say they do, but they don’t.

        By the same token, a really well-informed, constructive review, which shows knowledge without drawing atention to it – is one of the most valuable things from which an artist can learn. I would encourage you to learn from this reaction from the professional community – they need good reviewers, and I swear that if you can arrive at a nuanced, constructive and even critical appraisal, you will be thanked for it, and not castigated.

      2. Delphine1962 says:

        “Trust me, I would NEVER not mention any good musicality.”

        Well, having read your review, I don’t trust you precisely on that basis, because I don’t think you have – at least in your role of reviewer – an evolved view of what constitutes musicianship ( not “musicality”). This must be is why you seem to think that getting your metronome out and recommending spurious technical advice in print is all about giving an informed review.
        By all means, do that at home, and then try to translate into something more generallly expressive, but don’t, just don’t do it in a review.

        The fact that you then seek to defend yourself by quoting your own adjectives (“exquisite”, “outstanding”) without explaining to me why, only seems to compound your amateurism.

        You may already be aware that there exists a basic maxim in appraising a performance from an examiner’s perspective, and basically that is: don’t teach; appraise what you hear, and use appropriate and carefully thought-out language to do so ( you may be interested in searching generic assessment criteria for this).

        For a reviewer of a recording, which is – on a specialist level, further removed, you should be aware (although you don’t seem yet to have learned this ) that you need to address a musically informed audience who generally have even less desire to hear a reviewer show off, and have absolutely zero interest in finding out – at second remove – whether a breathing/fingering/bowing/tongueing/striking/plucking etc choice has been adopted or not. I would suggest that you do something very straighforward and interesting, which is to start reading as many reviews as you can, from every medium, but from every source, and star to learn that there is a craft there.

        I am sorry to say that – on the basis of your review and the defence you have so far put up for it – you are currently completely unsuited to that role and you most certainly should not have been given the position of reviewing on behalf of any professional organisation without appropriate training – and I hope your editor is reading this. For you to consider that you have been any sort of victim demonstrates your lack of understanding about your own brief and the quality of the musicians you have been given responsibility for appraising. As it is, you have caused damage.

        I believe in reviewers and the art of good criticism and I have never subscribed to the view that a bad review should just be ignored – no senstive artist will ever do that- they may say they do, but they don’t.

        By the same token, a really well-informed, constructive review, which shows knowledge without drawing atention to it – is one of the most valuable things from which an artist can learn. I would encourage you to learn from this reaction from the professional community – they need good reviewers, and I swear that if you can arrive at a nuanced, constructive and even critical appraisal, you will be thanked for it, and not castigated.

        1. Wai Kit Leung says:

          FYI my wifi is down and I have been typing on my phone, and I couldn’t easily copy text from my review to here. If you read it, you will see where I used the adjectives exquisite and outstanding.

          If I were to write in my usual style, the review would have looked something like this. I was not positive it would have gone down well:

          “The tempi chose and plodding and quite a bit slower than the markings given by Poulenc, that coupled with extreme license taken with regard to the rhythm, gives a very affected and distorted reading”

          I would have been taken to task for it, all the same.

        2. Wai Kit Leung says:

          FYI my wifi is down and I have been typing on my phone, and I couldn’t easily copy text from my review to here. If you read it, you will see where I used the adjectives exquisite and outstanding.

          If I were to write in my usual style, the review would have looked something like this. I was not positive it would have gone down well:

          “The tempi chose and plodding and quite a bit slower than the markings given by Poulenc, that coupled with extreme license taken with regard to the rhythm, gives a very disjointed, affected and distorted reading”

          I would have been taken to task for it, all the same.

      3. Conical bore says:

        Yes. Describe your dissatisfaction with the tempi using words not numbers. And they don’t have to be so perjurative, either. Try “relaxed” tempo or “easygoing” or something which describes indirectly that you feel it should go faster. To pull out numbers and clock it on the metronome is infantile.

        I’m an orch. player. Most pieces we play have metronome markings and conductors vary from these all the time. ALL the time. I can’t imagine a reviewer sitting in the audience with a metronome clocking us to see how we compare with the markings.

        Be more elegant in your review. Your criticisms are too “in-your-face”. You sound like a bossy know-it-all trying to show off your own knowledge. If you know so much about fingerings and how Schumann should be played then do it yourself.

        Don’t use a review as a vehicle to grandstand your own knowledge. We are mostly all musicians here. We play instruments well and we write well. Many of us review. And we know that in expressing criticism, esp. of an individual artist, you do it with finesse and grace and tact.

        1. Bruce says:

          Excellent comment. Mr. Leung, if you are still conscious (and conscientious 🙂 ), Mr/Ms Bore has some really good advice on how to write a review that will get your point across without (probably) offending anyone (much).

        2. Cyril Blair says:

          “Try “relaxed” tempo or “easygoing” or something which describes indirectly that you feel it should go faster.”

          Use of those words would not lead me to believe that the reviewer felt the tempo should be faster. Why wouldn’t use of those words just as probably indicate that the reviewer approved of the tempo? You are advocating being so indirect in order to avoid hurt feelings that no reader will quite know what you mean to say.

    2. Conical bore says:

      Word.

    3. MacroV says:

      Yes, I very well could see a reviewer commenting on what fingering positions Hillary Hahn uses, and on other technical aspects of violin playing. Absolutely.

      1. OHNOITSANOBOE says:

        Yet, none ever have. Wonder why.

        1. Violin says:

          Hilary Hahn doesn’t stumble on a simple A-F-D pattern! Is that so tricky to play on the oboe?!

          1. Bruce says:

            Apparently it is.

