NY Times wilfully distorts London concert situation

NY Times wilfully distorts London concert situation


norman lebrecht

February 21, 2021

The paper has been accused repeatedly in recent months of negative reporting from the UK. Its latest dispatch on the cancellation of a new concert hall is singularly prejudiced.

The best ‘independent’ quote it can find is from an artists’ agent, whose interests are scarcely the same as the public interest:

‘It’s a further confirmation of the parochialization of British music and the arts,’ said Jasper Parrott, a co-founder of HarrisonParrott, a classical music agency, in a telephone interview. The mood among musicians was low, Parrott said, especially because of changes to the rules governing European tours that came about because of Brexit. 

Oh, really.

The mood among musicians I spoke to outside London was one of widespread satisfaction at the adjustment of a looming imbalance in the nation’s music provision. Within London there was a mood of relief that the wrong hall in the wrong place at the wrong time was not going to be built, and a billion pounds was not about to be wasted. All in all, a good decision.

Just don’t go to the NY Times for balanced reporting of Britain. Or to an agent for an unbiased view.

Read Fiona Maddocks in the Obs for a balanced and informed view.


  • J Barcelo says:

    Most of us don’t go to the NYT for balanced reporting on anything. It was once a respected, reliable and decent newspaper. Now it’s mostly useful for lining the bird cage.

    • A.L. says:

      Some of us rely on the Gray Lady for national, international and political coverage which is where they shine. Classical music? Not so much. So much so that not any longer.

    • Anon says:

      Agree. It was indeed once a very fine newspaper.
      I used to read front page to last page every day, 30 years ago.
      Now I read one article every few weeks.

    • PaulD says:

      I wouldn’t use it for my birds’ cages. It would be an insult to my budgie and my cockatiel. I suppose it could be used to start charcoal up during grilling season, but who knows what kinds of toxins would emanate from it.

    • FrankUSA says:

      Speak for yourself

    • Rogerio says:

      I remind you that there was a BREXIT from America in 1776.
      Never mind the NYT.
      It’s 2021 and time to move along now.

  • CarlD says:

    “Wilfully distorts” is an accusation that requires evidence. In truth, the only argument that could be made is whether or not the article is sufficiently well reported. Methinks Norman 1.) Looks for any reason to criticize the NYT and 2.) is sensitive about anything representing a positive perspective on the now-dead the hall proposal, which he criticized. Now that’s willful distortion.

  • John Borstlap says:

    The whole idea seems indeed to have been a wrong one, celebrating wrongness.

    Here is late Sir Roger Scruton’s take on the idea:


    • buxtehude says:

      Excellent article, thank you.

      That Nouvel monstrosity is so shocking that I’m almost inhibited from writing that this piece applies to Lincoln Center as well, an over-sized bleak and wind-swept collection of wall-flowers dressed in the wrong marble which gives open space a bad name.

      In Manhattan, that’s no mean trick.

    • SVM says:

      Why does everybody moan about the walk through the tunnel (which is not fully enclosed in any case) from Barbican station to the Barbican centre (and, by the way, the council has recently banned most non-electric motor vehicles from using the tunnel, unless they are accessing the loading bays)? There is a far more pleasant route if you take the highwalks instead — when exiting Barbican station, do not exit at street level but keep going up the stairs to the top, cross the bridge, and you will find yourself on a network of pedestrian highwalks above street level that can take you to the Barbican centre without crossing a single road. Navigation may be a bit tricky the first time, but it gets easier with experience.

      Or, one could always go via Moorgate station, from whence navigation to the Barbican centre is much easier (alas, the council has ripped-up the highwalk route from Moorgate, but the street-level route is not that bad).

    • Will Duffay says:

      Scruton talks reactionary nonsense about the architecture of the Royal Festival Hall, which is a lovely, elegant building with a splendid interior. It’s a poor concert hall, but it does at least have the double virtues of an organ and seating for a choir, which the Barbican lacks.

  • Iain says:

    Just one nitpick about the Fiona Maddocks article. She says Simon Rattle is “one of the few recognisable faces of classical music”. I’d say that SR is one of the few recognised faces of classical music.

    As the genre is generally ignored by the TV channels, and by the BBC outside the Proms season in spite of running several orchestras of its own, it’s not really surprising that it has such a low profile. The occasional serious documentary doesn’t remind the viewing public that classical music can form a part of everyday life for “normal” people. It grates with me that football seems to own a slot in the national news regardless of whether there is any actual news. I’m told it’s popular – self fulfilling prophecy? If my memory serves, the death of Neville Marriner was barely reported.

    Classic FM helps a little, but it seems to regard music as relaxing wallpaper, not something worth seeking out in the concert hall.

  • Tiredofitall says:

    Sadly, in this time of a global pandemic, precious little is happening in the performing arts and the media is desperate to create news from a vacuum. The result is a perverse quest to create controversy wherever they can. That impulse is present at the New York Times as well as this site.

    For better or worse, it’s called survival. As we’ve already seen, the dropout rate for arts journalists has been pretty staggering. They’ve not helped themselves.

  • FrankUSA says:

    And why should any one of us believe Norman Lebrecht. This post is all opinion and no facts.

  • Leonardo says:

    Fiona Maddocks? Seriously?

