I choked a bit on my Nespresso this morning over the Times review of the Locrian Chamber Players at Riverside Church. Claiming that "classical music has too many rules for its own good" the critic praises the ensemble for their "laudable" practice of not distributing program notes until after their concerts, and for their mission of performing music written only within the last ten years. I guess these are not considered rules, just fun ideas.
Laudable practices exactly how? Let's face it, program notes always seem tedious, regardless of when they are made available to the hapless audience, like a nagging homework assignment. If this ensemble is truly committed to an analysis-free experience, why not let people get away completely clean, savoring their own reactions, insights, pleasure/displeasure? Surely anyone moved to enrich their understanding could rush home to read all about motivic transformation on Wikipedia. In this case, with all of the music being Beaujolais Nouveau, it's a really good bet that most of the composers live within a ten-block radius of the venue. Heck, just invite them all to dinner instead! As for the ten-year gimmick, I'm still trying to figure out how this relates to an ensemble named after an ancient Greek mode.
OK, this eruption may not surprise, coming from someone committed as I am to performing works from the wildly untrendy mid-20th C. It's still my conviction that a vast and compelling repertoire continues to be sidelined by musty Brahms symphonies and flavor-of-the month premieres. May I propose a more truly laudable rule? Cast the net wide, but throw back the baby fish.
And enough with the program notes.