Why are classical commenters so bitter?

Why are classical commenters so bitter?


norman lebrecht

May 13, 2022

Chicago Symphony violist Max Raimi writes:

Our Music Director, Maestro Riccardo Muti, often remarks that one factor in the coarsening of our culture is the lack of regard for the arts in our society. He argues that as classical music becomes more and more marginal, it is inevitable that we descend into barbarism.

Certainly, our society seems to be getting nastier all the time. And classical music is increasingly off the radar for the vast majority of the citizenry. But is there really a connection between these two phenomena? Are people who love classical music kinder and more civilized than those who don’t?

A strong counter argument is hard to ignore if you peruse the comments section of slippedisc.com, Norman Lebrecht’s website devoted to classical music. There you will see a number of people who clearly love classical music. Unfortunately, all too many of them are among the nastiest, most mean spirited people I have ever encountered, even on the web.

Norman posted the news that Bae Chen, the daughter of the CSO’s Concertmaster, Robert Chen just won the job of CSO section viola; she will be my newest colleague. The audition could not have been run with a greater concern for eradicating the possibility of bias or nepotism. All rounds, even the finals, were behind a screen, and Robert Chen recused himself from the committee, a rather unusual step for a concertmaster.

I was not there, but the reports from those who were agreed unanimously that Bae played by far the best audition; the vote for her was overwhelming. By no means were all these people particularly close friends of the winner’s father, even if they could have somehow known who was playing behind the screen.

The comments on slippedisc.com were absolutely appalling. Without a shred of evidence, or the vaguest idea how the audition was run, poster after poster insisted that Bae had won the job through nefarious means. More than one invoked the old Daley Chicago Machine, as if this had any remote relevance to what had transpired at the audition. Some of the posters often write nasty things about the CSO and Muti; a few seemed obsessed with these topics.

Bae Chen is a 19 year old girl, a preeminent violist at the Curtis Institute, and highly regarded wherever she plays. More than one musician well acquainted with her playing has remarked that it would have been surprising if she hadn’t won the job, and that the viola section of our orchestra is likely just the first stop on what should be an extraordinary career. Who attacks a 19 year old girl and denigrates her achievements without anything to support one’s claims? Vicious ugly people, that’s who. People whose passionate interest in classical music has utterly failed to ennoble them.

The trouble with promoting classical music as a way to make people better human beings is that we may get even more marginalized when it turns out that this doesn’t seem to be the case. A great classical work is like a joke in a way; either you get it or you don’t. But I would argue it would be a tragic impoverishment of our world if the art form disappeared. Like the Taliban dynamiting those Buddhist statues years ago.

Norman Lebrecht adds:

Max Raimi is absolutely right. There has been a tendency by some commenters on this site to shower anyone who enjoys success at any level with scepticism and insinuations that are unfounded in any factual knowledge. Our moderators try to curb the abuse. Much as I am committed to free speech, if the tendency keeps rising, we may have to shut down certain contributors. Please curb your lack of enthusiasm.


  • Suburban Violist Architect says:

    Well said, Mr. Raimi. I couldn’t agree more.

    • aleph says:

      But this is also what Mr. Raimi said, in a recent post:

      “It was a bitterly divisive time, with some players supporting the new Committee and others not; more than one witness from the era regaled me with stories about fistfights in the alley behind Orchestra Hall from that time.”


      So please Mr. Raimi, spare us your fake nostalgia of a non-existent Eden of civility and high culture that never was, ESPECIALLY not at the Chicago Symphony!

      You guys were as brutish as dockworkers on the Chicago waterfront.

      • John Borstlap says:

        The many stories of players in symphony orchestras, not only in the USA but also in Europe, especially in the garlic belt, who get into physical fights during rehearsels or just before or after concerts, are always carefully suppressed. Brass players banging their instruments on winds or strings, where only the double basses offer some serious defence, are regular happenings, as tuba players forcing their bulb over the heards of their opponents (which is quite dangerous and in many cases requires immediate hospitalization to prevent suffocation of the vitcim). Ask any hospital Emergency Unit personnel and they will say that musicians are the worst. But they also have quite some understanding of the pressures of their higher cultural purpose which requires continuous suppression of their more human drives.

      • guest says:

        Aleph is attacking Mr Raimi for ‘fake nostalgia’. I see nothing of that in what he says.

      • Old Man in the Midwest says:

        Dear Aleph,

        When the CSO performs the music from GLADIATOR with film, I hope to see you at the concert.

  • Nick2 says:

    I could not agree more. There are certain posters here who seem to enjoy the backbiting and frequently uncalled for criticisms of individuals merely because there is a particular bandwagon they wish to climb aboard.

    I also agree with the principle of free speech, but only when that is backed up by the responsibility that should go with free speech. Freedom without responsibility is corrosive and should not be permitted in my view.

    That said, though, I think we all have to accept that in an Internet forum like this, the anonymity of posters actually encourages irresponsible comments and often ‘hate’ speech. The same is true with almost every chat room I have ever encountered. Only when anonymity is abolished might there be a chance of more disciplined and reasoned conversations. But that would probably decimate the posting numbers and consequently create problems in retaining advertisers. So which is more important? The cash in the bank or the integrity of the posts?

    • John Borstlap says:

      Well, as far as I am concerned, I never say something here that is unkind or true without careful consideration of content, evidence and level of intelligence. I would never want to hurt somebody’s feelings unintended.

    • John Borstlap says:

      People often get angry with me, which is a misunderstanding: it’s not me who makes them angry but the things I say.

      • Peter says:

        Perhaps you are half right. If the things that you say (and equally for other posters) make people angry, they also feel angry at the person who created to posting.

        “It wasn’t me that hurt you, it was this knife” isn’t always a convincing distinction.

  • Robert Holmén says:

    As Henry Kissinger is sometimes quoted as saying, “The arguments are so intense precisely because the stakes are so small.”

    But… the comments on SD are moderated? And there’s more than one moderator on patrol?

    It is hard to reconcile that with the visible result.

  • Nathaniel Rosen says:

    Thank you so much, Mr. Raimi.

  • Santipab says:

    19 year old girl? I think he means 19 year old woman.


      Good example of finding fault in ever syllable, Santipab! Let’s argue about every single word anyone says, that way we know we’ve showed everyone how smart and connected we are! Oy vey…

  • Bratsche Brat says:

    A concertmaster recusing himself from an audition committee when his daughter has applied for the job is an “unusual step”? Thanks for telling me all I need to know about Chicago’s hiring standards!

    • Max Raimi says:

      Thanks for proving my point. What I meant is that it is highly unusual to have a string audition without the concertmaster present.

      • Tony Villamotte says:

        Pardon me, Mr. Raimi, but it is NOT highly unusual – and definitely shouldn’t be – that a jury member, concertmaster or not, recuse him/herself if their child (or family member) is auditioning for a position with the parent’s orchestra.

        As a trained musician, I am sure you are aware, I most respectfully submit, that a trained ear can distinguish between players by mannerisms in their style. This applies even more in the case of a parent musician listening to their child play. Every trained musician knows this.

        So please, very prettily so indeed, spare us the holier-than-thou attitude.

        However, since Mr. Chen recused himself, I don’t doubt that the committee’s choice being Ms. Chen was as fair and impartial a decision as is the case with any orchestra’s hiring process.

        • Eric says:

          Continuing to prove Mr Raimi’s point…

        • Sue Sonata Form says:

          This practice would continue with the Vienna Philharmonic, I’m sure, since it has a history of family members in the ranks – or did so when I last looked. I see nothing wrong with that; it’s the continuity of a tradition and sound.

          • Tony Villamotte says:

            I have no problem whatsoever with one or more family members playing in an orchestra.

            Critics of this practice should consider that the classical music world is very small and – though conservatories today produce better musicians than ever before – that classical musicians tend to socialize within their own circles. It is thus nothing unusual that two musicians marry each other.