  9. RICARDO says:

    I have neither heard this CD nor read the review, so I will not comment on either. I do, however, wish to point you towards a new oboe CD that is, in my opinion, absolutely superb: https://lawostore.no/sacd/david-friedemann-strunck-mozart-hvoslef-s%E6verud-13999
    Hope you all like it!

  10. Bruce says:

    I read the review (have not heard the CD). It actually doesn’t seem any more nitpicky to me than many CD reviews I have read from the UK, where critics routinely mention measure numbers, metronome markings, etc.

    The statement above that “oboists with integrity support each other” seems strange. Mr. Leung is expressing his opinion, which is a critic’s job, and backs up his opinion with objective information. Whether he agrees with Ms. Needleman’s choices or not, he always has complimentary things to say about her technique & control. Does integrity require him to give her CD a rave review no matter what he thinks?

    I thought all wind players were aware of the great gulf between different national schools of oboe playing. For Mr. Leung to say “Get this album if you are a fan of the American style of oboe playing” is no more dismissive than saying “buy Maurice Bourgue’s recording if you are a fan of the French style.” The fact that Mr. Leung prefers Borgue’s playing tells any reader all they need to know about his taste in oboe playing, and thus whether they should give Ms. Needleman’s CD a listen.

    In any case, shame on the website and its owner for being “unable” (read: unwilling) to cope with a bunch of e-mails. As anyone with an e-mail account knows, the way to deal with unwanted e-mails is to ignore them. Objections to a review could be answered with a canned “we stand by what we publish / our reviewers’ opinions are their own” response — if they need to be acknowledged at all.

    1. Greg from SF says:

      I agree completely.

  11. Katherine Needleman says:

    The critic was not sacked and I did not communicate with MusicWeb until driven to today. Please find my correspondence with Mr. Mullenger below:

    We did not say that. Because his activities on Facebook had brought MusicWeb into disrepute I put him on probation and asked him to complete the reviews of the outstanding discs he still held and I would then review the matter. As you know we have not removed the review. It would seem he refused to accept this probation as I have not received those reviews.
    Regards
    Len
    —————————————————
    Len Mullenger
    Founder of MusicWeb International
    http://www.musicweb-international.com
    mobile 07913 999009
    95 Arnold Avenue, Coventry, CV3 5ND UK
    —————————————————

    From: Katherine Needleman
    Sent: Thursday, June 30, 2016 3:45 PM
    To: Len@musicweb-international.com
    Subject: Wai Kit Leung’s Review of My CD

    Dear Mr. Mullenger:

    Please allow me to share a quote from Slipped Disc regarding Wai Kit Leung’s review of my CD on your site:

    “But when Mr Leung sought support from Len Mullinger, owner of the review site, he was told that MusicWeb ‘cannot cope with the distraction of dealing with numerous incoming e-mails from myself, the artists and artist’s friends’ and that his services would not be required in future. – See more at: http://slippedisc.com/2016/06/music-critic-is-sacked-over-global-oboe-storm/#comments”

    As I did not contact you, nor am I aware that any of my friends did, I hope you can discredit the quote above. Did you make it? It looks like they spelled your name wrong, too.

    Thank you.

    Sincerely,
    Katherine Needleman

  12. Constantine Kitsopoulos says:

    This discussion is so interesting to me. I’m married to an oboist, my daughter played the oboe and my ex-wife was an oboist (I know, I know, there’s a problem here…). I was invited to conduct at the IDRS convention when it was held in NY a few years ago. The discussion about when to use “forked F” and when not to is one that I’ve heard many times before. It seems to me that when it comes to a review, of a recording or performance, that fingerings are completely irrelevant. I’ll simply steal from former President Clinton’s staff “playbook” and say, “It’s the music stupid”. I’ve had several conversations with living composers about their metronome markings as a part of the process of preparing a performance. All of them have told me that the markings are merely a guide and that they didn’t expect performers to adhere to them strictly (film scores notwithstanding). From what I gather, one of the pieces we’re talking about is the Poulenc Sonata. This is a highly emotional piece and so variations in interpretation are to be expected. Ms. Needleman is an exemplary artist with a long track record and is deserving of a review that provokes the reader to investigate her artistry further. One could start by listening to a Baltimore Symphony recording. If one likes what one hears then the next step might be a track of one of her solo recordings, then perhaps a comparison with another artist’s work.

    1. MacroV says:

      Re: The Poulenc: He pointed out not just a diversion from written tempos, but how when a certain passage occurs twice, marked at the same tempo, she took markedly different tempos. Maybe that’s creative license, maybe carelessness. In either case, it seems fair game to comment on.

      I’m sure that there are tons of reviews, especially of “historically informed” Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven, where reviewers discuss metronome markings, usually to say that a particular recording breaks new ground by following tempos – discovered in a recently-unearthed manuscript, etc. – significantly different than in most performances. Often a selling point of a recording.

      1. Scott Fields says:

        Metronome markings in Haydn?

        1. Bruce says:

          Oh yes, because Haydn left metronome markings for all his pieces.

          I believe what Macrov meant is that reviewers will often check tempi with a metronome and report that “Bruggen takes this movement at a sprightly 96 vs Harnoncourt’s more sedate 72” or whatever.

        2. Steven in Seattle says:

          Obvs, there are no metronome markings in Haydn. However, there were conventions for using one fixed pulse and then doubling, halving, taking it a third, etc. and then relating these to specific tempo indications/categories such as Andante, Allegretto in combination with specific meters. One could argue that a given orchestra in historical time/place incorporated such a system in Haydn symphonies, and then record the music in that way. Also, Haydn wrote music for mechanical clocks/music boxes, and these (always with leeway for contesting the mechanism’s stability!) give us actual tempi from Haydn that we can measure with today’s metronomes.

