Where was the NY Times when the Israel Phil came by?

Where was the NY Times when the Israel Phil came by?


norman lebrecht

November 18, 2022

We’re hearing lots of complaints about shrinking classical reviews in the parish news sheet.

There are puff-features aplenty about upcoming performances, but the hard grind of professional reviewing has gone off the boil.

Chief recent casualty was the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra whose young conductor Lahav Shani was making his Carnegie Hall debut. Anything in the NY Times? Nada.

The Berlin Philharmonic waited several days for a review.

Others are missing out altogether.

Why is that?


  • Anon says:

    The program played by the IPO, appreciated and loved by over 3000 audience members, consisted of the Tchaikovsky violin concerto and Prokofiev’s 5th symphony.
    The NY Times classical music department tends to ignore standard programs like this.

  • MWnyc says:

    You know the reason why: low click statistics. Reviews simply don’t get enough readers.

  • Nosema says:

    Surely they would be there

  • Achim Mentzel says:

    Honestly, on one hand, a critic, no matter how competent, is someone who apparently makes public his personal opinion, which he was not even asked for.

    On the other hand, who reads reviews nowadays when you can look at the final applause on Facebook and Instagram recorded in cheapest quality with mobile phones to know that it was a “great” concert.

    And thirdly, to quote Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: “Beat him to death, he’s just a reviewer”.

  • Carl says:

    Probably because classical reviews have very low readership numbers. Maybe previews do better, however?

    The Israel Phil is also not as prestigious as Berlin, though you make a fair point about it being the conductor’s local debut.

  • Petros Linardos says:

    Will we read here a review by John Rockwell?

  • Ludwig's Van says:

    It’s been ages since the NY Times had a competent music critic anyway, so better no review than one written by an arrogant fool.

  • Mock Mahler says:

    It’s obvious that classical reviewing is slipping in quantity and quality, and I agree that the Israel PO and Shani deserved coverage. (NY Classical Review online neglected them too).

    However, with regard to the Berlin Philharmonic, The NY Times did not wait “several days”: a review appeared the day after the third of three concerts, all of which were included in Zachary Woolfe’s thoughtful appraisal.

    (In contrast, Slipped Disc boasted that its review of the first Berlin Carnegie concert was filed ‘just after midnight’ following a concert that ended at 10 pm. That showed.)

  • MacroV says:

    The Berlin Phil review came out fairly timely after their three performances.

    I’d have expected a review for the Israel Phil, but orchestras play Carnegie all the time and the Times doesn’t review them all. They didn’t review the Sao Paolo SO a few weeks earlier, either.

  • msc says:

    Face, the NYT and its main readership is no longer interested. I gave up caring about the Times years ago.

  • J Barcelo says:

    Why is that? Because newspapers in the United States are dying. Their revenue streams are drying up, subscriptions are falling off. They have reduced staffing and anymore one of the last things they’re interested in is classical music, opera, ballet or any other higher art form. They’ll run plenty of articles about some has-been rock ‘n roll group believing that appealing to a younger crowd will save them. Newspaper editors and reporters over here mirror the general cultural climate; they know little about classical music and have zero interest in it. Sad, but true.

    • Robert Holmén says:

      The NY Times isn’t dying. It has done very well in monetizing its internet presence with more than 8.5 million paying subscribers on top of about 800K print subscribers. The NY Times remains profitable with profits growing year over year.

      If it’s not doing classical reviews, it’s probably because the subscribers haven’t been reading them in the past.

  • Tone Row says:

    No music or opera reviews at all in the (London Murdoch) Sunday Times, just a weekly artist puff-piece/interview – its Culture Section has gone to pieces. Fortunately The Observer is still going strong with Fiona Maddock’s excellent review column.