            Once two musicians are joined, children are likely to result. Often, albeit not universally by a long shot, their children become musicians themselves. They have a marked advantage over classical musicians coming from non-musician families inasmuch as their parents can teach them all the ins and outs of their business from an early age, help them practice efficiently, etc. Due to their exposure to classical music 24/7 from infancy, children of classical musicians often (again, not universally by a long shot) become superior instrumentalists with superior intuition that any orchestra would want to hire.

            All of the above being said, it is absolutely incumbent on orchestras, in particular top-tier orchestras that receive multiple hundreds of applications for every vacant position, that the hiring and subsequent advancement processes are as impartial as possible (it will never be 100% but every percentage point matters). The human resources department should make this a stated policy with the support of the board, issue it in writing and have external supervision from consultants or external impartial observers. Furthermore, all members of a hiring committee, the primary conductor and candidates for a vacant position should submit disclosure forms about their contacts with candidates/hiring committee members and the primary conductor. Finally, family members should never ever sit on an auditioning committee if a child or even a family member is auditioning, nor should those who have had more than perfunctory social contact with the child-applicant.

            In as small and closed an ecosystem as a top classical symphony orchestra is, rumors or feelings of preferment of others, for any reason, is a killer for musician morale and cohesion that constitutes a hostile work environment. For that reason alone all the 500+ applicants and X-number finalists auditioning for a position should receive as fair and impartial a consideration and hearing as the one child of one of the orchestra members as is possible given all other circumstances.

          • Amos says:

            Yes, non-Austrians and women need not apply because clearly the Y chromosome and race inform playing more than training, taste, and intellect. Predictable glorification of the “good old days” when everyone knew their place.

      • Amos says:

        Mr. Raimi,

        I’d like to ask you a question regarding music. Recently, I’ve been watching and listening to performances led by Andres Estrada-Orozco with his former orchestra in Frankfurt. The repertoire was mainly Brahms, Dvorak, Mendelssohn, Schubert and Wagner and in virtually ever case I found the performances extremely well led. Furthermore, if body language is an accurate judge there appeared to be a genuine camaraderie between conductor and orchestra. I gather his concerts with the CSO were reviewed with mixed opinions; the Sibelius, Ives, Strauss were deemed less successful than his Dvorak VC (Hahn) & Tch5th. If you are comfortable doing so I’d appreciate reading your opinion because I find him much more convincing than many of the younger conductors touted to be candidates to lead major orchestras including your own.

    • Ety Guy says:

      It’s unusual because it’s an unusual circumstance. Why infer something corrupt about the orchestra from someone’s choice of phrasing just writing about it?

  • Player says:

    Quite right! The obsessions against Muti and others are ridiculous.

  • Mouse says:

    Max Raimi understood how things work in classical music. If children, especially daughters, just would know what their dads are posting here about Wang, Buniatishvili & Co…

    My learning from SD is to love the music, but keep away from the 50+ grumpy white men casting their verdicts on young musicans (… no “serious” musician, too good looking etc)

    Its not the crisis of classical music… it will exist forever. It’s the crisis of the grumpy white men… they have yet to realize that they are the essential part of the problem…

    • Bone says:

      Racism is only okay in one direction these days

      • True North says:

        Where does all this grievance come from? Share with us how you’ve personally experienced racism.

        • Bone says:

          Reading this or any other left-leaning media these days makes me feel ashamed for all the wonderful things I’ve experienced as a white person. At no time was I ever required to practice, prepare, or otherwise learn how to perform: a card was handed to my parents and they passed it on to me (yeah, they both grew up dirt poor in north Alabama but I’m sure they still benefited).

          • Ainslie says:

            No one has the right to be proud of their birth race or nationality; you can be happy or unhappy about it , but you did nothing to earn it. Likewise, no one should ever feel ashamed of who they are, unless they brought that shame on themselves.

            Better you concerned yourself less about “left-leaning” media and got professional help.

        • Sue Sonata Form says:

          It’s not those who’ve ‘personally experienced’ racism who the censors. Just saying…

          • Amos says:

            Just saying “who are the censors”. No, just those looking back to the glories of segregation and demanding that staying in the closet is required to avoid abuse..

    • Curvy Honk Glove says:

      Don’t you mean grumpy white men who voted for tRump? I couldn’t agree more. They’re the real problem here. The world would be much more civil and peaceful place without them.

    • DMW says:

      I guess you missed the point of the article: it laments the commenters who indulge in nasty, ad hominem attacks.

      • Kathleen E King says:

        Excuse me? Trump is the source in space and time where all the “nasty ad hominem” commentary began. History and truth simply “are” and he and his started the “trend.” We can hope to correct ourselves, but denying truth and falsifying it won’t do that.

    • Adrienne says:

      You think this is bad? Try 25- grumpy black men (like my nephew) who follow rap if you want real venom and bile.

    • Genius Repairman says:

      Being white and over fifty does not automatically make someone grumpy. There are trolls in every generation and ethnicity. There is no excuse for being a %Г¤៛´´§€*!

      • Mouse says:

        Absolutely agree. And I would be happy to learn that posts about Yuja Wang’s impossible dresses, Teodor Currentzis trouser and haircut and Peter Gelb’s MET managment are actually predominatly coming from a younger audience or different gender/ethnicity than I believe.

        To me, the relentless debate about who should be considered the first musician, what dress is appropriate for a woman to wear on stage, what recording is best is, above all, a very masculine trait to me. I find this rather boring.

    • Dan says:

      Who you callin “grumpy”?

    • Tony Villamotte says:

      Mr. Mouse, are you implying that there are no 50+ grumpy men who like classical music who are black or latino or asian?

      • Mouse says:

        No, there are. And there are certainly some talented young women who regularly get passionately angry about Yuja Wang’s dresses and post about it.

  • MPMcGrath says:

    Very interesting observations – and valid. It is not surprising, however, given the way anonymous commentary is going all over the world. Symptoms of a greater problem with the internet, anonymity, and society in general?!
    The reminder from Mr Lebrecht to commenters on his site to exercise greater civility, restraint and humanity is appropriate and accepted.

  • N/A says:

    Your headlines do often encourage the nasty few, Norman! Might be worth thinking about that.

  • Amos says:

    My only disagreement is limiting the degradation of discourse to comments regarding classical music. In the last week, a person running for a prominent political position in Georgia indicated that the current President of the United States was not only illegitimately elected but also a pedophile. I find a direct correlation between the lack of a filter in public discourse with the rise of trump.

    • Bone says:

      Don’t worry: msm and tech giants – along with the shiny new “mini info” dept created by the drooler in chief – is doing a fine job filtering certain modes of discourse. Hopefully, you find the peaceful and hazard-free public discourse on such fine purveyors of politeness as FB, TikTok, WaPo, MSNBC, Twitter, etc.

      • Amos says:

        Subverting democracy, running a phony charity and university, accosting woman because they say no and separating children from their parents should never become the norm or acceptable. The rest of your comments are the usual word salad of nonsense and crap. Your dog deserves better.

        • Bone says:

          Well, he does have his momma to care for him so he is only 1/2 miserable.
          Your fella in the big house and his cackling sidekick are fine representatives for you, I imagine. Stay happy!

          • Amos says:

            Keep watching Taxi Driver and pretending that Travis is speaking to you and then come upstairs for your favorite meatloaf dinner. Best!

      • Sue Sonata Form says:

        Elon Musk!!

  • Kenneth Berv says:

    Ennobling? Indeed, for some. For others, it has been used to confirm
    arrogant superiority: wltness The Third Reich. Depends what you start with…

  • Stereo says:

    She sounds a great player. Every success to her now and in the future.

  • Chicagorat says:

    Mr. Raimi, in the first place, and I speak only for myself and not other commentators, it should be remarked that to speak of people whose “passionate interest in classical music has utterly failed to ennoble them” is a self-referential and deeply arrogant statement. There is more nobility in one single nurse on the front line battling COVID, that in many hundreds of pompous classical musicians combined. Hitler used to be a Wagner fanatic, and there you have it. Classical music does not ennoble people. Their values, and their choices based on values, do.

