Back

Trump times: NPR sacks music host, the New Yorker an iconic artist

July 12, 2018 by norman lebrecht

34 comments.


The broadcaster Garrison Keillor has shouted out in support of his colleague Christopher O’Riley, who has been sacked by Exec Director Gretchen Nielsen as host of the classical show, From the Top. Keillor writes: ‘This was one of the best shows on radio. What a shame. Public radio management seems to be in a KGB mode. I’m grateful I had a career before the curtain fell.’

Over at the New Yorker, meanwhile, illustrator Tom Bachtell writes: ‘ The New Yorker is updating its content and refreshing its look. As of the next issue, a new illustrator will illustrate “Talk of the Town.” I wish her or him the best of luck. I will continue to contribute independently to the magazine, and will also continue to post my work here. My association with The New Yorker is and has been one of the proudest achievements of my life.’

Partner of the late music critic and broadcaster Andrew Patner (pictured), Tom is one of the most distinctive, original and culturally astute practitioners of the art of capturing character in line.

The New Yorker is no longer as we knew it.

 

End of days.

UPDATE: From The Top talks down to us.


Comments (34)

  1. Doug says:

    That’s what happens when you goose step to leftist dogma, particularly identity politics.

    1. AMetFan says:

      WTF does your comment mean? You must get a hobby.

      1. Pianofortissimo says:

        I guess he has one. 🙂

    2. Bunk McNulty says:

      Nothing says Identity Politics like separating non-white nursing babies from their mothers. [redacted]

      1. Sue says:

        “nursing babies”? Nursing mothers, surely.

        1. Bill says:

          Babies also nurse. It means both to feed a baby at the breast and to feed from a breast.

  2. Robert Holmén says:

    NPR had a classical show? Not on my local affiliate.

    I mostly enjoyed “From the Top” (I presume that is “NPR classical show” although it was carried by the non-NPR classical station here) when I caught it but the banter segments with the young artists were always tediously painful.

    A bit too determined to bring out some awkward story to reassure us that the boy performer was a real boy who did real boy things like other real boys.

    1. Linda Volz says:

      The “tedious banter” helps to calm the nerves of these young talented people. Christopher I’m sure wanted them to know, he was there with and for them.

      1. Robert Holmén says:

        If that is the intent, better banter would be better at that.

      2. Zalman says:

        Have you been on radio? Do you know that it has that effect? I think it would be the complete opposite. Playing you have prepared, banter you have not. Having to converse on radio is unnerving, and requires skills and talents classical musicians do not automatically have.

    2. Anton says:

      LOL! “always tediously painful” Right, why don’t you apply to host the show since you’re such an expert on how it could be done better. Oh, that’s right, you’re a talentless twat who somehow thinks his “opinion” actually matters.

  3. MacroV says:

    Trump is surely not a fan of NPR (the American Right generally considers it left-leaning, elitist, etc)., but since Mr. Lebrecht is frequently calling on commenters to substantiate their assertions, I would call on him to substantiate that this has anything to do with Trump or his minions. The show has been on for years and sometimes change is in order.

    Frankly, I agree with one of the commenters who said that the interviews on the show were not very good, though the young musicians generally were excellent.

  4. Caravaggio says:

    Mr. O’Riley lost it long ago when he began playing piano transcriptions of music by ……. Radiohead. Go figure. Maybe he read Alex Ross one time too many. A shame that such a talented pianist squandered his gifts in attempting to pass as “relevant” or postmodern. No wonder he ended up at NPR where surely he was a hipster darling.

    1. nimitta says:

      Wrong on all counts, Caravaggio. Christopher O’Riley hasn’t lost anything, nor squandered any of his gifts, nor attempted to ‘pass’ as anything, nor strived to be hip. O’Riley is a superb musician among whose particular gifts is a magical way with young artists – a talent he has developed quite beautifully along with theirs over the last 20 years. It’s a shame Ms. Nielsen, a newbie, has killed the goose with the proverbial golden eggs.

      O’Riley is a special artist, compelling both as soloist and in collaboration. While his catalogue mostly inclines to the 20th century and beyond, I’ve heard him in memorable performances of Bach, Beethoven, Chopin, Liszt, and Schumann. He is especially fine in Scriabin, for which he’s been long celebrated. In no way have his forays into popular music like Radiohead diminished his command of the classical repertoire, anymore than Richter’s playing Debussy detracted from his Schubert.

      You clearly have an axe to grind, Caravaggio – perhaps you and Doug, above, might want to meet to compare tools.

      1. Christopher O'Riley says:

        Thank you. <3

      2. Michael Comins says:

        +1

      3. barry guerrero says:

        Great. If Mr. O’Riley is such an admirer and strong interpreter of Scriabin, let’s have him do something more high profile to promote a composer who, in my opinion, is one of the least appreciated of the big-name composers ever. Personally, I wasn’t a big fan of the show, but I fully understand than many people were.