  • Caroline Sparks says:

    Why is that? Because the times of Anthony Tommasini (74) are long gone with him, too. To be a critic implies that you have to know what you talk about – Google and Dabble is not enough – and then you have to know how to write and in times where Apps and AI dominate the writer’s scene it is just difficult to find people that can write properly – music critic is a real job that requires real skills. And perhaps the most revealing part, is that music critics have to actually attend the concerts and spend hours in the halls, which is not always good when you think of the work-life-balance-debts dilemma of GenX and GenZ, concerts are usually in the evening hours, only during weekends you get earlier hours and even morning concerts, but most of the job happens in the evening into the wee hours of the morning. Same problem we observed not only in the USA all major halls we frequent regularly, but also in London, in Paris, in Vienna, in Berlin, and even in Rome. One can say it is a job doomed to disappear and soon we are only going to read AI generated content, and depending on who is financing it so will be the “critic”. Another important point is that most music critics seldom visit an ENT to get their ears cleaned – so they can hear well again.

  • GCMP says:

    And yet the NYT claims to be the newspaper of record. It should be able to do reviews even if other papers aren’t covering them.

  • Chicagorat says:

    It is surprising the the NYT, a serious newspaper, did not review the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. Given their track record, we should probably give them a break and the benefit of the doubt.

    In other cities though, the ineptitude (at best) or biased selective coverage (at worst) of the local press were not surprising at all. In Chicago, the Tribune, Sun Times, and Hedy Weiss (Muti’s preferred pet journalist, from WTTW) ignored Thielemann’s visit and concerts, to the best of my knowledge.

    The Chicago Classical review, the last bastion of serious musical criticism in the Second City, did cover Thielemann, as well as the Berliner / Petrenko unforgettable concert, with insightful reviews.

    As a side note, given the Berliner were mentioned, the Chicago Classical Review noted the packed Symphony Hall in Chicago for Petrenko and wrote:

    “it was wonderful to see Orchestra Hall full to the rafters again after the past few weeks of alarmingly low attendance […]. If audience members will come out in such overwhelming numbers for the Berlin Philharmonic, it’s hard to fathom why the same people won’t buy a CSO ticket and support the local team.”

    Readers promptly answered in the commentary section:

    “One mature lady I spoke with after the concert described the ‘local team’ as being ‘sedate’ in comparison. […] this was an energetic and vivid style of playing we’re not used to hearing in Chicago.”

    • lamed says:

      While the NYT thought Berlin was flawless, Chicago Classical review noted that “A couple fleeting slips (section trumpet and horn) through Mahler’s epic journey were like spots on the sun set against the overall quality of the musicianship.”

      Fatigue, or fear, at the home stadium of the Chicago Brass Section?

    • NYMike says:

      “One mature lady I spoke with after the concert described the ‘local team’ as being ‘sedate’ in comparison. […] this was an energetic and vivid style of playing we’re not used to hearing in Chicago.”
      Video-oriented Karajan demanded that the BPO play visually as well as aurally. This resulted in the “Swing and Sway with Sammy Kaye” style still evident in their playing today. So audience members are trained to listen with their eyes even more than their ears. That said, their Mahler 7th @ Carnegie last Saturday was indeed magnificent!

    • MacroV says:

      It’s really not fair to compare the local orchestra, playing week in and week out, with the novelty of Berlin Phil playing a well-polished tour program one-night only — especially when it’s doing so in the home of its greatest peer/rival. You don’t think the CSO is all dressed to the nines when they play the Philharmonie?

      And even in Chicago the locals are probably taking for granted the everyday excellence of the CSO.

      • MB says:

        “its greatest peer/rival”? Please tell me what you are smoking, I want some.

        • MacroV says:

          The CSO is an extraordinary orchestra. Muti may not be the most novel conductor, and they may not be all that innovative these days as an institution compared to Berlin or LA, but don’t denigrate their actual playing; it makes you look like a fool.

          • MB says:

            Oh I am not worried about looking like a fool. And I am not denigrating anyone, I am just calling out bs when I read it.

            The CSO is not a rival of the Berlin Phil. The Vienna Phil is, Dresden, Luzerne are. What landmark recordings has the CSO done in the last ten years? If it’s the only rival of the Berlin, why aren’t major labels fighting to produce recordings with them?

            Maybe you should worry about how you look.

      • MB says:

        They are not dressed to the nines, because they are not getting invited. They are touring in Oklahoma.