    In the next place, the fact that “Robert Chen recused himself from the committee, a rather unusual step for a concertmaster” is brought forth as an action that we should all admire in awe, shows how tone deaf and detached from the real world classical musicians are. Bea is an excellent and talented viola player, I heard her play and I can subscribe to that notion, but the stain of nepotism cannot be erased from this situation, no matter how hard you look at it, and how many screens you put in front of her when she plays. I used a strong word to describe Chen’s relationship with Muti. What I meant to say is that I found his behaviors over the years, viz a viz Muti, adulatory and servile, in the hope of gaining advantages.

    But getting to the crux of the issue, and I said it many times, Muti should not give anyone lectures. He has nor the credibility, nor the character to give anyone lectures. He is a deeply unethical man. If members of society behaved like him, society would be barbaric.

    Muti is a public figure, a man that was even considered for the Italian presidency and for senatorship. Therefore, much more leeway is allowed in speaking about him, than in speaking about a viola player, and this website has allowed this leeway. Now here comes the dilemma for me: I cannot publish specific, tangible evidence on this site, because evidence and specific accusations cannot be anonymous, per SD policy. If I want to bring forth my specific accusations on a website such as this one, I have to sign them. At that point, I would set myself up against the wrath of one of the most powerful and vindictive men in classical music, and I would certainly be ostracized and lose my job. If SD decides to change its policy and allow me to publish tangible evidence, while remaining anonymous to protect myself and my family, rest assured that I will.

    So I am constrained to resort to polemic, and I choose to tell as much truth as I am allowed to. But make no mistake, besides polemic exaggerations about the decadence of the CSO, I have only told the truth about Muti’s behaviors.

    Tyrants always rely on censorship to protect themselves. Censorship is the only thing that can stop me from telling the truth, and what to censor is this site’s decision only. It is not your decision, certainly not Muti’s decision, and I will make peace with whatever Mr. Lebrecht decides based on his judgement. I can commit to self-regulate more and temper the flame of my polemic when strong words are used, but I will never stop telling the truth about Muti and the ethics of the CSO leaders covering up for him, until I can.

    • CSOA Insider says:

      Muti’s conduct is ground for firing. Pure and simple. To draw a parallel, CEOs of corporations who have behaved exactly like him, and have been caught, have been fired. Yet Muti is still where he is.

      I have submitted complaints to leaders with fiduciary responsibilities, and they have been ignored. The organization is aware of Muti’s conduct from other whistleblowers beside myself (I know this for a fact), and they have deliberately chosen to allow him to act in ways that would not be tolerated anywhere else.

      The CSO needs to raise its standards. They should not worry about the citizenry being ennobled. They need to raise from their own barbarism and catch up with the rest of society, which has already gotten there.

      • MB says:

        I agree with you. I don’t think much evidence is needed for the purpose of understanding, careful readers who don’t have their heads in the sand know perfectly well what chicagorat and others have been talking about. The insiders understand it. Well, yes, I am in my early 70s, and I know that Muti acted in the same way in Philly throughout the eighties, in Milan, in Rome. You name it. He left the same “mark” (or should we say stain) everywhere. But, the fact that what could fly in Philly and Milan in the early eighties, can fly undisturbed now in Chicago in 2022 is quite shocking and entirely the responsibility of the President of the CSO, Jeff Alexander, and the Board, I agree with you.

      • Lothario Hunter says:

        Hold on, sport. You haven’t been reading the chatter memo. The big man from the North/Northwestern has come downtown to have “the talk” with Muti. Or so they say. You should like to give it some time.

    • alexy says:

      In your first paragraph you already get a nice Godwin point. According to Godwin’s law this makes the rest of your text irrelevant.

      • Bone says:

        Godwin himself has refuted your assertion that invoking “Godwin’s Law” is the end of a conversation. But don’t tell the libs – nazi accusations (and lack of DEI subservience / recognition of mythical white privilege) are one of their best mix drops.

    • Del-boy says:

      Sorry to be last to the Party (as usual) but what on earth are people hinting at here? Confused…..

      Or is this a “Well….I could tell you, but I’m not going to.”

    • John Borstlap says:

      “Classical music does not ennoble people. Their values, and their choices based on values, do.”

      The way classical music can (!) ennoble people is indirect, to influence the deeper layers of their psyche. If listeners either don’t have those layers or don’t have the capacity to hear the meaning of the music, it is not the fault of the music if they are not ennobled.

      If a crank doesn’t understand a novel, that does not mean the novel is badly written. It is always classical music which is accused of contributing to crimes, but never literature, poetry, painting, architecture, gardening, crossword puzzles, embroidering etc. etc. – It seems there is some kind of deep resentment with lots of people towards classical music that inspires them to make such ridiculous inferences. Oh sorry, following Norman’s instructions, I mean: that seem to draw conclusions which are less evidence-based than we would have preferred.

    • Max Raimi says:

      I would respond to your first paragraph, Mr. Rat, if I had any idea what it has to do with what I wrote. I’m not sure you grasped my point. As for the second paragraph, reading comprehension again seems to have failed you. I made no suggestion that Mr. Chen’s recusal was “an action that we should all admire in awe” (parenthetically; “admire in awe” is a bit redundant and awkward, don’t you think?). I merely pointed out that it is unusual for the Concertmaster not to be at a string audition, but was appropriate in this instance.

      Re Muti: If, for whatever reason, you can’t back up your charges with the smoking guns you assure us are available (which, curiously, nobody else seems aware of, except “CSOA Insider”, assuming that isn’t just a second screen name you utilize), then your charges amount to empty accusations, and grow tiresome. It does seem strange that in this #MeToo era of powerful men in all walks of life being called to account, there have been no reported accusations against Muti.

      The crux of your charge of nepotism, I guess, goes more or less like this: 1: Robert Chen is servile in his dealings with Muti, a bootlicker. 2: Muti wants to do something nice for his lapdog. 3: As a result, Muti somehow got Chen’s daughter into the orchestra.

      I have sat on perhaps scores of audition committees in my time in the CSO, and I honestly don’t know how Muti could manage to get a candidate into the orchestra if the Committee failed to give them the necessary votes, even if said candidate were the child of someone so subservient to Muti that he wished to do so.

      CSO policy requires that the musicians on the audition committee sit far apart, and no talking is allowed while the candidates are playing. A representative of the Members’ Committee is on hand to enforce this, and in my experience they take this job quite seriously. Each member of the committee has a 3X5 file card for each candidate, with the candidate’s number on one side The proctor from behind the screen, announces “Candidate #15 will play now.” Or whatever number candidate is up–no names are given. On the back of the card, each committee member writes either “yes” or “no”. After each round of candidates, typically six at a time, we put our cards on a folding table, number side up, vote side down to ensure that the vote is anonymous. Muti is always in the front of the hall while the candidates are playing, right behind the screen when, as in this case, the final auditions are screened. He has no way to communicate with the musicians behind him, and no way of knowing how they voted.

      Interestingly, Muti has on a couple of occasions that I recall expressed the view that his preferred candidates did not get enough votes, so could not be considered for the job. But on these occasions he has signed off on one of the candidates who did get enough votes, and in my experience they have worked out quite well for us.

      Bae Chen got more than enough votes from the Committee without a word from Muti. She earned a valued and prestigious position, and it is contemptible for you to make preposterous accusations that denigrate this achievement. That so many on this site approved of this comment proves the thesis of my statement here.

      • laura says:

        Sir, you are the tiresome one. How many letters do you want to write? Some people don’t agree with you. Just deal with it.

    • Mike says:

      To protect myself and my family… are you now playing “make believe” Mafia games. I really doubt that the Maestro will even give a second’s thought about anything you might say. You are full of yourself.

    • MB says:

      I could not agree more. Max Raimi would like us all prone, waiting to be made noble by Muti and his orchestra.

      No, thank you, I don’t need or want your “nobility”.

    • Gregory says:

      You have not exaggerated in your sometimes dissonant rants (do rats rant?) about the CSO quality. They have become a very mediocre orchestra, and they only have Muti to thank, and themselves to blame. I don’t know anything about Muti behaviors but he turned pretty pathetic as a conductor and devoid of energy and tension. His music making does not communicate anything. His speeches, whether or not Putin is mixed in, are embarrassing and just don’t have anything to say except repeating the same circular arguments (“I am the artist, the world is evil without me”). I stopped going to their concerts even before the virus hit.

