In a response to A O Scott’s new book in defence of criticism, Fiona Maddocks writes about her own practise in today’s Observer.

Here, in part, is what she has to say. It cuts close to the core of the matter. 


fiona maddocks

For many years, I resisted reviewing, feeling ill-equipped to pass judgment. Now I see it’s as much about conveying mood, intention, purpose, joy. Criticism is a form of passionate advocacy.

It’s also about being responsible. Failure to me can be very heaven to someone else. Ask why something didn’t work instead of dishing out blame. Show me someone who sets out to do badly.

The murderous review has its place. It’s a constant temptation, an easier option than a whole bagful of nuance, and great entertainment (except for those at whom it’s aimed). Whether you resort to it often or just once a season will probably reflect your temperament. When the Observer’s Philip French died last year, having written thousands of film reviews, it was his fairness that won unanimous praise.

Recently, I read an article headed “What critics want”. The title struck me as odd. It’s nothing to do with what I want. I have no checklist or expectation, except to engage, on full beam, and report accordingly.

(c) Fiona Maddocks

Conor Walsh, whose sudden death has been announced by his family, had been likened to the young Philip Glass.

A message from Conor’s family:

conor walsh



Conor treated each performance the same way he treated each and every individual whom with he shared company. He never failed to conjure the highest emotion from a melody just as he never but drew the brightest light from all who met him. The absolute dedication, insatiable energy and infallible passion he committed to his music was mirrored in the attention and engagement he gifted to the conversations of those he shared memorable times with, whether on stage in Ballinalough, on the streets of Swinford or, at home in Ballinisland.

Conor was a talented musician, a tireless conversationalist with an intelligent and informed mind, a skilled fisherman, an amazingly caring brother, son and friend, and most of all, a gentleman to all who were fortunate enough to cross his path. Conor’s imprint on music will continue to flow long past his time, and the impression he left on all who knew him is sure to linger in minds and hearts as distinctly as the echo of the notes he leaves behind him. We will all miss Conor dearly, as we try to come to terms with losing a talented artist and an outstanding friend who still had so much to offer.

The family of Conor would like to sincerely thank everyone who has offered their condolences, your support is appreciated very much, and it is a great help at this difficult time.

Reposing from O’Connor’s hotel Swinford from 3pm Monday 14th with removal at 11:30am Tuesday 15th and funeral mass at 12 pm at Swinford church.

The nationalist government is increasing its subsidy to the local version of the Venezuelan music traiining system. Over the last four years Scotland gave £1.5m to music teaching in deprived areas.

Over the next four years it will be £2.5m. More here.

The remedy must be working.


He says Daniel Barenboim showed him how to do this one morning at his house over breakfast.

Lang Lang gave the demonstration on the Swedish-Norwegian TV show “Skavlan” in a long interview. He talks about Daniel Barenboim, his parents and his girlfriend and goes on to play a rather hesitant and unidiomatic tribute to George Martin.

Watch the first half of the interview here. The full thing here.

lang lang hands

The Finnish music blogger Janne Koskinen has spotted an interesting innovation at the Centre de Musique de chambre de Paris. A notice in the programme states:

applaud when you like



Applaud when you like

The 20th century fashion of not applauding between movements is historically absurd. Mozart never imposed silence.

audience applause


Janne tells us that, on Friday night, there was applause between every movement of Mozart’s Clarinet  Quintet and Schumann’s Piano Trio No 1.

The Dutch violinist has decided to have over the hometown festival she founded in 2002 to a young neighbour, Harriet Krijgh.

Harriet Krijgh

The festival has been built around Janine’s friends:  Ian Bostridge, Martin Fröst, Eldar Nebolsin, Boris Brovtsyn, Lawrence Power and more. Expect a new generation.


There is some important news Janine would like share with you.

Janine: “Upcoming festival in June will be the last edition in which I will participate as artistic director of  the festival. I have thought about it  at length, but after thirteen wonderful years it is time to pass the baton to a younger generation. I have realized a dream come true with this festival which I will miss it terribly. The great atmosphere, the adrenalin, the fantastic audiences. But I want to hand over my festival when it’s flourishing. And Harriet is the ideal successor. She comes from Utrecht, she has the same passion for chamber music and she has a large international group of music friends who are eager to come to Utrecht! “


The 24-year-old cellist Harriet Krijgh is the successor designated by Janine Jansen herself. From 2017 Harriet will be the new artistic director of the International Chamber Music Festival Utrecht. Just like Janine Harriet is from Utrecht; she is exactly the same age as Janine when she founded the chamber music festival in 2003, and Harriet is just like Janine in that year, breaking through with dazzling speed as exceptional musician, both in the Netherlands and abroad. In Austria Harriet has built her own festival, “Harriet and Friends’.

During the festive closing concert of upcoming festival on Sunday 3 July Janine and Harriet play together in the Octet by Mendelssohn. Then Janine will literally hand over the baton to Harriet.