Christian Merlin, music critic of France’s Le Figaro newspaper, discusses the role of music criticism in a changing media landscape, the internationalization of orchestral style, and the status of the conductor in a two-part interview at From the 3/14 interview: Q: Do orchestras look to cultivate a unique identity, or is there now a sort of quest for a universal interpretation? A: Except for some countries like Russia or some of the Asian ones, recruitment has become an international business. If I remember correctly, the Berlin Philharmonic has players with 25 different nationalities. From that point, does it still make sense to talk about a German orchestra?… I’m not really sure that the terms ‘German sound,’ ‘French sound’ or ‘American sound’ mean anything when we consider the differences between different orchestras within the same cultural domain. Take the Americans: Cleveland doesn’t sound like Chicago which doesn’t sound like Boston or Philadelphia… And when we say that an American orchestra is synonymous with a super-powerful, ringing sound with up-front brass, that might be the case in New York or Chicago, but in Cleveland? Not in the slightest! … So there are specifics that remain, even within any given cultural domain: standardization isn’t showing up any time soon.”

Posted March 20, 2018