  • Una says:

    This is a wonderful letter ad not before time. So much hatred and cynicism from a quantity of mean spirited people on this site who think they know over and above those actually talented enough to be doing the job of performing on all different levels. Why do these people think it is smart to snipe from their armchairs and endless CD collections? Horrible!

    • Mouse says:

      “Why do these people think it is smart to snipe from their armchairs and endless CD collections”

      Because they are 50+ grumpy white male (in the vast majority). The same category as stamp collectors or model train builders. Women simply move on rather than endlessly discussing if H0 is the right track size.
      In a positive sense: men like to be experts. However, the older they get the more they lose the ability to change perspective. They post stuff here they would be embarassed to show to their own families, they praise icons of the past taking into account these artists got beaten as child, were force to deny their sexuality etc. Hey, it’s “for the art”.

      It is conforting to know that classical music is now everywhere to find, in films, on streaming platforms etc. and actually gate keepers like snobbish shop owners became completely irrelevant.

      • IC225 says:

        Kindly eave model rail enthusiasts out of it. I speak from experience: they’re a million times nicer, more creative, more open-minded and tolerant than classical music nerds. And many of them are women. Do better, please; you won’t solve classical music’s issues by subjecting other, unrelated, subcultures to reductive and outdated stereotypes.

      • James says:

        You’ve hit the trifecta! Your comment is ageist, racist, and sexist. Congratulations.

      • Bone says:

        Your generalization of women “moving on” from a challenging conversation had not been my experience: rather, the “bulldog” approach seems more what I hear and see.

      • Tony Villamotte says:

        I need to add a PS to my comment to one of your earlier posts: Are you saying there are no 50+ grumpy women of all races who collect stamps and build model trains that listen to classical music? Pray tell what research you base your contentions on. Don’t tell me the research is “my opinion” or “based on my extensive, lifelong experience” if you wish to retain any credibility.

        • Sue Sonata Form says:

          I’m an over 50 white woman who loves plane-spotting and who admires the technology which landed on (yes, pun deliberate) the incredible A380. It’s as great an object as the Guarneri or the Stradivarius, IMO.

  • Curvy Honk Glove says:

    I guess first world problems are still problems. Since it’s such a trauma for ya’, Maxi, I’ll go ahead and call the whaaambulance so you can let them know where the bad people hurt your feelings.

    • Max Raimi says:

      Thanks for proving my point.

      • Curvy Honk Glove says:

        What are ya’ gonna do about it? Author another long-winded screed about how meanies on the interwebs hurt your precious fee-fees?

      • Sue Sonata Form says:

        I read your letter, sir, and was convinced. But one thing I’ll say as to whether the lack of classical music is responsible or not for the general debasement of the society; the morality/ethics of a society runs vertically through ALL the classes and not just horizontally through one. So it also is when those morals and ethics are lacking.

  • Gerald says:

    Maybe many of us are just old and cranky.

    • John Borstlap says:

      Maybe you are, I’m certainly not (in spite of my PA shaking her head in deep sorrow).

    • Henry williams says:

      Many of the old retired people do nothing all day. Except eat and sleep. No hobbies.
      That is why they are grumpy.

      • Sue Sonata Form says:

        I’m only grumpy when people use nefarious reasons to eat away at my asset base!!!

        Now, get on with your meals (Basil Fawlty).

        • Henry williams says:

          Not only are some retired people grumpy.they are wealthy and are mean.
          They have no family or friends they do not
          Make a will. So in the uk their money
          Goes to the government

    • Bone says:

      And male and white (see above commenter “Mouse”).
      Remember, kids, stereotypes are BAD and RACIST – unless about white people.

  • Pianofortissimo says:

    Some spontaneous reactions to Mr Raimi’s text:

    A sizeable part of the classical music public is like football hooligans. The have their favourites. Favourite composers, favourite music genres, favourite orchestras, favourite soloists, favourite conductors. The rest is less worthy. Yes the rest is the rest.

    The classical music public is not homogeneous. Those people can be politically left-wingers, right-wingers, liberals, conservatives, or anarchists. Some dislike Asian musicians just because they are Asians. Some are Asians. Some genuinely don’t care as far as they play or sing wonderfully. You may replace “Asians” with “Russians”, or “Jews”, or “French”, or “Spanish”, or “Martians” or [name your non-favourites here].

    Historically “evil” people were dedicated classical music lovers: Stalin was especially devoted to Mozart, Hitler loved operettas, Wagner, and Bruckner, Mussolini was a competent free-time violinist, and the latest villain Mr Putin is arguably the most genuine classical music lover between all current world leaders, even if his piano playing could be improved.

    The modern human is the same primate since 40,000 years.

    • mk says:

      “Some dislike Asian musicians just because they are Asians.”

      You meant to say:

      “Some people are racists.”

      There. I fixed it for you.

      • Pianofortissimo says:

        I would rather say ‘prejudice’. People drawing the racist card are the worst racists nowadays.

        • mk says:

          Racism is a form of prejudice. If the prejudice is based on a racial distinction, then that is racism. That is literally the textbook definition. It boggles the mind to what lengths people will go to avoid naming obvious things.

    • John Borstlap says:

      I think genuine classical music lovers are per definition anarchists, however they would deny it.

    • Charles Zigmund says:

      Not between… among.

    • Kathleen E King says:

      Yup, same primate but has better instrumentation. So much for the perfectibility of human sapiens. Do over time?

      • Pianofortissimo says:

        The road to perfection ended when man made the piano. Since then the humanity is drawing back to the caves.

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      But with the added bonus of the shaver and air-conditioning.

  • Old Man in the Midwest says:

    Thank you Max!

    The CSO has always had the highest standard of American orchestras for their auditions.

    And that’s why the quality is so high.

  • Oded says:

    These words should have been heard for a while now. Thank you so much for articulating these thoughts that many of us share.

  • Trevor says:

    I’m afraid it’s the darker side of evolution in a market with over-supply and reduced demand.

    Rats with no food source will eat eachother.

  • DownvoteKing says:

    He’s 100% right. This website is a worse cesspool of negativity and chauvinism than just about any other site on the the internet. Yet it’s quite telling in Norman’s response that he pinpoints that “a tendency…to shower anyone who enjoy success…with skepticism” as the problem – and not the rabidly racist, sexist, and quasi-fascist viewpoints held by most of the Slippedisc commenters. That’s fine, apparently!

    • Genius Repairman says:

      I do not think the majority of commentators on SD are rabid, misogynistic, racist, hypocritical, quasi fascist sh…s! Only some of them.

  • Minutewaltz says:

    I don’t think comments on here are any more abusive than on any other site. Try reading mumsnet or Reddit.
    I like racing but the vicious attacks on jockeys, trainers, officials etc on racing chat rooms are appalling.
    Also Norman, you’ve written some quite mean comments about Lang Lang.

  • Saipan Bassoon says:

    The stain of nepotism cannot be erased, no matter the good-faith precautions. Most organizations have a policy against hiring spouses/children/siblings of employees, and for good reason. Professional orchestras should do the same. The opportunity cost that may be lost if a close relative is really/madly/truly the best candidate is not worth the lifetime taint of favoritism. It is not beyond the imagination that some CSO members, who no doubt have very discerning ears, might recognize the characteristic sound of the concertmaster’s daughter and, wittingly or not, favor it. When this young person comes up for tenure, might not a member who believes her sound doesn’t quite suit the ensemble feel some pressure not to oppose tenure? Or feel uncomfortable sharing her opinion with other orchestra members, lest it get back to the concertmaster? It’s a bad situation.

    • Auditions Are Fair says:

      I am seeing this opinion a few times in the comments and it’s just so detached from reality. The audition was anonymous, screened til the end, and her father was not in the building. What more is there to understand?

      Orchestras like the CSO bring in resumes from around the world and the standard at any given audition is unbelievably high. To pretend that the results are due to nepotism is reality-denying, plain and simple.