    • Hugo Preuß says:

      It was probably the devious hand of Muti, leaning on the NYT to prevent the review from happening. Since Muti is responsible for everything that is wrong in the world, this is only logical. Right?

  • Alank says:

    Probably because the newspaper that covered up the Holocaust and is among the viciously anti-Israel newspapers in America is instituting a quiet boycott.

  • Karden says:

    NYC media ignoring the visit of an orchestra from Israel? Heck, I still can’t figure out why this blog – devoted to classical music (which the NY Times isn’t) – pretty much ignored the formal opening of the NY Phil’s revamped home, David Geffen Hall. Lack of interest? Provincialism? Jealousy?

    As for the latter, although a reviewer based in London said that his own city should be so lucky to have both Carnegie and Geffen, the rebuilt $500 million space for the NY Philharmonic apparently isn’t as ideal as he made it out to be. But (1) the NY Phil plays classical music, (2) Geffen Hall is known for hosting events where classical music is performed and (3) this blog is supposedly focused on classical music.

  • lamed says:

    So why do you need a NYT review?

    Take the utility of the Berlin Phil review for example, which came out a day after the series was over, which came with that NYT seal of approval, that much-sought-after gold check mark “NYT Critic’s Pick”, but to what avail? the Berliners had already left town, not that tickets were available anyway even if the review can come out in a timely manner to matter…

    So was the “NYT Critic’s Pick” intended for out-of-town readers of Berlin’s next stops in Boston, Chicago, and Berkeley (again, assuming tickets were still available)?

    Or is the “NYT Critic’s Pick” meant to be just an archival record for future readers in the 22nd century to look back on?

    Or is the “NYT Critic’s Pick” a vanity piece meant to show off the “good taste” of Zachary Woolf by how much he gushes over the Berlin Philharmonic?

    There is a very limited need for classical music reviews, as the NYT shows; orchestras like them to mine them for quotes to put on their website, that’s about it.

    As for Mr. Woolf’s Berlin review, I have but one thing to say: if he’s going to rank orchestras, then he must rank them playing the same piece under the same conductor in the same hall. (Let’s not even mention under the same performance history, i.e., Berlin had been travelling with the Mahler 7 for a while in Europe before alighting on America). But that’s too much rigor to demand of a classical music review, irrelevant as it is already.

  • Dan Beckmann says:

    If you would like to read a competent review of IPO, I suggest Mark Swed’s piece on their swing through The Valley: https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/story/2022-11-10/review-new-conductor-israel-phil-soraya
    Though I don’t entirely agree with his assessment of the orchestra’s prowess under Shani – they still seemed a bit ungovernable to me. The political dimension is noteworthy – perhaps an underlying factor in NYT’s silence?

  • Fernandel says:

    Shani wears the same polos as Thielemann…

  • JB says:

    Has the number of concerts of classical music in the NY Times diminished in recent years ? That is not clear to me. The never reviewed every concert in Carnegie Hall.

    You have now many free websites with sometimes excellent writers of concert reviews. I suppose those work for free, so what is disappearing is rather concert critic as a paid profession.

  • Retired Musician says:

    If next time IPO includes a piece by Coleridge-Taylor (or whoever is being supported by woke media that time) they will get a very nice and positive review from NYT right away 🙂

  • Helen Kamioner says:

    hint…from today’s nytimes

    Until we see antisemitism as a toxic species of the white supremacy that threatens Black security and democracy’s future, none of us are truly safe

  • justsaying says:

    The NY Times currently covers fewer than 10% the number of classical events it covered when Harold Schonberg and Donal Henahan were its chief critics. So yeah, some worthy concerts are gonna get the silent treatment. OTOH it’s silly to expect reviewing, which is an epiphenomenon, to outstrip public interest in the artform under review.

  • DG says:

    The Israel Philharmonic was not a presentation of the Carnegie hall organization. So it’s possible that the New York Times critics were not offered free tickets by the presenters of the concert.

  • MIT Scientifica says:

    The NY Times has been an overly Jew-Hating publication for decades now and this reinforces that image