      2. Constantine Kitsopoulos says:

        I would doubt that any interpretive decisions that Ms. Needleman made were careless. Artists of her stature play their instruments at a very, very high level. This is not simply an issue if technique. In order to become principal oboe if a major symphony orchestra one also delves deeply into the music and the composer’s intentions as well. I wonder if any of Ms. Needleman’s critics would express themselves in the manner that we have read, if they were having a one on one, face to face conversation with her. Not to single anyone out, but the Internet has become a place where anyone can be an “expert”.

  13. Jane says:

    I have read the review and previously bought the CD and have listened to it. The comments in the review are indeed statements of fact. Unfortunately, most of the reviewer’s stated facts are not true facts at all so his comments were not objective and were not well supported. For example, many of the errors in dynamic expression the reviewer sites simply are not present when you listen to the CD. Any one well versed in the English language and its nuances would interpret the reviewer’s last statement of the review as insulting as well. However, it could be the reviewer did not really know how to properly review and does not consider the last statement as insulting because he is unable to express himself in English very well and is an inexperienced and/or uneducated reviewer.

    1. Jane says:

      I should have also added that I loved the CD. Absolutely beautiful playing. I’ve played the oboe myself since I was a child and have listened to many oboe CD’s (European and American), and I’ve also taken many oboe lessons from top level professional players. Her playing is among the best. Great technical proficiency and artistry.

      I don’t know her and have never met her but look forward to buying more of her CD’s.

    2. IsNothingTrueAnymore? says:

      “The comments in the review are indeed statements of fact. Unfortunately, most of the reviewer’s stated facts are not true facts”

      Brilliant!

  14. Richard Schneider says:

    When you’re reviewing artist CDs for a general readership music publication, maybe it’s best to concentrate on sound, style, and musicianship. Leave the technical stuff for the specialized professional publications. What are you accomplishing by submitting a statement like this — ‘I wish Ms. Needleman had used the forked F fingering instead of the left F fingering for some of the Fs, because the numerous descending A-F-D sequences are marred by less-than-perfect finger coordination that results in glitches between notes.’ other than being a needless smart-ass and stirring up a storm for no good reason

  15. herrera says:

    Know what? Next time, NO one is going to review an oboe CD.

    1. Ilio says:

      Because you’ll almost never see an oboe recital review in Gramophone.

      1. Bruce says:

        …and now you’re less likely to see one anywhere else. :-/

  16. herrera says:

    Needleman is probably used to the fawning local reviews in Baltimore, and the protective cocoon of fellow oboists, and evidently she now feels entitled to positive reviews, but welcome to the world, baby, where, yes, there are different audiences with different opinions, even some from bigger and more international and cosmopolitan cities like Hong Kong.

    (Nothing against Baltimore, I love John Waters’s films, and The Wire.)

  17. Patrick says:

    Based on comprehensive SD reporting regarding CD sales, the chances of anyone actually purchasing the subject CD are near zero (at least in the US), so what’s all the fuss about?

    1. Wai Kit Leung says:

      Good question. I guess the artist and her fans/friends wanted to destroy the review and the reviewer because it is not entire positive.

      Funny that the record company, Genuin, who has much more at stake financially, didn’t fear my review and posted an excerpt of it on the official product page, giving my name the full credit.

      1. ASensibleListener says:

        😉 I have to say, it wasn’t the highest quality review in the world, but so was the oboe playing in the cd. Go drink a pint or two and get over it, children!

        1. Jane says:

          Actually, the playing on the CD was of the highest quality in my opinion. I’ve listened to many, many oboe CD’s, and I have played the oboe since a child and had the best teachers. I doubt many commenting on this thread have actually listened to the CD. It’s important to listen to the CD because many of the pointed negative comments the reviewer made were very specific about technique and basic dynamic markings. When you listen to the CD, however, you can easily tell his statements of “fact” were objectively false. Moreover, her interpretation, the speed and phrasing of the pieces, was total artistic license. If you don’t care for her interpretation, that’s understandable, but she played it very, very well.

  18. Wai Kit Leung says:

    Very interesting replies from Ms. Needleman and Mr. Mullenger, and very different from my recollection. More on that later.

    The Facebook activities were all started by Ms. Needleman. She posted two posts on her page and her fan page, followed by at least two more that I knew of, on the IDRS Facebook page and on “Oboists in the World”

    For days I did not reply to or post on those threads at all. Her first two threads are still there. You can see I never posted there.

    If, according to Len Mullenger, I was put into “probation” because my Facebook activities brought MusicWeb into disrepute, does it mean that he put me into “probation” because of activities Ms. Needleman started and her fans/friends engaged in? I was simply not part of the activities.

    Would you then agree that Ms. Needleman and her mob caused my dismissal, according to the story told by Ms. Needleman and Mr. Mullenger?

    And for your info, it was not a probation. It was a dismissal.

    1. Katherine Needleman says:

      I shared Mr. Leung’s review at 9:30AM on May 13, 2016, and have record of four lengthy replies at 11:27 AM on May 13, 2016. Norman, I suggest you contact the IDRS to release the thread in question.

  19. Christine says:

    You were put on probation/fired/whatever because of your hundreds/dozens/whatever of posts on the IDRS Facebook page. Probably you wrote other crazy things elsewhere, too. No professional reviewer would make comments like you did.

  20. Oh Yeah says:

    In any event, this is one CD I will not be buying.

    And it sounds like there are a lot of double-reed players out there who need a new diaper and a nap.