      Many candidates have been accused of winning an audition due to some kind of favoritism, and yet there is evidence all over the place—whether in live performance or on a recording—that they are absolutely worthy of their positions.

      Why must the takeaway be so brutally cynical? It is a massive dismissal of a player’s talent and lifetime of sacrifice and it also poisons the field with the most cynical possible point of view.

      Many congratulations to Bea, the Chens, and the CSO. An incredible accomplishment worth celebrating.

  • Michael Sweeney says:

    I had not realized that there had been so many nasty comments about the young violist winning a job with the CSO because I gave up reading the Comments section of this blog some years ago. When I first started reading Sippedisc, I found the comments breathtakingly hateful and decided to opt out. The title of the current entry intrigued me enough to go against my policy.
    I can’t help but wonder if the nastiness might lessen significantly if anonymous commenting was ended. I’m all for free speech – I only mean to suggest that commentators use their real name. If one has to own what one says, I think comments might be a bit more considered and thoughtful, and hopefully less caustic.
    Michael Sweeney.

  • chet says:

    “Norman Lebrecht adds: Max Raimi is absolutely right.”

    Well, well, this is absolutely rich coming from the editor of this site, who was the one who posted the original article entitled 1) “In Chicago Symphony, the Daughter Also Rises” in which he raised the point in particular that, 2) “Her mother often deputises in the violin section”.

    1) So first of all, NL’s title clearly echoes the well known Wall Street Journal article years back entitled “In Chicago the Son Also Rises”
    which was the WSJ’s take on “the legendary Daley political machine” and which addressed the “conventional wisdom that the 55-year-old Mayor Daley was the crown prince who inherited the throne”.

    So pardon the readership if we were invited by this site to reflect on the parallels between the two, as invoked and insinuated by the very title itself “In Chicago Symphony, the Daughter Also Rises”

    2) Second of all, NL raised the fact that the concertmaster’s wife substitutes in the violin section even as his daughter is now joining the viola section.

    So again, pardon the readership if we were invited to react to the clear family ties in the Chicago Symphony string section invoked by the editor of this site.

    NONE of these 2 facts would have been known to the general readership had this site not published the ties linked to her appointment.

    Let the sun also rise on the facts, sunlight, they say, is the best disinfectant.

  • Tamino says:

    I guess there is so much bitterness in them, because most of the classical scene journalists, bloggers etc. have a background of classical music education as a child, but not being good enough for making it professionally. They ended up studying something „lesser“. Their parents are still dissappointed. 🙂 Now all their frustration of being an eunuch is acted out at the subject of their professional occupation with plenty of passive aggression.

    • Mouse says:

      I think so too.

      • Bone says:

        Also white and male. All that privilege just couldn’t overcome their lack of talent or something like that.

    • David Dreebin says:

      A good point, Tamino.

    • John Borstlap says:

      That must be true. My PA began a mandoline study years ago but failed miserably, and her entire family suffers from depression. But to compensate for her musical inadequacy she took on the job of, among other things, typing my comments and it does wonders. You must give them something to overcome their resentment.

  • MacroV says:

    First, I would dispute that lovers of classical music have ever had a claim to be better or more noble people than anyone else. From Wagner and family, to Hitler and his circle, to Putin and others today. And I’m sure that in any orchestra you’ll have plenty of members who think some of their colleagues aren’t the best people.

    As for this site, people here may love music but they also take an interest in the business, including orchestra auditions. In the case of this latest CSO audition: At first it is interesting that the child of the concertmaster won a job (just as it was when the same thing happened in Cleveland a few years ago). But well-placed people made clear it was an open and transparent (well, behind the screen) process and that should have been that. After that it’s just trolling. And the references to Al Capone and other unseemly references to Chicago history just pointless.

  • sam says:

    “Like the Taliban dynamiting those Buddhist statues years ago.”

    Wow, so are we the Talibans and the Chens the Buddhas in this allegory?

    I don’t mind so much being equated with terrorists as seeing classical musicians being equated with the sacred!

  • S says:

    It’s a shame that more often than not it is Mr. Lebrecht himself setting the tone for this type of comment, questioning appointments or deriding a soloist’s choice of outfit. Maybe it’s no wonder these “bitter” commentators feel at home here…

    • Charles Zigmund says:

      Well, it’s obvious that scandal and bad behavior make better headlines and grab more attention, and Norman’s headlines and indeed the title of the blog reflect that. The grabbing of attention on the web is known as eyeballs, more eyeballs sell ads, and I do believe I noticed a banner ad on this site earlier today, unless it was the jumpy unpredictability of the web and my browser which did it. Just because Norman writes a caustic headline doesn’t mean he believes it, he just wants eyeballs.

  • Hercule says:

    Such is the collateral damage of the times in which we have and continue to live.

    Apropos to orchestral vacancies does anybody really believe that at the first inkling of a vacancies principals aren’t asked “who do we need to get?”

    • Auditions Are Fair says:

      As someone who is clearly from outside the process, you are mightily mistaken. Auditions in orchestras across the US are run with tons of rules, all in good faith to assure a fair and merit-based result.

      They are imperfect interviews, but much of their imperfection stems from the fact that they are so brutally fair. Prove yourself in a few minutes, regardless of who you are, and you can be a pro. There would not be an entire industry devoted to this issue if it was all just a ruse.

      Anyone else insinuating that auditions are rigged, let it be very clear from someone who has sat on many committees: I can not imagine how any audition could be rigged.

      If outsiders looking in want to spread conspiracy, I would simply want to know what baggage they are carrying to lead them to believe those invented fantasies.

  • EK says:

    I think this is a laughable commentary. Pointing fingers and calling all the people making comments as “angry white men” is really funny. I think most comments on here are made by angry people in general, that have been raked through the mud in the classical music industry and still read this “news site” for laughs.
    The classical industry is small—very small and getting smaller by the day. The squeeze is here and the proof is the comments against the new CSO violist. I do not find the comments to be mean against her—they are mean toward the industry and all of the garbage and nepotism etc…that is there. There is also sympathy for those that went out for the job, and had no idea one of the people auditioning with them was the daughter of the concertmaster. When you have an orchestra “voting”—do we really think the daughter would not get the job? Be honest. I am sure they were all fabulous players because they all reached the final round of auditions.
    Please remember–these jobs do not come around often, if at all. The new violist will have the spot until she retires—which is a very long time. It is a fabulous income and people do rightfully ask questions. The other violists will return to their maybe teaching positions (if they are lucky enough) and will be scraping by until the next audition….when the next daughter, son, student…will get the job. It is wonderful industry for those people. You call them musical families–it is their culture–this is how you excuse the nepotism.
    So–it’s anger on the lie that students are told. They fall in love with an idea that they will make beautiful music and have a wonderful life—only to get lost in a crowd of failed (many wonderful) musicians.
    That—is the anger reflected on these pages.

    • Auditions Are Fair says:

      Untalented students are essentially lied to—led to believe they have a better chance than they actually do. It is a big problem that could end up cannibalising the field. Hundreds/thousands of young people with masters degrees and six figures of student debt for nigh. It’s scary.

      But the accusation of nepotism and how it ran this audition…it’s insanity. These auditions are run with many, many rules to protect the dignity of the process. Bea won with her playing and the members voting did not know who they were hearing. Search for her on YouTube and you will hear phenomenal viola playing.

      Some people want narratives, but often the truth is quite boring.

    • John Borstlap says:

      That may be true for a number of people, but there are also commenters who read the site and comment for pure fun, or for serious interest. You don’t have to be angry to find interest in SD news.

    • JB says:

      The most efficient measure against nepotsm would be to ban hiring kids or pupil of orchestra members. But is this what we want ? Major orchestras like Chicago still have a claim on tradition and idendity, and this comes among other things from recruiting among a restricted pool.

  • Peter T. Borich says:

    Bravo Max! My son was in the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra in 2017-2018, and 2018-2019 with Bae as well with as the principal tuba of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra who, I believe, was also 19 when he won that job there.
    Age doesn’t matter when you are a great musician and part of a fantastic youth orchestra.