        1. nimitta says:

          He’s already done that, Barry – you seem to have missed it.

          O’Riley has decades of Scriabin performance under his belt – I remember hearing him play a ravishing 5th Sonata in 1981! Some 20 years later he released a marvelous, widely praised all-Scriabin recording, Vers la Flamme. He won even more acclaim everywhere he went during his collaboration with the Martha Clarke Dance Company in 1999, performing Scriabin to scenes from Chekhov. (See review links below).

          I’ve loved and played Scriabin since my youth, and I can’t think of any other pianist who’s breathed more life into his piano music over the last two decades than Christopher O’Riley.

          https://www.nytimes.com/1999/09/17/movies/dance-review-chekhov-s-pairs-in-motion.html

          https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/lifestyle/1999/10/22/vers-la-flamme-a-good-match/a5331a93-5bb6-4f3f-be2d-fb79fdb30577/?utm_term=.ddd934bcef97

        2. nimitta says:

          He’s already done that, Barry – you seem to have missed it.

          O’Riley has decades of memorable Scriabin performance under his belt – I recall hearing a thrilling 5th Sonata in 1981! Some 20 years later he released a marvelous, widely praised all-Scriabin recording, Vers la Flamme. He won even more acclaim everywhere he went during his collaboration with the Martha Clarke Dance Company in 1999, performing Scriabin to scenes from Chekhov.

          I’ve loved and played Scriabin since my youth, and I can’t think of any other pianist who’s breathed more life into his piano music over the last two decades than Christopher O’Riley.

          1. Nancy P Barry says:

            And he performed Scriabin for me when I ran Unity Concerts. He is a deeply gifted artist, who decided he’d find another way to express himself. I am all for this creativity!

      4. Drew McManus says:

        +1

      5. Holly Mulcahy says:

        +1

      6. Sue says:

        They might want to meet to compare (you) tools!! Like me, perhaps they’d say ‘a belief in everything is a belief in nothing’. Even mountain ranges have peaks which are harder to climb.

  5. Dennis says:

    And what does any of this have to do with Trump? Nothing, of course; just a shameless clickbait headline.

    1. Sue says:

      Where’s the headline; “Unemployment 3% under Donald Trump”? I wait and wait and wait, but nothing comes…. But, if you’ve GOT a job, what would you care if others needed one? Compassion: sheesh!

  6. Marcus Valdes says:

    I for one loved the kid’s interviews. My children enjoyed this show as well. This is a loss through and through. NPR has screwed up royally here.

    We’ll miss you Chris!

  7. Meg Schlefer says:

    This is an absurd conversation among adults. Chris is brilliant at showcasing kids for other kids. When my daughter first heard FTT around age 11 she was entranced. When she first applied AT 13, she was encouraged to apply again. It was a dream and a wish. It came true the spring of her last year in High School. In the nick of time. Everyone was wonderful to her, but it was Chris who was her gracious and gifted musical collaborator over 3 days of rehearsal, school programs and broadcast. And it was Chris’ words of encouragement that gave her courage and hope for a difficult uphill battle in pursuit of professional singing. So remember, it is not as much about whether any given adult thinks the content banal, it is about what all the other kids and teens who listen (or sit in the audience) think that matters. And they need to know just how real their talented peers may be.

    1. Raymond L. Weaver says:

      Wonderful comment that gets to the heart of why this is a terrible decision.

  8. Drew McManus says:

    Reading the news about the loss of Bachtell was a real blow.

    He’s one of the great illustrators of our time. Regardless how many times he was tasked with illustrating a figure, each one captured a new layer to the subject that enhanced the associated content.

    His latest portrait of Andrew Patner is an outstanding example of his artistry, skill, and creativity.

    I’m privileged to own one of his original works and it will remain one of my most cherished possessions for the rest of my days.

  9. Zalman says:

    Playing Radiohead in classical concerts and venues is completely tasteless. That is how it diminishes the other music. It does not belong. A failure to recognize that totally diminishes the otherwise respectable artist. Caravaggio exhibits classical good taste. Too many musicians these days do not. Rock and roll belongs nowhere near classical music. Period.

    1. Midwest Maestro says:

      Tell that to Emerson, Lake, and Palmer.

    2. Saxon Broken says:

      I really can’t see the difference between Chopin playing Meyerbeer transcriptions, Liszt playing Verdi transcriptions and now contemporary musicians playing Radiohead transcriptions. (Chris Martin plays Messiaen on the piano for fun in his spare time and the music has some interest to it, unlike most popular music). If that is all that got played you would have a point, but as a bit of fun in a longer concert, why not?

  10. Anson says:

    One glaring correction: “NPR” did not sack anyone. From the Top is not produced by NPR, although it is distributed by them. The From the Top non-profit entity produces the show and makes decisions about hiring and firing, NPR has nothing to do with that.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.