they're at it again. I wish I'd seen it earlier, but only now (in
mid-January) did I read a column by Boston Globe music critic Richard Dyer, which
ran on Christmas Day. Not all of it was about me, but here's the part that was:
BELEAGUERED BSO ANSWERS WALL STREET JOURNAL ATTACK
Dyer, Globe Staff, 12/25/98
Andre Previn, Boston Symphony Orchestra concertmaster Malcolm Lowe, and Nicholas T.
Zervas, president of the BSO's board of trustees, are among those who have responded to
critic Gregory Sandow's mega-attack on the BSO and its artistic director Seiji Ozawa,
which was published in the Wall Street Journal Dec. 15.
In a letter to the Wall
Street Journal's editor, Previn wrote that he read the article ``with bewilderment
bordering on the surreal. I have had the good fortune to conduct the Boston Symphony
Orchestra regularly for a great many years. . . . and I have never considered the
accomplishments of the orchestra as anything less than of the very highest caliber.
Whether it is a reduced orchestra for Mozart and Haydn, or a huge ensemble for
Shostakovich and Mahler, my admiration (as well as the audience's) for the playing has
been deep and appreciative.
``My travels take me to many
of the great world-class orchestras, Vienna, London, Berlin, New York, etc., and the
Boston Symphony unquestionably ranks with them at the top of the ladder. It is quite
impossible for a truly great orchestra such as this to be impaired by its music director;
the pride of the players in their own musicianship is much too pronounced. Besides which,
Seiji Ozawa's worldwide preeminence is much too well-known and firmly established to be
sniped at. He is a great conductor, and the BSO is a great orchestra.''
Lowe was distressed by
Sandow's extensive quotation from a letter criticizing Ozawa that he cosigned with
principal cellist Jules Eskin, which appeared several years ago in an unofficial
newsletter published by a group of BSO players called Counterpoint. ``I was frustrated and
upset to see my name attached to the article since your reporter did not contact me and
chose to quote a letter published nearly four years ago in an internal orchestra
publication. Our letter was aimed at communication and overtime trade-agreement issues; it
was not an anti-Ozawa piece as your reporter claims. . . . I am proud and honored to be
the concertmaster for the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Seiji Ozawa. I have great respect
for the institution, for Seiji Ozawa, and for my colleagues in the orchestra. The Boston
Symphony Orchestra maintains its integrity, dedication, and musicianship at the highest
Zervas responded to what he
called ``an unbecoming and unwarranted attack. We are distressed at [Sandow's] attempt to
substantiate his negative views about Mr. Ozawa and the BSO by invoking a handful of
unnamed sources positioned as expert witnesses.'' Zervas characterized Sandow's view of
Ozawa as an ``insulting, reductive, and racist view of him as a samurai kept in place in
order to raise Japanese money.'' Zervas's letter was accompanied by 10 favorable reviews
of the programs Sandow criticized that appeared in other publications in Europe and the
Meanwhile, at the Baltimore
Sun, critic Stephen Wigler weighed in with his view. ``Some of what Sandow says is
just wrong. Japanese support of Ozawa and his orchestra, while generous, amounts to no
more than 1 or 2 percent of the Boston Symphony Orchestra's budget. . . . What I do
believe is that the Boston Symphony is one of the world's great orchestras and that Ozawa,
while perhaps an indifferent interpreter of Mozart or Beethoven, is a superb conductor of
difficult 20th-century pieces by Bartok, Stravinsky, or Messiaen. And I know for sure that
my editors at The Sun would never -- not even in an opinion piece -- allow me to
use as many unnamed sources as the Journal permitted Sandow to do.''
Incredible. If you read my review -- the one that started all
of this -- you won't find me saying that Japanese money keeps Ozawa afloat. In fact, I said it didn't.
I hadn't answered any of the
BSO's attacks, but this was too much. So I e-mailed the following
letter to the Globe, with a copy to Dyer:
I expected protest when I wrote my Wall Street Journal comments
on the Boston Symphony, but the near-hysteria of some of the remarks Richard Dyer quotes
("Beleaguered BSO Answers Wall Street Journal Attack," December 25) leaves me
Im especially surprised at Nicholas T.
Zervas, president of the BSO's board of trustees, who attacks me for an "insulting,
reductive, and racist view of [Seiji Ozawa] as a samurai kept in place in order to raise
Japanese money.'' These are things I didnt say. Id heard the charge about
Japanese money while I was writing my piece, so I asked Mark Volpe, the BSOs General
Manager, what he thought of it. Mark refuted it, and I quoted him approvingly.
As for calling Ozawa a "samurai," one of
my sources did that, not me. But Im fascinated by the notion that Im racist.
One of the BSOs senior staff floated that same accusation to me privately, not about
me, but about others who criticize Ozawa. Is this a standard BSO spin? I might add that
the source I quoted is, at least officially, pro-Ozawa. If the BSO doesnt like the
word "samurai," it should argue with its own supporters.
Anyone whod like to read what I really wrote
-- and see my response to some of the other charges leveled at me -- should visit my
(The Globe printed this letter -- minus the final paragraph
about this website -- in their Sunday arts section on January 31. I loved their headline:
"Much Ado About Nothing?")
I've already commented on Malcolm
Lowe. To Andre Previn, I can only say --once I stop laughing -- "Do tell us, Mr.
Previn, why we should believe any statement so flagrantly self-interested?" The
Boston Symphony performed his Piano Concerto in December, and this month (January) he's
conducting the orchestra, as well as playing with the Boston Symphony Chamber Players. I'm
not saying he's lying (I have no idea what he really thinks), but I'll tell you when I'll
find his words convincing -- when he's equally outspoken about the conductors and
orchestras he doesn't like.
As for my colleague from the Baltimore Sun, I'm
distressed that he, like Nicholas Zervas, didn't read me carefully. He doesn't understand
that I rejected the claims about Japanese money.
And I wonder if he pondered the implications of
his final comment, where he says he knows for sure that his editors at The Sun
"would never -- not even in an opinion piece -- allow me to use as many unnamed
sources as the Journal permitted Sandow to do." Since the Wall
Street Journal is one of the country's four or five top newspapers, maybe its editors
know what they're doing.
(Because I understand the problems with unnamed
sources, I told my editor who mine were, so he could evaluate them himself. It's worth
noting that these sources are people I don't know very well. They aren't, in other words,
Greg's little anti-Ozawa clique. They're all people I happened to encounter, who upon
hearing the words "Seiji Ozawa" said -- without any prompting from me -- what I quoted them as saying. They provide a good
sample of what you hear about Ozawa and the BSO in the classical music world, if you get
around enough, and if people feel they can talk to you honestly.)