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Musical Review Criticized


In the opening article of the current number of the Harvard Musical Review, Mr. R. H. Sessions presents a brief against professional musical criticism. The topic is timely and suggestive; but while Mr. Sessions makes some of his points well, he would be more effective were his tone less sweepingly denuncatory.

One of his chief charges is that of incompetence. Undoubtedly, incomepetence is commoner--because less easily detected--among critics of music than in those of the other arts. The indefiniteness and intangibility of music grants a quasi-impunity to the opinions, however extravagant, of any Tom, Dick or Harry of journalism who has the assurance to proclaim them; in consequence, musical criticism has long been a refuge for journalists who have been failures in other fields.

Nevertheless to say that "the opinions of the professional critics are no longer of any worth even as individual opinions," and that "as it (Professional musical criticism) now exists it is utterly useless", is to imply the non-existence of the type --lamentably rare, it is true--of well-trained, level-headed professional musical critic--a manifest injustice to the few distinguished men without whom the profession would indeed be discredited.

The musical critics, like the poor, will presumably be always with us. What is needed is not a campaign for their extermination, but for their improvement.

Mr. E. B. Hill furnishes an illuminating sketch of the history of the interpretative ballet as it has been developed in recent years, chiefly by the Russians; and gives an account of the adoption of this form in France, notably by Debusay in his "Jeux," and in Germany, where it is being taken up by Richard Strauss.

As described, these ballets to offer occasional analogies to those contrived in the seventeenth century at Versailles for the entertainment of Louis XIV.

In "The master Speaks," by "Fughet to ", the old but ever-to-be-repeated lessons of unselfish devotion to high artistic ideals, and of Stern self-criticism, as indispensable to the achievement of anything of enduring value, are worked up in an agreeably fanciful manner. But where did "Rodney" get his idea that in the age of Voltaire and the Encyclopaedists--men were "unsophisticated?"

In the editorial portion of the number, Mr. Sessions or anybody else interested in the cause might cite the notice of the Sibelius symphony as an example of what musical criticism should not be. The nervous, chip-on-the -shoulder, lustily contemptuous attitude will never convert the unbeliever, whose objections will not be brushed aside with a cool "One need not reply to the above mentioned criticisms."

The number concludes with some readable book-reviews and a musical skit.  GEORGE E. WESTON'97.

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