The record reviewer who tells us what the f***’s worth hearing

The record reviewer who tells us what the f***’s worth hearing


norman lebrecht

July 03, 2018

From a current review of the Schubert string quartet in G major:

I love quartets. Four people: two violins (Alex Redington and Jonathan Stone), a viola (Hélène Clément), and a cello (John Myerscough), just playing their fucking guts out. Thousands of combined hours of practice, lessons, sheet music, and sheer fucking agony put into a single hour. The amount of pressure that’s put on these players to perform and practise all in the goal of “perfection”. Then, some asshole critic could listen to it once while taking a shit and say, “Well, the viola seems a bit anachronistically insouciant for my taste.” Huh? What the fuck are you talking about you shitting critic I just made up? The quartet world is a strange world.

Some say Schubert couldn’t hold a candle to Beethoven. Well, Schubert was literally a torchbearer at Beethoven’s funeral, so fuck that noise. Schubert is the bomb. If Beethoven thought this, so can you….

Read on here.

This review has given the Doric String Quartet greater uplift than anything in Gramophone.


Now, why would an absolute genius of a composer, known for his love of dirty fucking sluts, suddenly stop writing a quartet halfway? I feel like the answer is simple but nobody wants to say it. But I will. I think D703 is halfway finished because ….

Go on, you know you want to.


  • Mark says:

    Who knew Gordon Ramsey dabbled in musical criticism ?

  • Pianofortissimo says:

    By enriching the boring world of Classical Music review introducing a vital, pulsating, hammering vocabulary, the reviewer attempts a crossbreeding in music genre reviewing introducing Classical Music to unheard-of possibilities. The next logical step would be revolutionizing the performance tradition. This revitalization of Classical Music reviewing is a definitive proof that Classical Music is not dying, just going a progressive path to the future when there will be no music genres, only absolute, f—–g music! This is surely solid material for a PhD dissertation in Musicology.

  • Robert H Wilkins says:

    Is there any hope for this world????? Maybe not!!!!

  • Sharon says:

    For a number of years now cursing has stopped being cursing and curse words have just become plain adjectives to many if not most people, certainly those under 45 years old.
    However, Pianofortissimo has a point. The field of professional reviewership is dying. This is true of all fields, literature, theater etc as well as music because of all the amateurs, such as myself, reviewing on the internet. Perhaps this reviewer believed that he could get a readership by using curse words which perhaps still have a little more shock value in classical music reviewing than in other fields, such as rock music reviewing.

    • Alistair Hinton says:

      Yes, but isn’t it more of a sign of shortcomings in vacabulary than of a desire to shock? It’s also akin to the kind of thing that I once wrote about the closing of a piece by a well known (and therefore nameless) American minimalist composer in that it signals that he’s run out of a lack of ideas; after all, what has this person actually said in this piece? Time was when a critic’s duty was to inform. The operative word there is not a four-letter one; it’s “was”…

    • Pianofortissimo says:

      My comment was just mockery, of course. The review is simply horrible, reflects an uncivilized mind with an insolent attitude against high culture and classical music. I’m tired of people trying to be more outrageous every day – we can laugh at the review as a parody, but I feel sympathy for the artists who ended up in the fire line.

      That said, it is lamentable that classical music reviews are becoming less and less readable, and most reviewers give the impression that they are ignorant about what they are reviewing.

  • SamsungAgonistes says:

    “Generally, dirty words divert the attention from what you’re trying to get across.” –Lawrence Ferlinghetti

    • Alistair Hinton says:

      …or they reveal that the writer has neither anything useful to say on the subject nor the understanding of it that might otherwise have enable him to do so…

  • Ms.Melody says:

    I think this was just a desire to shock as well as typical childish “testing” behavior.” “Let’s see how far I can push you and get away with it” type of behavior. Offensive, certainly, but also sad.
    Another illustration of how some interpret and pervert the meaning of “freedom”. Doing whatever one wants and disregarding social norms and rules of behavior is not freedom, it is anarchy. Clearly, this critic has never learned the difference.

  • Bruce says:

    Seems to me like the critic does something pretty typical of critics: he (or she) uses a so-called review to launch a diatribe about something only tangentially related to the actual recording.

    For most classical music aficionados, Schubert needs no defending against the charge that he’s not Beethoven and therefore not as good. To be fair, though, it’s a fairly popular perception in the world of casual music-lovers and — as far as Schubert’s name has even reached that far — the general public. This critic is clearly passionate about making that defense. (Or defence, depending on where you’re writing) That’s fine.

    He (or she) doesn’t say anything about Schubert that most music lovers don’t already know, but perhaps we’re not quite the intended audience?

    He also — and this is very, very common with reviews — barely says anything about the recording itself. “It’s really good; you should buy it. And now back to my soap box…”

  • msc says:

    I suspect my acquaintances would say I use far too many expletives, and at least one religious friend has expressed his concern for my soul because of that, but this is ridiculous. I don’t see why NL would think that the shock value was worth giving this fellow publicity.
    Good Lord.

  • Bartok says:

    I fucking love the reviewer. An amateur with passion and humour and who can fucking write. I could definately be inspired by his Album a Day to check out stuff

  • Hilary says:

    At the other extreme we can savour the linguistic richness on display in the 2* review for Norrington’s Mahler5 so it’s not all downhill:

  • Cyril Blair says:

    Thanks for pointing me in the direction of this blog….it’s addictive.

    This is from a review of Hilary Hahn:

    “One of the most difficult pieces for violin ever concocted is “Heinrich Wilhlm Ernst’s Grand Caprice on Schubert’s Der Erlkönig, Op 26 Le roi des aulnes”. Reading over the sheet music doesn’t even make sense. Sure, I understand what it’s trying to say, but what it’s saying is impossible. It would be similar to reading over a recipe one day and it saying, “Step One: Pull a live turkey from your ass while juggling three Danish elves swallowing tiny moons.” Sure, you understand the words but, not only can it not be done, it would be ludicrous to think it could be. At certain points the violin is supposed to play three separate lines at once. But, when Hahn plays this shit, it’s flawless.”

  • Manny says:

    A great example of why critics should be done away with. No one has the right to pick winners and losers at the expense of the losers. Musicians have to pay for all the costs of recording. Significant sales are necessary just to recoup the costs. The worst reviewers I’ve ever read have been those who do recordings, who obsess over stupidly non-musical elements like comparing durations alone of different recordings. It’s the listeners who must decide.

  • barry guerrero says:

    Hey, at least he didn’t say anything stupid about the tall blonde in the quartet (I f______g love her!)