  • Larry W says:

    Sadly, much of the bitterness and nastiness posted here comes from classical musicians. Read the comments from Soul Collector, Chicagorat, Phillipe, Midwestern Violin, Richard and Anon, self-identified as musicians. It’s hard to say if they hate more the profession or themselves.

    Fortunately, a few will speak to counter the negativity. At the head of the list is Max Raimi, followed by Violinist, Nancy Severence, and Nathanial Rosen. Thanks to all.

  • Monsoon says:

    Norman, you really think your hands are clean on this?

    You routinely post articles with provocative headlines about non-white men winning appointments, initiatives taken by organizations to be more inclusive, etc. You seem to be just as much a critic as the posters about the growing diversity in classical music.

    Heck, in the article you posted before this one, you were taking a shot at LGBTQ inclusion at orchestras.

    • True North says:

      Indeed. Any initiative, program, or appointment that could possibly be described as “progressive” or “woke” (horrors!) — no matter how vaguely or tangentially — is held up for ridicule by the blog’s author. And his audience gobbles up this red meat EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.

  • Lothario Hunter says:

    Earlier this morning, I was sauntering around my favorite suburban mall, sipping my chai latte, then sitting on a bench to read my Sun-Times, and I just couldn’t figure out why my ears were buzzing so much. Now I know!

    I will be condemned to living with banning anxiety from now on 😉

  • Greg Hlatky says:

    There are a good number of professions (music, entertainment, journalism, academia) where a tiny number of participants earn huge sums and/or hold secure positions while the vast majority – with equal qualifications – at best eke out a living.

    Most of those left behind, without looking hard at themselves, ask why X succeeded and they failed. They attribute it (sometimes not without justification) to extraneous factors. Who were X’s patrons? Who were their relatives? Who did they sleep with? Was X’s teacher on the jury at that competition they won?

    Musicians can seem to outsiders as bitchy, childish neurotics who constantly need affirmation. They hate the successful. They hate their audiences. Their insecurity can be seen in the proliferation of awards and prizes. They preen themselves for politicians and squeal with delight when those solons notice them (do you think electrical engineers care about what any office-holder thinks about them?). It’s unedifying. It’s faintly disgusting.

  • David Dreebin says:

    I also entirely agree with Max Raimi, and am disappointed that there were reportedly so many bitter comments without even knowing how the competition has been run.

  • Don Ciccio says:

    “Unfortunately, all too many of them are among the nastiest, most mean spirited people I have ever encountered, even on the web.”

    He ain’t seen nothing yet. Opera lovers are much worse.

  • David K. Nelson says:

    I agree with Michael Sweeney: the commentary on this site would almost certainly take on a different tone if people had to use their real names. I suppose that could come at the cost of some missing out on some dangerously juicy news/gossip from a fearful source. And perhaps now and then that would be our loss. I suspect the means exist however for our host to shield such a whistleblower and still run the story.

    I also agree that to a certain extent our host has the habit of stringing up a piñata of coded language so it should come as no surprise to him or anyone else when we kids all take whacks at it to get the candy reward.

    I was surprised at the tone of some of the comments about Beatrice Chen, although I concede that the initial posting by N.L. was lacking by not even mentioning that Ray Chen was her father. So some of the unkind and anonymous commentators did perform that service.

    But let’s think a little about nepotism. The literal meaning of the word is to favor one’s own family with jobs and advantages. It has taken on a pejorative meaning: to elevate unworthy people because they are related. In both cases, the literal and pejorative, for it to be nepotism one family member is in a position to call the shots or at least, grease the skids. Is that really the case here? Was it really the case with the de Pasquale brothers in Philadelphia?

    I ask that because in the field of music, using allegations of neptism in the pejorative sense runs headlong into the time honored and very genuine fact that there are musical families and that musical talent runs deep, for many generations, in some of them. Wolfgang Mozart’s first paying job was almost without question an example of nepotism. Rafael Kubelík’s first conducting jobs were certainly an example of nepotism. Igor Oistrakh’s first recordings are an example of nepotism. Pamela Frank, Peter Serkin, the list goes on. And our objections to those opportunities are …. what exactly? To the nepotism? Really?

    If an unworthy person is elevated and you’re looking for reasons why, nepotism might be the explanation. But it is lazy thinking to assume, or allege, the unworthiness first.

    Perhaps OT but perhaps not: historically in the railroad industry, applicants whose family included railroaders were strongly favored, almost to the point of being mandated, because the child of a railroader would know exactly what they were getting into in the way of harsh conditions and long hours.

    A case can be made that the child of a symphony musician will almost certainly be under fewer illusions about what the gig really entails. Perhaps nepotism should be insisted upon, he wrote. Only slightly sarcastically. Over his own name, by the way.

    • chet says:

      “… by not even mentioning that Ray Chen was her father.”

      Oh My God! Yet Another Revelation!

      Ray Chen, being 33 years old, had her when he was 14!

      Or else, she has 2 daddies, Ray and Robert, alriiiight, yoohoo for diversity and intergenerational polyamory at the Chicago Symphony!

      • David K. Nelson says:

        Thanks for the witty correction. My brain saw Robert and my fingers typed Ray. But I got the Chen part right, and at my age I take glory in small accomplishments.

  • Tuba to trumpet says:


    Nuff said

  • Sam's Hot Car Lot says:

    Max Raimi’s letter confirms that he is a decent human being.

    However, I already knew that because he’s one of the relatively few orchestral players who really understands Bruckner.

  • Young says:

    No doubt Bea Chen won deserved to win.

    But CSO held finals weeks after the first prelim date. By the time of the finals many of the committee already knew who had advanced. Of the 7 finalists, almost every single one already had strong connections to CSO, many having studied with members in the committee. How hard is it for a teacher to pick out his student’s playing behind a screen and vouching for them?

    CSO invites everyone to audition unlike many other top orchestras and tries to be fair throughout the whole process, but that is a downside.

    • Violinist says:

      Just for your information, it was two weeks between the first day and the final and the finals were 4 days after the last day of prelims.

      The names of the finalists are always announced after each day of prelims. Why? Because should anyone have a connection to the orchestra, the committee can decide that it would indeed be prudent to use the screen in the finals to avoid BS.

      The rest of your comment is a pure speculation and shows that you actually don’t know the first thing about how auditions are run. “How hard is it for a teacher to pick out his student’s playing behind a screen and vouching for them?” One, it is way harder than you think to recognize someone behind the screen. Two, nobody can vouch for anyone because voting is done anonymously, either the candidate gets enough votes and is considered for the job or is simply dismissed. Only after the discussion about every candidate is over and final decision has been made is the identity revealed.

      Secondly, how would you know the identity of the committee members or the finalists? Hence how would you know they had a “strong” connection?

      Just asking as all of you out here know more about it then us CSO players.

      • Young says:

        “Just for your information, it was two weeks between the first day and the final and the finals were 4 days after the last day of prelims.”
        -Exactly what I said, by the way, do you know how to read?

        “The rest of your comment is a pure speculation and shows that you actually don’t know the first thing about how auditions are run.”
        -You are so out of touch. I’ve also been on the other side of the screen and taken countless auditions.

        “Secondly, how would you know the identity of the committee members or the finalists? Hence how would you know they had a “strong” connection?”
        -Because perhaps I was one of them? Or perhaps word gets out like lightning speed like in pretty much all auditions? Also, people on the committee told their students, some who were finalists and regularly sub with CSO, what went on behind the scenes.

        “Just asking as all of you out here know more about it then us CSO players.
        -Yeah, I do, because you guys are clearly out of touch

  • Fabrizio SCOTTO DI SANTOLO says:

    Thanks Mr. Raimi. I believe that what Muti intends when he has provided comments on classical music influence is much wider from the equation that says that more classical music makes people better. Simply put I would interpret his comments by understanfing that more classical music make the World better. Because in many ways an orchestra is a metaphor of the world and how we should be less individualistic, “play” together, listen to each other, etc. Of course it still sounds idealistic at some point but I am not a musician while I was lucky enough to attend many rehearsals concerts in nearly 30 years to say that in my everyday job I try to bring the good values I say in that music making. Commentators online may be of various nature. Some may be genuine, others may have an agenda, others may have personal issues with public people. Nothing more and nothing less just because we all love classical music. Public accusations are heavy to bear and I am not interested in reading them if they are anonimous. There are legal ways to proceed being protected by la if accusations are proved, my humble opinion in suggesting that I have no interested in what accusations are without a signature. We have seen here my personal accusations that clearly go beyond a fair “whistleblower” attitude that is always deserving respect. The CSO deserves that respect and they are free to decide what is the best fit for their future. For sure, Mrs Chen as a violist will be one of those musicanti making our World better.