  21. R says:

    I think we all need to step back and take an objective look at this. Why are we letting something so petty dominate the dialogue and news about our community? Something that was initially posted in a lighthearted manner has gotten out of hand. Ms. Needleman did not “sick her dogs” on Mr. Leung, rather, people were quick and perhaps brash in defending a very respected oboist.
    The review was unquestionably inappropriate– can you imagine being told these things in a masterclass setting? That’s what Mr. Leung has posed, and it’s wildly inappropriate for that, let alone an amateur review.
    However, we’ve given him undue attention. This review could’ve just as easily ended up lost in the dark corners of the internet. Part of the conflict is that Mr. Leung has responded to everything so belligerently, clearly intending to egg people on. I mean, he went to Norman Lebrecht with this, the Gossip Girl of the music world. This is unquestionable attention seeking.
    This issue should be dead, so let’s kill it, and we can all happily go back to making reeds.

    1. Wai Kit Leung says:

      I would much rather the review ended up lost in the dark corner.

      I only became belligerent some time after the mob got me fired on 14 May. To shut me down and get me fired over this review is what I consider a violation of press freedom, which is what my complaints is for.

      1. R says:

        Mr. Leung,
        With whatever respect is due, you still have the power to let this die. You can just stop posting. I understand the feeling of needed to defend yourself, or vindicate, but do you feel this is accomplishing anything except dirtying your name?
        May I ask how you intend for this to resolve?

  22. David Osborne says:

    This is the best comments thread ever!

  23. herrera says:

    I never realized that oboists were such drama queens.

    1. Bruce says:

      LOL. You should really get out more. 😀

  24. Harold Emert says:

    Congrats to both the reviewer and oboist …you are Now both internationally better known that If no controversy had erupted …a tempest In an oboe teapot ….how about discussions on important subjects like playing lesser known works for the oboe? Have Just performed the Blauth concertino for oboe and found the Brazilian Work more enjoyable to perform than the overdosed Strauss concerto …and how about Lebrun’s seven concertos for oboe ….? Best wishes to all from Olympic city

  25. david viola says:

    HAHA oboe geeks!

  26. Cyril Blair says:

    Well at least I haven’t seen anyone complain that they “feel unsafe” and their “safe space” was violated, which would happen if this giant spat had broken out over a novelist who got a book review she didn’t like.

    1. Wai Kit Leung says:

      I felt very much unsafe. Someone said “being a passive aggressive individual, he would send me some small size finger cots”. Was I too thin-skinned to feel threatened over that?

  27. Wai Kit Leung says:

    For those of you who suggested I have a bias against the American school of oboe playing, please feel free to read my review on another American oboist and judge for yourself:

    http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2016/May/Modern_tales_CRC3421.htm

    1. Uh-huh says:

      “I also give highest marks for simultaneous excellence in both orchestral and solo repertoire. Except for Heinz Holliger (who quit the orchestra for a solo career after a few years at Basle), most well-known soloists are/were also excellent orchestral musicians — Lothar Koch, Hansjorg Schellenberger, Albrecht Mayer, Manfred Clement, Pierre Pierlot, Jacques Chambon, Maurice Bourgue, Gordon Hunt, Douglas Boyd … the list goes on and on.

      One (retired) English horn player from a top US orchestra gave a masterclass and he played the trills in Handel starting from the main note … all the time …”

      http://test.woodwind.org/oboe/BBoard/read.html?f=10&i=13356&t=13309

    2. Paul Y says:

      I read your review, and along with the Needleman review, My judgement is that while you have no issue with the “American School of Oboe Playing” for “American” compositions, you do not like it for “European” or non-American compositions. Does that suggest a bias? In my view, it does. But you are certainly welcome to that bias.

      1. Wai Kit Leung says:

        Dear Paul,

        With all due respect, Ms. Miller is not known as a very top player in the US (at least not yet), while Mr. de Vries is one of the all-time greats, and certainly the best ever from Holland. The fact that I prefer Mr. de Vries’ recording doesn’t have anything to do with national bias.

        1. Flower Clock says:

          Dear Wai,

          Just read the review you posted above. The closing comment: “Anyone interested in exploring the oboe repertoire should get this album for the American works”

          is nearly identical to the condescending, biased final statement of your review of Ms. Needleman’s cd. “Get this album if you want David Ludwig’s Pleiades or if you are a fan of the American style of oboe playing.”

          You should not be reviewing American oboe cds.

          1. Wai Kit Leung says:

            Dear Flower Clock,

            I swear on my life that I was genuinely trying to help with the promotion of the CD by saying something that would lead readers to buy the CD. I never imagined it would be looked at in a less than positive way.

            You should know it takes a lot of time to write a review. I have to type all the info myself, with the right formatting. I was really trying to help the recording industry.

            No worries now, I won’t be writing reviews on any kind there. So no worries.

        2. Paul Y says:

          To Wai Kit Leung: First, let me state that I believe you should not have lost your job reviewing CDs. I place the blame mostly on your former boss. But I also believe that if you had handled some of your responses differently – in some instances, more professionally (perhaps dispassionately?) -and in other instances, not at all, you’d still have that job.

          As for your comment to my initial response, it’s possible that my perception of your “alleged” bias could be colored by all of the articles/comments read, prior to reading your two reviews. But that said, unfortunately it doesn’t change my opinion. You may very well have no “bias,” but your printed words suggest otherwise to me. Unfortunately, any protestations from you now stating otherwise will not change the general public perception. As previously stated, I have no issue with you, or anyone else having a bias on the style of playing preferred. I am merely offering my opinion of the “bias” issue, based on what I perceived after reading your two reviews.

          1. Wai Kit Leung says:

            Dear Paul,

            I didn’t respond at all, except for a long reply split in 4, explaining my role as a reviewer, until 4 days after I got fired. My firing had nothing to do with my later passionate replying (as a result of me losing my position solely because the mob demanded it). MusicWeb is slandering me. You can check the evidence I provide on the “music critic silenced” Facebook page.

