An Elliott Carter Shock and Awe just wrapped up at Tanglewood, conceived by the notoriously cerebral brain of James Levine, music director to everyone in the Northeast. The New York Times covered the majestic 5-day event in typical fashion, by sending Allan Kozinn up to the Berkshires to expound on their reverence for any toilet paper that dare touch Levine's ass. He churned out a dutiful puff piece titled "A Century Has Passed; His Time is Still Now".
The local Berkshire paper is having none of it. Here are juicy excerpts from Andrew Pincus's blunt review of what he called "a revival meeting, calling on unbelievers to repent." (Pop in a favorite Missy Elliot CD and enjoy the rare appearance deeply felt vomit in music criticism.)
Regrettable as Levine's absence was and is, it seems a kind of metaphor for the whole celebration. When you looked for musical content behind the vast intellectual and technical apparatus that Carter deploys, there seemed nothing, or very little, there. Where was the emotional response, the connection between art and lived experience?
Grant a music director his convictions. If Levine and other serious musicians, along with scholars and critics, think the music says something, maybe in the end it really will. Certainly, it has happened to other composers, most notably Beethoven and Schoenberg: the recognition in their time only by advanced thinkers like themselves.
Carter's musical fecundity at the border of a second century is a testament to the human spirit and an example everyone can aspire to. The paradox of the superb performances — many by renowned Carter specialists — over the course of the five days is that the clearer the music became, the less there seemed to be in it.
Glad it happened. Glad it's over.