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Schlock Me, Amadeus


Norman Lebrecht has made his by now considerable reputation as a gadfly, a deflater of pomposity and a debunker of humbug. Having chosen classical music as his journalistic beat, he is never short of material. But this time, he’s gone too far. In his La Scena Musicale column this week, Lebrecht takes on another of concert music’s sacred cows: Mozart. Now, I’m no Amadeus idolator (I’m a Haydn kind of guy myself), but when Lebrecht says things like “Mozart merely filled the space between staves with chords that he knew would gratify a pampered audience. He was a provider of easy listening, a progenitor of Muzak,” he makes you want to laugh out loud. His ostensible topic is the cynical exploitation of the Mozart anniversary year, which will soon befall us, and he’s right enough about that. But Mozart as a bewigged Andrew Lloyd Webber? As the tennis player John McEnroe liked to say, “You cannot be serious.”

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The GRAMMY Awards nominations were announced yesterday. Normally, this would be a snooze for followers of the jazz and concert music scenes, but I read the list anyhow, and was delighted to find that Sarah Schuster Ericcson’s CD, “Night Breeze – Harp Music Of Carlos Salzedo,” has received a nomination for Best Instrumental Soloist Performance (without Orchestra) — that’s Category 101 for those of you who are keeping score at home.

Sarah is not merely the only American to be nominated in this category (the other nominees are Nelson Freire, Evgeny Kissin, Piotr Anderszewski and Maxim Vengerov), but also the only native (to my knowledge anyway) of my home town, Erie, PA, to be nominated.

Sarah’s is the only CD in the category — indeed, in any of the classical categories — that I have heard, so, I can’t say what her chances might be. But the CD itself is fairly astounding. Salzedo might be the Leopold Godowski of the harp, a player/composer who wrote attractive, finger-busting pieces as calling cards.

“Night Breeze” is full of them, tuneful and charming. It’s a terrific CD.

As fate would have it, I’ve been invited to join the New York chapter of NARAS (another story for another post). I only hope my application goes through in time to vote.

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