    3. Paul Y says:

      I am not an oboist, nor a professional musician, but I have 35 years of experience in the music retail business and I am a University (US) trained brass player who still performs as an amateur/semi-pro. Based on the two reviews I have read, it seems to me that Wai Kit Leung does have a bias against the “American School of Oboe Playing” when performing European or non-American compositions. But I find nothing wrong with preferring one particular style of playing over another, as long as the reviewer is upfront about his/her position. That’s my two cents on the matter.

      1. Bruce says:

        He’s up front about his bias and and thus enables readers to filter his comments through it. It’s like saying “I view the world through rose-colored lenses, and this piece of paper looks purple to me.” Anyone can figure that the actual color is blue. If the person said “This piece of paper is purple,” then they would be lying or mistaken.

        Mr. Leung is very fair about saying “it’s not the style I like, but this player is very good at it; so if you like this style, you should get this CD.” I have a lot of reasons for not liking the “European style,” but I have no trouble acknowledging that Holliger is/was a master of it.

        1. Paul Y says:

          Bruce: Just to be clear, we are basically in agreement that Mr. Leung is upfront about his preferences/bias in his reviews. I also agree that there is nothing inherently wrong with said bias. Unfortunately, Mr. Leung does not agree in our assessment that the bias exists.

  28. Uh-huh says:

    “It’s a pity that too many oboists / oboe students in the USA are focused on achieving a certain kind of tone, or to play excerpts the same way as their teachers would (which would guarantee success in auditions). Musicology and musicanship have much room for improvement in my opinion.”

    http://test.woodwind.org/oboe/BBoard/read.html?f=10&i=13352&t=13309

    1. Uh-Huh says:

      “Yes I remember the class very well. I guess (Bourgue) just didn’t like rubato/abrupt tempo changes in the Strauss’s opening statement. I too feel awkward when I listen to Richard Woodhams’s recording (with all those rubato), so I guess I had the same interpretation in mind (not the same execution apparently) and agreed with him.”

      http://test.woodwind.org/oboe/BBoard/read.html?f=10&i=3458&t=3274

      “The CD (Woodhams Strauss Concerto) has long been out of print and there is a high demand for it, that’s why it’s hard to find. I had a copy and sold it on Amazon (for a handsome price). Personal I don’t enjoy the performance, but I know many who do.”

      http://test.woodwind.org/oboe/BBoard/read.html?f=10&i=8938&t=8899

  29. Uh-huh says:

    “Playing the oboe is about making music, not about following a cult. A big, big problem I see in North America is that the oboe school is not open to other ideas — anything not American is bad. I understand that playing in the North American style IS the only way to get a job in the USA. But it has more to do with the close-mindedness of the people in the selection process, not with the quality of the players.

    One famous (non-American) player once told me in private that the American school is like a Mafia, anyone who doesn’t follow it gets wiped out. We should probably reflect on that statement.”

    http://test.woodwind.org/oboe/BBoard/read.html?f=10&i=2124&t=2068

    1. Cigleris says:

      The American clarinet school is just as bad if not worse.

    2. Flower Clock says:

      Great detective work, Uh huh. Mr. Leung seriously has a problem with American oboists and you’ve just proved it. Thanks for the evidence!

      1. Anonymous says:

        Even if he has a preference for another school, does it justify the mass attack and getting him fired?
        I notice there are very few American prize winners in International oboe competitions such as Geneva, Munich, Prague etc. Perhaps those judges are just as biased as Mr. Leung? Should we get them fired also?

        1. Flower Clock says:

          Newsflash: There are very few American prizewinners in international competitions on ANY instrument. Competition preparation is not as integral a part of US musical training as it is in Europe, or Asia.

          International oboe competitions are few and far between. American oboists are not placing because they are not even applying. Check the applicant lists. You will see that the majority of candidates on ANY instrument for international competitions are now South Korean or Chinese. Even the number of European candidates is waning. Nothing to do with one school of playing or another.

    3. Gerhard says:

      Since this thread is still alive, even maybe not for the best reasons, I want to get back to this quotation which “Uh-Huh” dug out and posted here, certainly only with the purest intentions. It dates back from 2005 and is an abridged response to a rather long post by someone else, in which this person wrote: “If you are in the USA, find out what a prospective teacher’s lineage is to “the father of American oboe playing”, Marcel Tabateau (sic!). Tabateau not only invented the American long-scrape reed and the American concept of oboe tone, but devised a “system” of musical phrasing which has been studied and spread throughout the world not only by oboists, but other woodwind and brass players, and singers.
      Right now, if you are lucky, you can find a teacher who studied with someone who studied with Tabateau. If a prospective teacher (in the USA)absolutely cannot trace his or her lineage to Tabateau, keep looking.”
      This was apparently the bit which triggered the response of which a part was quoted here. I can see why Mr. Leung’s formulations may not sound overly friendly to American ears, and I most certainly have no intentions to pour any oil into the flames of this unpleasant conflict we are witnessing right now. But I would really like to know how the situation is if one seeks employment as an oboist in an American orchestra.
      The background of my question is that I could witness over several decades the opening of the various national schools of oboe playing in Europe. All these schools used to be fairly separate from each other and watched rather jealously over their respective orchestras to push back foreign influences. This has changed very much, and some people regret this. I don’t because I prefer it very much if a player’s sound can be determined by her or his personal tastes rather than by the requirements of a certain school. In any case, in the meantime at least in continental Europe the differences in sound of specific individual oboe players are more significant than any differences of national schools one could still define. At the same time a musical common ground has evolved which is the basis why it works so beautifully with oboists of different national backgrounds within the same orchestra section. I won’t go into more details for now because this comment is already too long.
      My question to our American oboe colleagues is, to which extent is the traditional Tabuteau style sound still an indispensable requirement for finding employment in an American orchestra today, and which outside influences may have had what impact on the American oboe community. Thank you very much!