  • Figg Newton says:

    So many embittered musicians trying their best to explain a result that disappoints them. Many insiders here seem to show quite clearly that the audition was screened and anonymous, that Mr. Chen wasn’t present, and that nobody would necessarily want to do him favors even if they could.

    And to paint the CSO as awarding undeserving musicians jobs. How can you be serious? One commenter accused Muti of doing a friend a service in hiring William Welter. Have you heard him play? He is sensational. A rare talent. And no doubt a large committee was in agreement with the hire. Only then could Muti choose anyway.

    You never hear the stories that would particularly disprove these conspiracy theories. Rumor is that a bass player dating a member of the violin section was awarded a trial in the CSO, but did not ultimately secure the position. Where was this favoritism then? Or how about Welter’s predecessor who did not receive tenure? Perhaps these auditions are actually very difficult and people need stories to ease their conscience. But there just doesn’t seem to be any support of the accusations anywhere.

  • music lover says:

    Couldn´t agree more.People who don´t have a clue what it means to learn instrument or any musical trade and to endure the pressure to maintain a performing career ,posting anonymously from the secure cozyness of their armchairs and computers.They always remind me of obese couch potatofootball fans booing athletes in front of the telly.And frustrated musicians who didn´t make the cut venting their frustration,anger and inferior complexes against those who are more succesful.The worst are those who don´t even respect serious illness or death.

  • Don Ciccio says:

    No one has noted the irony of asking for civility while saying this about people: “all too many of them are among the nastiest, most mean spirited people I have ever encountered, even on the web”.

    But then, if someone searches for Mr. Raimi’s past comments, he or she would note that occasionally they were not exactly up to the standards he asks for. Occasionally, but every bit adds up…

    That’s OK. I will still listen to the Chicago Symphony whenever I have the possibility and I will enjoy Mr. Raimi’s playing, as well as that of his colleagues.

    And speaking of “descending into barbarism.” Surely Mr. Raimi is familiar with the history of “The Rite of Spring” or “La muette de Portici”. Plus ça change…

  • David G says:

    I am only an occasional visitor to this site, but the comments are routine for any forum about classical music. If you really want to see vitriol, check out some forums on breast feeding, circumcision, Israel, et al. The classical forums are amusingly predictable: there is no soprano since Callas; there is no tenor since Corelli; there hasn’t been a Wagner singer since Nilsson; Kaufmann is beneath contempt; Voigt was obese, but she ruined her voice while slimming down; Verdi (or any other composer) is turning over in his grave! Most opera/concert-goers are just out for an enjoyable evening. It’s the fanboys who are clutching their pearls.
    I look forward to the comments directed toward me — I will have them in front of me…….and then I’ll have them “behind” me.

  • Kathleen King says:

    I have no knowledge of Ms. Bae, her audition, or the persons involved in that selection. However, I have noted — and, yes, been a part of that “coarsening” of language and views. It began with Gelb’s continuing existence and hegemony at the MET where he continues in my opinion to advance less talented “modern” musicians and experiences to the detriment of traditional “classical” music and performers. The example of this season’s deification of “Fire Shut Up in my Bones” as being the “first” opera by a “black” while totally ignoring Treemonisha. Then there was that Eurydice! The only thing Gelb has done worthy of support is to fire Netrebko and to stage a concert in favor of Ukraine. Coupled with Gelb’s messes are all the other instances in other houses and venues upon squalor, screech, and sordid. Yes, in a world increasingly ugly it produces “ugly” reactions trying to recoup truly “classic” behavior and talent. So, while I am sorry, folks in positions of power who want to appear, is the term now “woke”? while sacrificing tradition have brought it on themselves.

  • Tom Cloyd says:

    I’m very glad to read this opinion statement. Personal attacks unsupported by clear evidence are themselves clear evidence of inferior character or intelligence, or likely both. Sadly, they are endemic on the Internet. There is no justification for this.l

  • MacroV says:

    Norman, as others have pointed out, you’re being a little rich here. It’s your headlines that are inspiring a lot of this.

    In the case of Ms. Chen, you had two items on it, the second most definitely insinuating that family ties played a role in her hiring.

    Perhaps if you’d started the article with:

    “19 year old Bae Chen, a Curtis student since age 15, principal viola of the Curtis Orchestra, and a student of [Roberto Diaz?], and before that with [probably a CSO violist], recent won an audition for a section viola position in the Chicago Symphony.”

    Then maybe a quote from, say, Max Raimi – friend of SD – saying that he’s known her since age 11 and it’s long been clear to CSO violists (most of whom surely have known about her for years), that she was a rising star.

    Then note that, yes, her father is the CSO’s concertmaster and her mother a former Assistant Concertmaster of the BSO, but that the audition was held behind a screen all the way through.

  • Anon says:

    Why is it when the daughter of veteran violinist in Vienna won a string position in the same orch. recently in an almost identical situation, it was celebrated as “passing the tradition” of the orch. from one generation to the next? It was considered a positive legacy & especially praised because it was a daughter, not a son, for once, who was the bearer of the legacy.

    Why not honor Bae’s achievement in the same way? It only serves to strengthen Chicago’s musical identity. It’s a win win for everyone, I believe.

  • Carlos says:

    BTW, 3 weeks before the Chicago Symphony audition Bea Chen also won a position at the GPMF (Grant Park Music Festival) in Chicago. As Artistic Director and Principal Conductor of that Festival I can tell you that she is an amazing talent and deserved both positions. At the time of our audition I was not even aware that she is Robert’s daughter. Bravo Bea!!

  • Jasper says:

    Check out the vitriol that Max Raimi expressed toward Helen Zell and Jeff Alexander during the 2019 CSO work stoppage. Raimi is hardly an exemplar of civility and good grace.

  • mahler9 says:

    The classical music world is made up of a lot of people who have extremely strong opinions that they believe are the only correct opinions. But it’s not only in classical music where we find this. It’s found in sports, popular music and just about any other area of interest, study, expertise, devotion, obsession, etc. Many of us are trained in music, have advanced degrees, maybe working as performers or teacher, but a great deal of the people I meet and speak to are, quite simply, fans of the music. Again, this is true of the other areas of interest I mentioned. It’s in human nature. Unfortunately there is a tendency to downplay the achievements of others when someone is deeply aware of their own limitations. That is where the need comes from: downplay the person’s success to make it seem less important, or not worth pursuing. It’s about jealousy.

  • Charles Zigmund says:

    Norman, please use your journalistic skills to get us info about what is going on behind the scenes between the CSO and Riccardo Muti, as reported by a musician who is afraid to comment except very broadly. This is obviously more important than nepotism.

  • John Poole says:

    Yes indeed. Those who “get” compelling and poignant suspensions and resolutions may be more humane. It may be in brain structure and development. Rap is all sexual swagger and debasement. Anyone care to argue?

  • John Poole says:

    Many want to associate with classical music for a higher class distinction purposes. The ones who “get” it are not arrogant nor conceited and know most of the repertoire has noble intentions.

  • Just saying... says:

    Leave us bitter opera queens alone! Some of us had to marry women to keep up appearances, for God’s sake! To top it all off, Renata Tebaldi is gone! Have we not suffered enough?

  • Charles Robin Broad says:

    Hate mails and undistinguished comments, whether about classical music and its performers, or schoolkid mobbing seems to be a modern-day fad for frustrated, untalented viewers and listeners who want to vent their spleen…No one would dare say such ignominious things about the Beatles, Rolling Stones or Heavy Metal, but when it comes to highclass classical clientele they feel qualified to make unjustified lewd and hateful sometimes spightful comments…probably makes them feel good in their tight-necked, untalented little world.There are few Habenecks around these days, but a host of Hecklers who know next to nothing about making good music sound good.

