Music critic signs off after 63 years

Music critic signs off after 63 years


norman lebrecht

December 29, 2015

The Quebec critic Claude Gingras has written his final column in La Presse today.

Gingras, who is 84, has reported on a rising talent pool among French-Canadians, capped by the outstanding Yannick Nézet-Séguin.

He was an institution, a critic of another age. Here’s his last despatch.

claude gingras-beret-autre-epoque-2003


  • V.Lind says:

    La Presse.

  • jaypee says:

    Claude Gingras was an insult to the music critic profession. His bigotry, his mysogyny and his arrogance were legendary among Montrealer musicians.

    Marc-André Hamelin -no less- once asked him to leave the concert hall or he wouldn’t play. Too bad, Gingras wasn’t there that night…

    • Tan-Trao Phi says:

      “Legendary” and much-loved, -despised, and -feared, in equal measure, and ultimately entertaining for those who weren’t targets of his potentially acerbic and colorful remarks. One aspect of his writing that I think deserves mention is his fearlessness in the face of established prestige and reputation of internationally renowned artists, who may not always have given their best efforts in Montreal.

      • Olaugh Turchev says:

        Indeed, more than once one could disagree with Gingras, however his common sense observations, splashing equally the lesser known and the stars, was a refreshing read in this universe of commercial glorification of the famous.
        If indeed proven, that Hamelin would have felt compelled to make such a fuss suggests Gingras was seeing through his finger moving act better than the fawning legions of peddlers.
        Rather than his last send off, this recent review is pure Gingras.
        He’ll be missed.

        • Melissa Liu says:

          That, is a brutal review. I feel for the young pianist …

          • jaypee says:

            You should have read how he described women or Asian musicians who happened to give a disappointing -according to him- performance.

            As for Hamelin’s request, here’s the report:
            Page C3, top.

            I still remember vividly a recital given by Gidon Kremer and Martha Argerich in the late 1980s with the two Schumann sonatas, the Bartok and the Janacek (quite a program…). The entire review from Gingras was about Kremer (title: “Kremer: Quel violoniste!”). One sentence on Argerich: “[Kremer]a trouvé en Argerich, pianiste souvent fort inégale, la partenaire idéale pour sa délirante aventure.” Yes you read it here: Argerich is a mere accompanist… and is “often uneven”…
            So much for his taste…

            His comments on Jessye Norman’s weight, on how women dressed or on the physical characteristics of Asian musicians are legendary…

            He won’t be missed by the Montreal musical community.

          • Olaugh Turchev says:

            Gingras fell for the paying audience… A rare breed indeed.

          • Tan-Trao Phi says:

            The translation of Jaypee’s quoted excerpt is inaccurate, and should rather read: “[Kremer] had in Argerich, an oft-uneven pianist, an ideal partner for his rapturous adventure,” which is a far cry from labeling Argerich a “mere accompanist” (sic). And that Argerich has been known to be an uneven performer is not a problem of taste.

            Indeed, Gingras has made very disparaging remarks about Asians in the past, which had toned down in his later years – even capable of recognizing artistic merit when it was deserved. And his observations on more superficial elements of a concert are legendary. (However, I have found his critical remarks about unruly and undiscerning audiences fairly accurate.) Loved or hated, I still think he will be missed by his readers.

  • Emil Archambault says:

    A great critic, if one were interested in the dress the soloist was wearing, the size of the names in the programme (he once complained that for a performance with SATB soloists (Missa Solemnis?), the name of the soprano was printed in slightly larger font), why it was unacceptable that the soloist used a score, etc. Music usually occupied 3-4 lines of his reviews, particularly in later years.

  • debussyste says:

    Really, who cares about musical critics ! We don’t need them to make ourselves an opinion. They are a joke apart Berlioz, Schumann and some others who were REAL musicians.

  • Olaugh Turchev says:

    The Musical Toronto blog under the Michael Vincent signature expanded on Gingras retirement, recycling the Hamelin incident as well as a Scott St John quote for good measure. Yawn. Reference is also given to a John Terauds review of the Gingras review of a 2012 event involving the MSO.
    Let’s just say that Gingras kaleidoscope attempt to offer a general feel for the event was much more articulate and informative -the Tetzlaff spin debunked- than the epidermic Tarauds who turned out to be the pot shot king in this occasion.
    The Vincent post at least quotes Gingras “This column marks, for he who signs it, the definitive departure towards retirement. A retirement that he has wished for quite a long time; a retirement that will allow him, finally, to listen to the music that he cherishes so, and to the performers that he holds in high esteem.”
    Wise advice!