      1. Robert Hubbard says:

        I have also noticed over the last 60 years or so, the homogenization of the distinct regional playing styles that were firmly established in the40’s and 50’s to a more overall similar quality in modern playing, although more so in Europe than in the US. I attribute this to the wide dissemination of recordings; where players travelled less and seldom heard playing styles beyond their own area years ago, more soloists (on oboe, at least) travel, and recordings make it possible for everyone to hear many different styles of playing.

        As to the US, this is happening here as well, but at a slower pace, I think due to the Stokowski/Philadelphia influence on American orchestral playing. The reason Tabuteau developed his long scrape reed,(said my teacher, Raymond Dusté, a Tabuteau student) was that Stoki wanted his orchestral sound to be an organ-like blend rather than a mix of distinct sounds. This concept permeated American orchestras, and has made players reluctant to diverge from the darker, blended qualities of the past 50 years…

  30. jaura says:

    I just read the review and I think it is quite nasty and uncalled for. If the critic doesn’t understand that a musical player will take liberties, then she is probably herself not very musical.

  31. Robin Tropper says:

    OK, I am a nobody and my word can certainly be dismissed outright. But I am AMAZED as I re-read the review, then I spend some time reading the comments back-and-forth … on Facebook, someone said “tempest in a teapot” and I tend to agree! How on earth the general public got so inflammed is quite beyond my understanding! And Slipped-Disc moderators: rule #3 says no personal attacks … I have read some here, at least in my opinion.

    Although I am only an amateur oboist, I aim for different expressive goals than this CD renders, so I personally favour European artists – HOWEVER I DO RESPECT the clear “labor of love” that is evident here: I can clearly learn much from this duet. In what remains easily found of Katherine Needleman’s writing on the matter, I find little to cause for concern. No, I do not consider her responsible for the comments by other people (nor for moderating them) because I see no clear evidence of collusive planning (and let’s all be responsible for our own words/actions, please).

    I hardly see any insult to anyone in Mr. Leung’s article, “American style playing” is a common expression in social media, some praise it and others don’t: an honest reviewer should not play to the crowd, one should honestly voice one’s opinion, subjective as it may be. I agree that a strict comparison between a recording and the printed part is elementary, but he did not stop there, he did express his own taste: this is something I find missing in communication these days, we see instead over-dilution of opinion or exagerated “in-your-face” derision. It’s unfortunate, but no crime, that he felt the need to go on the defensive afterward – loosing one’s position can do that.

    What I find amazing is the debacle that came from it. Seriously, this whole ping-pong match helped no one and proved nothing! It makes a mockery of the community classical-music aficionados: I thought appreciating the finer things of life set us above such things. I find it very regrettable if Mr. Leung can no longer contribute as a reviewer: I hope he finds a job with another firm and learns that defense can sometimes backfire. ALSO, I hope Ms. Needleman’s CD and presentations find success on her merits: I hope her supporters show enough trust and admiration for her excellent work to never resort to bickering and back-biting: this is helping no one’s reputation.

  32. Robert Hubbard says:

    I have been a professional oboist for nearly 50 years, and I am amazed at the various directions this discussion has taken: styles of playing, fingering choices, organized opposition to dismiss a reviewer, commentary bordering on slander, metronome markings…

    This is music, folks. A composer writes a cryptic shorthand giving a bare bones outline of an artistic idea for the performer to absorb, ruminate over, and then say, in performance, “This is what I think this piece should be.” Few other performers would completely agree, otherwise there would only be one recording available of any given piece.

    Performance is a fully immersed experience – the music is an entity from beginning to end – and the physical sensation of playing it is the embodiment of the performer’s concept of the work. Choices of tempi, fingerings, phrasing are all expressions of, “It goes like THIS…”

    Whether or not the listener agrees with or enjoys the performance is purely subjective. That’s that’s why they make vanilla and chocolate ice cream.

    The reviewer’s task is to provide a subjective judgement of the performance, and hopefully to give evidence supporting that judgement.

    The readers are free to make their own judgements of the reviewer’s commentary and, hopefully, their experience of the performance.

    I think the flap originated with faulty communication, mistaken assumptions and a rush to take sides on a non-issue. Once again, this is music; a cooperative effort, not a contest.

    1. Dimitri says:

      Yes it was nothing really. Ms. Needleman could have just ignored the review. No one would even pay attention to that! It is a shame that she chose to hunt down Mr. Leung relentlessly.

      1. Spohr says:

        Dmitri, you and (coincidentally!) Mr Leung seem to have the idea that reviewers can go around publishing reviews that go into some black hole of the internet where they’ll never be read by the people you wrote about.

        The 1st person who is going to read and be affected by a review is the person you reviewed.

        And if you’re writing a specialized piece like an oboe review, your primary audience is going to be oboists, most notably friends of the artist. It’s pure ignorance to think they’re going to allow something like that to float around on the internet unnoticed.

        You had the option of not reviewing this cd which would have been a much better choice than what you wrote.

    2. Bruce says:

      It continues to amaze me that people who are completely able & willing to take someone else’s biases into account — or ignore it altogether — in other areas of life, or even in this area, have been unable or unwilling to do so in this case.

      If some political commentator says he’s a fan of Bush II, then you know what to think when he says Trump would make a great American president. If someone else says they’re a fan of Bill Clinton, then you know what to think when they say Trump would make a terrible American president. If someone says he’s a fan of Maurice Bourgue and Heinz Holliger, then you know what to think when — oh. Never mind.