  • fflambeau says:

    I agree with Max Raimi. I have seen tons of hateful, nonsensical posts here all by “classical music lovers.” Remember that R. Heydrich, perhaps the worst man in the Third Reich (there are numerous candidates), was the son of a classical music school owner and was himself a superb violinist.

  • fflambeau says:

    I agree with Max R. but unfortunately NL bears lots of the blame for frequent incendiary posts like the one on gays just before this one or the all too frequent bashing of successful Chinese artists on this very website. It’s called click bait and makes money (for someone).

  • TeeJay says:

    The nastiness of many classical music lovers has been on display for years in online fora such as rec.music.classical.recordings. I also recall experiencing many uncomfortable in-person encounters with fellow classical browsers at (now mostly defunct) record stores in New York City.

  • Stan Collins says:

    We humans really shouldn’t expect civility and there is no evidence that classical music ennobles. In Chicago, consider the infamous Donald Peck-Ray Still animosity that lasted for years, and Claudia Cassidy’s ruthless assassination of Rafael Kubelik and her lesser assault on Jean Martinon. Or Muti vs. Chailly. Prejudice for an orchestra’s preeminence is frequently based on location rather than accomplishments, praise or criticism gushed according to where the commentator lives.

    Musical compositions inherently incite prejudice, between composers-musicians and within the public. Bruckner was too thin-skinned but perhaps for good reason, making endless revisions in response to criticism, heckled/rejected by orchestras including the illustrious Vienna PO (as were others including Dvorak), and routinely attacked in public by a vicious Eduard Hanslick. Society was divided between Brucknerites/Wagnerites vs. Brahmsians with a vehemence that eclipses political parties today, everybody had a horse in that race. The golden age of music in Central Europe, but hardly the age of civility.

    Singers may be the worst. Animosity between sopranos Francesca Cuzzoni and Faustina Bordoni culminated in a hair-pulling fight on stage, with audience participation by some whose loyalties were expressed in similar physical altercations throughout the hall. This was 18th century England, so naturally the King became involved. Our presidents don’t even attend classical concerts.

    And the premier of the Rite of Spring with audence riot.

    Every public figure deals with these issues, as do the institutions of which they are a part. Haters spew venom on athletes, politicians, actors, corporate executives, etc. People they have never met, but whose personas trigger some psychological reaction. Human nature. Art is a sweet target because it is very subjective, so the playing field is somewhat level for idiots and aficionados, at least from the perspecitive of the idiots. Sadly, civility is often the first casualty when discourse is relegated to opinions, and the internet permits public expression regardless of substance or conscience.

  • hungry mole says:

    but what makes slippedisc so great is being able to read the toxic commentary that its articles engender. where else am I going to get an experience like this? It’s the perfect storm of classical music, boomers and bitterness, and great bedtime reading.

  • NYCgirl says:

    Thank you for this!!!!

  • Tony Villamotte says:

    Having read the entire thread this far, I don’t find any of the comments in Slipped Disc sceptic, insinuating, angry, bitter, irresponsible, hateful, nasty or lacking in civility, restraint and humanity, nor particularly white, male and 50+.

    What they and the article are is hysterically funny. I haven’t laughed so hard in a long time! Thank you all and Slipped Disc, too.

  • Robert Holmén says:

    A real-names-only policy for comments would do a lot to clean up the comments section.

    And if someone is fearful of voicing a genuine criticism of their employer without the cover of a fake name… that’s what talking to journalists who don’t reveal their sources is for.

  • Deborah W says:

    Tastes and preferences in music, as is true of (among other examples) politics, don’t necessarily reflect either the goodness or meanness of people.

  • Dietmar says:

    Perhaps, they think this is a place to unload some baggage and frustration, remaining incognito? Understanding but not productive, it is kinda sad. Norman Leberecht is also often setting things up in a way that invites negativity.

  • Margaret Koscielny says:

    I am so glad to read this. I have often commented on the mean-spiritedness of some comments, and I wonder the motives of the people who feel it is all right to denigrate artists.

  • ShksprTH says:

    In the absence of a moderator blocking the vicious commenters, I would welcome the opportunity to personally block them from the feed I see. Newspapers such as the Seattle Times allows its readers to do that. It has eliminated thousands of spam comments from what I would otherwise have to wade through. Those who relish hate can still feed off each other without bothering the rest.

  • David Eaton says:

    With regard to art and music as “ennobling” endeavors, Leonard Bernstein offered this perspective back in 1971. “Art cannot change events. But it can change people. It can affect people so that they are changed. Because people are changed by art—enriched, ennobled, encouraged—they can act in a way that may affect the course of events by the way they vote, the way they behave, the way they think.”

    Many people agree with that and that’s a reason many people engage with art and music.

    That said, if the auditions with the CSO were completely blind and the candidate’s names were not known to the jury, the concertmaster’s recusal might have been a tip-off. Yes? No?

  • Third Fiddle says:

    A problem of classical music is too much talent chasing too few dollars. Janos Starker once gave lunch hour talk at U.C. Berkeley’s music department where he strongly advised a double major, say computer science, for those cello majors.

  • Alf says:

    Ask Hugh Kerr

  • john w. norvis says:

    “Much as I am committed to free speech, if the tendency keeps rising, we may have to shut down certain contributors”

    And give up the clicks? Oh, do go on!

  • Simos Papanas says:

    True: classical musicians/lovers are often very mean and bitter. And I do agree that this is partly due to the fact that classical music becomes more and more marginal. In this way, to have a normal job and live a normal life as a musician, it is not enough to be a normally good musician. You must be extraordinary and also lucky. And if you are just normal, you usually have very little chance. Thus the bitterness.
    But, in fact, the bitterness and mean attitude is not a new phenomenon. If you go back in time, you can find numerous mean quotes between musicians that nowadays circulate as anecdotes. How many famous conductor insults can we think of? The truth is that we classical musicians have a tradition of meanness that goes far back in time. Our training is harsh and often heartbreaking (let us be honest- who has never left a lesson or a master class crying?). We are taught to compete against each other, often thrown even as children into the sick competition system, while in fact once we actually become professional musicians, all we do is play and collaborate with each other. And many classical music fans are people that started this educational process and never made it through.
    It is crucial that this attitude stops. The fact that we were mistreated as children does not give us the right to mistreat the young musicians of the next generations.

  • Anthony Sayer says:

    No, Mr. Raimi; some classical music commenters are mean-spirited though they are far from the majority, even on Slipped Disc. I, for one, have never seen a comment by Jeffrey Beigel, for example, which was anything other than generous and supportive.

  • Robert Holmén says:

    Suggestion… troll hiding.

    When a moderator decides poster has crossed the line, he flips a switch and the post becomes hidden to all but the troll.

    No one else sees the post but to the troll it looks like the post has been published with everyone else’s… and yet getting no reaction or response!

    Outraged reaction is what they most desperately want to provoke. This deprives them of that and doesn’t tempt them to simply adopt another cutesy fake name to evade a ban.

  • NotToneDeaf says:

    There are a vast number of ugly comments here but yet the moderator has chosen to only block comments that are negative about one particularly dysfunctional conductor and situation in a major midwest orchestra. Of course, this conductor does hail from a Nordic country that the moderator constantly touts as the last remaining breeding ground of great conductors. Just as this site encourages negativity towards certain conductors and performers, it also actively blocks negativity towards some others. It’s his site – he can do what he wants – but so you all know what you’re dealing with. (Why am I taking the time to write this? It will never be published . . .)

  • BigSir says:

    There is something bigger here than this board. There has always been ignorant people, a touch mean, who nevertheless have an opinion to share. Now, with the web, everyone gets a microphone. All sites have this “problem”.

  • Guest says:

    Anybody who knows anything about the CSO knows that Max is one of the least liked people in his own orchestra, especially by his own section. He rushes like crazy, plays with an ugly sound, and is genuinely not a nice person.

    He has zero credibility.