    She who frequently and deliberately misleads the public in her Observer column. She who is financially propped up by every PR-driven campaign out there. She who is so wet for Igor Levit that she can no longer even think objectively. She who refers to you, Norman, as ‘That ridiculous little man’. She who is in bed with every major organisation in the UK business.

    Really? She’s the best you’ve got to recommend for a balanced and informed view?

    You’ve lost the plot, Norman. You sold out. And as your emails show (!), you’re in bed with much of the industry.

    • Alexander Hall says:

      She really is stupid if she doesn’t notice the many non sequiturs and absurdities in her article: arguing that London will do just fine without all the things it has had in the past, and then stating that the same place has to attract major international names. That’s the problem with the post-subbing regime on papers like the Guardian. Never mind spelling and punctuation, it’s the contradictory comments people should be picking up on.

  • True North says:

    When I looked at this page earlier today, there were lots of interesting comments. Now there are only three. What happened?

  • Sue Sonata Form says:

    The New York Times is a discredited, activist rag. Avoid.

    • HugoPreuss says:

      Thanks for the glowing recommendation! Coming from you, this is high praise indeed! And, in fact, I am glad to read the NYT every day. Remember the damning and amazing looong research article on Trump’s post election activities? Of course you do!

    • Larry D. says:

      Tell us your recommended sources of news, oh dear Sue, do! I’m sure they won’t be the least bit “activist”. Lay it all out on the table.

    • NotToneDeaf says:

      What periodical would you recommend instead?

  • Concertgoer says:

    parochialization = good thing

  • di jonson says:

    Fiona Maddox is not an expert either, her opinions on music are parochial and amateur. Jasper Parrott knows what he is talking about, after all agents live in the real world of music, they deal with the day to day, not the idle daydreaming of wannabes…

  • E Rand says:

    Whaaaaaat?? The New York Slimes distorting a story???? Well you could just knock me down with a feather!!!

  • fflambeau says:

    Hasn’t this very website indicated that no new London concert hall was a major factor in Simon Rattle’s decision to work in Munich? Plus, haven’t there been numerous columns here attacking Brexit and its affect on British music?

    • Nik says:

      Yes, Rattle really wanted that hall. And yes, it’s possible that it played a part in his decision to leave, or perhaps his decision to leave finally enabled the official cancellation of a project that was always going to be cancelled.
      None of this means that it was the wrong decision.

  • Stephen Diviani says:

    ‘Just don’t go to the NY Times for balanced reporting of Britain.’ Or the Guardian which also sold the story as an example of post-Brexit philistinism. Anyway, didn’t Simon Rattle want Munich to build a new concert hall & hasn’t that been cancelled?

    • Nik says:

      No, that wasn’t Rattle, that was Janssons. Rattle will benefit of course when he takes over the BRSO, but he had no involvement in the original decision to build a new hall. He was still in Berlin when it was first mooted.
      And no, it hasn’t been cancelled, just delayed. The Bavarian government confirmed last summer that it was going ahead. Actually Munich is getting two new halls, one is the Konzerthaus which will be built from scratch, the other one will be a complete refurbishment of the Gasteig.

  • Ludwig's Van says:

    So naive to consult Jasper Parrott about such matters, as he only views things through the lens of his wallet.

  • John Salter says:

    “Just don’t go to the NY Times for balanced reporting of Britain.”
    Oh really, Norman? And yet a recent NYT opinion piece by Elisabeth Rosenthal heavily criticising the “chaotic vaccination effort” in the United States ended with this paragraph, “In Britain, citizens are notified, according to risk group, when it is their turn to book an appointment. They don’t have to play knock-out-your-neighbor to score one. We shouldn’t either.”
    I long ago gave up expecting balanced reporting in SD…

  • JJC says:

    The NY Times ceased being a newspaper, oh, about 40 years ago.

  • Former David Letterman Fan says:

    LOL! The NY Times has stopped doing journalism for YEARS now! They have ZERO interest in doing ANY kind of journalism, objective or otherwise. They only do activism and propaganda…

  • MacroV says:

    Methinks taking issue with the Times has become a default mechanism at SD and among its readers.

    On about ten key points concerning the now-shelved London hall, you’re probably in agreement with the Times on about eight of them. Your only real points of departure seem to be the popularity of the hall with London musicians. They also stressed the high cost, the impact of Brexit, the role of Sir Simon, etc.. Frankly, when I read the Times article, my reaction was largely “Oh, they’re also covering it;” I hardly noticed the differences with SD.

  • jt says:

    Leading up to the 2016 election, Trump convinced tens of millions of people that the majority of mainstream news outlets are FAKE NEWS! at times honing in on the NYT. People who lost faith in the Times may have missed some incredible, not to mention FREE coronavirus coverage they’ve been doing since last March. If you put down the paper many years ago, maybe try it again. Editors and writers come and go from the company; the paper itself does not have a singular political stance.

    • NotToneDeaf says:

      Thank you, jt. I’m amazed at how many radical right-wingers are on this site – all convinced that legitimate newspapers are “fake news.” I wish they’d go back to their FOX-News watching.

  • Mark (London) says:

    NYT. Times?… Or more likely Trash

  • Tom Phillips says:

    The New York Times is far less negative and biased against Britain and the UK than this blog is against New York and particularly the Met. “Just sayin”….