      1. Dimitri says:

        I think the conclusion is, no matter the actual artistic merit of the CD, the critic must sing praise without reservation, or else he will get ganged up, and probably lose his job.

        Mr. Leung already mentioned earlier that he liked John Mack’s recording of the Schumann Romances a lot. I believe Mr. Mack is a leading figure of the American school of oboe playing, and Mr. Leung’s alleged bias didn’t prevent him from enjoying Mr. Mack’s performance. Did Mr. Leung’s alleged bias really affected his review of Ms. Needleman’s album? Who is to say he is not going to criticize any glitches or abrupt tempo changes of European players?

        I have not listened to Ms. Needleman’s album. Are all elements of her playing representing the American oboe school? Please don’t take offence, but do all American players use abrupt tempo changes, very flexible rhythm etc?

        1. Bruce says:

          (a) I’m afraid you’re right. And the results in this case have already demonstrated that the tactic will work.

          (b) No they’re not and no they don’t.

    3. Wai Kit Leung says:

      Yes this huge collective damage could have been totally avoided.

      My review admittedly could have been better written. But when I saw Ms. Needleman’s first post, I told her my review represented my honest opinion, but I would be happy to inquire about the possibility to have it taken offline.

      My offer wasn’t taken and she decided to go on a rampage. From then on it was past the point of no return.

      In the end the entire oboe community (at least those who took part) looked foolish, I became public enemy No.1 and lose my position as a reviewer, and Ms. Needleman doesn’t look very good either.

      There was absolutely no winner and everyone ended up a loser.

  33. Wai Kit Leung says:

    My motive for coming forward with my story was not to debate my proficiency as a reviewer or my preference for oboe schools. The titles of the posts were not chosen by me. I wanted to make sure that press freedom is upheld and not trampled. I stand by my statement that the mob shut me down by emailing MusicWeb asking for my dismissal, absurd as it may sound.

    The responses from Ms. Needleman and from MusicWeb have not been forthright. I realize now I may be fighting a losing battle to reveal the truth. Norman Lebrecht has not published the additional supporting information I sent to him, which makes my situation even worse.

    I have setup a Facebook page called “Music Critic Silenced – Where is Press Freedom?”

    https://www.facebook.com/Music-Critic-Silenced-Where-is-Press-Freedom-159515511132360

    I have uploaded two screenshots of an email I received from Len Mullenger, owner of MusicWeb, showing the relevant bits and detailing his difficulty with the Facebook situation created by Ms. Needleman and his reason for dismissing me. I hope it will stop further debate on whether I have been telling the truth. I invite Ms. Needleman and MusicWeb to respond with an explanation, because this piece of evidence is clearly not in agreement with the stories they have been telling.

    Let’s debate the important issue – press freedom, and forget about oboe playing (for now at least).

    1. Flower Clock says:

      Dude, just get another job. This doesn’t sound like a full time position that they “fired” you from anyway. Sounds like they were paying you per review & there are plenty of places you can find work doing that.

      Look, freedom of the press works both ways. You can say what you want and so can anyone else. If you’re contracted (notice I say “contracted” and not “employed”) by a complany that dismisses you for what other people write about you and to you that is not our problem.

      That is between you and your “employer”. Don’t drag everyone else into it, You can write what you wish, but so can the artist or the artist’s supporters. That’s freedom of speech as most people understand it.

      Your apparent complaint is that this “mob’s” free speech has hurt you professionally. But the artist could say the same about what you did to her.

      Losing your contract or agreement or whatever it is you have with this reviewing service is BETWEEN YOU AND THEM. Complain to THEM. No one here is going to help you. No one here CAN help. You are making a lot of noise and in the process making more enemies than you had in the 1st place. This is between you and the company who contracted you to write the review. Period.

      1. Dimitri says:

        I think the issue is Ms. Needleman has claimed she never contacted MusicWeb, and didn’t know anyone who did, while Mr. Leung’s evidence indicates otherwise. Is that not important for other critics and art administrators to know?

        1. DIMITRI ISNOTREALLYYOURNAME says:

          “Art administrators?” Why is that important? Is that why Mr. Leung contacted the RTE to complain about another artist mentioned in his rant?

  34. Dave (I read the review) says:

    If the review is indeed accurate I would steer clear from the record as it seems as though the performers stray too far from what is written. I’m all for artistic license and supporting your views however the performers make no attempt to do so in their rebuttal. Also who plays wrong notes on recordings? Certainly not someone who values their craft.

    1. Bob (I listened to the disc) says:

      Playing notes from the new edition rather than the old does not constitute devaluation of one’s craft.

      1. Dimitri says:

        Which edition is that? Ms. Lim’s?

  35. Bob (I listened to the disc) says:

    Debating, even disagreeing with a review to the point of contacting the website owner where it appears, does not constitute a violation of press freedom. Suggesting the reviewer gets small sized finger cots (wth) is not threatening. Firing someone because they are a PITA does not constitute a violation of press freedom.

    1. Dimitri says:

      I followed the threads. The crowd called him a fxxxing idiot (original spelling), a dick, a hack and a pest, and other names that I don’t remember. Was that fair game?

      1. Paul Y says:

        Life is not always fair. It’s more about how you deal with it, or in this case, how well you deal with it.

  36. Jack says:

    What a sad and petty little drama. Everyone seems to have an embarrassing amount of guilt in this. Mr Wai Kit Leung wrote a review with zero constructive criticism and artistic sensitivity; and also he clearly has no idea what freedom of the press means. He was dismissed as a reviewer because he obviously feels compelled to reply to every bit of criticism with the passion of a teenager and the assertiveness of someone in the autistic spectrum. Any editor would get rid of a reviewer with such thin-skin and that is not censorship. Miss Katherine Needleman stood by as her fans bullied the reviewer, if she didn’t directly encourage them. And that, in this age of cyber-bullying, is unacceptable. And Mr Len Mullenger clearly lied when he told Miss Needleman that he had not fired Mr Wai Kit Leung, when he actually did – at least according to a screenshot published by the reviewer. They should all be embarrassed. I teach music to children and, even though a part of me knows this isn’t 100% true, I tell them that music is supposed to make us better people. I guess I should be embarrassed too… for lying to my students.

    1. Wai Kit Leung says:

      Dear Jack,

      I did not reply to the crowd like this until after I got fired. I posted one long reply, split in 4, explaining my position, and left. 1 long post, split in 4, posted within 1 minute, over 2 days, that’s it. I did not respond to criticism before I got fired. I got fired the following morning (UK time). Len had no Facebook access. He either made up that fact, or the crowd told him so. Otherwise I do not want to counter any point. Thank you.

  37. Wai Kit Leung says:

    One last post. Everyone please see this. I never took part in the Facebook discussion, before and after I got fired, up until 18 May, except for 4 posts explaining myself. I hope this will end all doubts as to why I got fired. I really, really didn’t want to show this. Many people will look bad. I wish you gave me the option of not posting this:

    https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=160073937743184&id=159515511132360

    1. DIMITRI ISNOTREALLYYOURNAME says:

      You fail to show all the replies, many of which are yours, and avoid posting the majority of the comments, which are in large percentage also yours, and were inappropriate enough to get you fired. Show the whole thread in all its detail.

      1. Wai Kit Leung says:

        Can you tell us what kind of inappropriate replies got me fired? Give us some examples?

        1. Spohr says:

          Oh please stop using the term “fired”. You were not a full time employee. You are a freelancer and you were contracted per review. They’ve decided not to contract you again. That’s not the same as being fired.

      2. Wai Kit Leung says:

        I tried to open the replies, but it turned out that if the replies were not expended when I saved the page, I can’t expend those now. You can try that yourself to check if I am telling the truth.

        As I showed in my screenshots, I was fired on 14 May. You can see the replies were mostly one level and those repliers were not me. I started posting replies to comments on 18 May, when it became clear that was no way back for me. I was very pissed off at losing my job because the mob demanded it and indeed posted many comments. But those were result of my firing, not the cause of my firing. I hope that is clear to everyone.

        1. Ovid says:

          Your “job”??? A number of readers have commented that this wasn’t actually a job.
          It was a per service agreement to write reviews. Period. You weren’t fired because you were never employed by Music Web. Even this Len person has made clear that Music Web is “something we do in our spare time”.

          So stop saying you were “fired”. You were not. They just decided not to contract you in the future.

  38. Frank says:

    Katherine Needleman should be ashamed of her actions. I myself am a professional oboist and witnessed the facebook postings as they happened. While Ms. Needleman is a great player, calling out the author of a review (which by the way, was not really that critical) in public is something even most amateurs would know not to do. She and other oboists stoked the flames and encouraged others to demand the author’s firing or harassment.

    If she had said nothing most people would never even have read the review. Now, she comes off as childish at best.

    Now maybe it wasn’t the greatest review, but I believe it is critically important to protect discourse, positive or negative, in music. If one cannot say something critical without having personal information exposed for harassment, what does that say about the state of free speech?

    1. Robert von Bahr says:

      Hear, hear…

    2. DB says:

      “Personal info exposed for harassment?”
      “Burrowing into private life”?

      Where??? The guy signed his name to the review. All I see is his name and organization named. The stuff the critic has shared on his looney new Facebook page doesn’t seem very bad to me. Just look anywhere else at comments! This is the information age.

      Also I have not yet seen any evidence of the artist “stoking flames” on his site or encouraging his firing. In fact, she says the opposite buried up there in the comments.

      1. Oh Yeah! says:

        Oh yeah no kidding! Burrowing into private life indeed!

        One lowlife dug up stuff the critic said elsewhere over a decade ago and posted them here en mass, out of context. He also dug up the critic’s chit chat on Facebook on critic’s friend’s page, and since the stuff was a bit mild, he added stuff someone else said just to make sure there is something to lynch him on! Another lowlife congratulated him for job well done. Oh yeah!

        I am sure the first lowlife is no way an oboist, because oboists need to make reeds and won’t have that kind of time. Oh yeah!

        Freedom of speech for the lynch mob knows no bound. Oh yeah!

      2. Oh yeah! says:

        Oh yeah! The critic must have said tons of bad things! But wait, I don’t see his name anywhere in the comments.

        Did she not say she never contacted MusicWeb? Who were the artists who emailed MusicWeb? Oh yeah!

  39. Robert von Bahr says:

    Now, here we have a truly negative review. http://blogs.spectator.co.uk/2016/07/karl-jenkins-get-away-crappy-music/

    Compared with this review, which just vomits on Mr. Jenkins’s composership, totally unspecifiedly, Mr. Leung’s review was a model of restraint, also bringing forward some very positive words on Ms. Needleman’s playing, and specified on the critical points to a fault.

    Are we now about to see a deluge of writers, burrowing into Philip Clark’s private life, asking to get him fired, mobbing him on FB and the rest of the Internet, etc?

    I would have thought Mr. Karl Jenkins would hold himself far too good to even start thinking about that, regardless of the qualities of his music (which I have never heard).

    Would that Ms. Needleman and her lynch mob had done the same.

    Robert von Bahr


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