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Eric...Today's "New York Times" had this fascinating article about the battle between the "Cleveland Plain Dealer's" long-time Music Critic and the "Cleveland Symphony Orchestra".

Can you share a little with us from your perspective and knowledge of your city,this newspaper, and this world-renowned orchestra?

I'd love to hear yor take on this.-Ira.


Plain Dealer’s Music Critic, His Beat Changed, Sues Paper and Orchestra
By Daniel J. Wakindec

A classical music critic who was removed from his post at The Cleveland Plain Dealer after a history of negative reviews of the Cleveland Orchestra’s music director struck back on Thursday with a lawsuit.

The critic, Donald Rosenberg, charged that orchestra officials had waged a “campaign of vilification” against him and that his bosses at the newspaper had caved in to demands that he be ousted.

“It’s key that people realize that journalists have to be given the freedom to operate without pressure from outside sources,” Mr. Rosenberg said in a telephone interview. Mr. Rosenberg stressed that his complaint was directed at the orchestra’s management and not its musicians.

Mr. Rosenberg’s case became a nationwide cause célèbre among music critics, a dwindling breed in a time of newspaper cutbacks. They said a prominent, knowledgeable voice had been silenced by an influential local institution.

Mr. Rosenberg remains at the paper as a music reporter and dance critic and writes some music reviews, but not of the Cleveland Orchestra. The paper in September assigned a former intern who had worked with Mr. Rosenberg to do that job.

Mr. Rosenberg’s suit, filed in the Court of Common Pleas of Cuyahoga County, names the newspaper and the orchestra’s parent, the Musical Arts Association, as defendants. Also named are Susan Goldberg, the newspaper’s editor; Gary Hanson, the orchestra’s executive director; Richard Bogomolny, its chairman and president; and James Ireland III, a board member and former president.

Mr. Rosenberg, 56, charged the defendants with defamation. He accused orchestra management of tortious interference with his job, and the paper and Ms. Goldberg of age discrimination and violating Ohio’s free speech principle. The suit seeks damages of at least $50,000.

The Cleveland Orchestra responded with a forceful defense of its right to criticize the critics, saying it was expressing opinions, not defaming.

“It’s a funny grievance coming from a lifetime reporter, that the people that he writes about have an obligation to stay silent,” said Robert Duvin, a lawyer for the orchestra. “We don’t have the same platform, so what we have to do is write letters or have meetings. You guys get to publish every day, and bring the hammer down as often as you want to on anybody you want to.”

Mr. Duvin said he could not address the specifics of Mr. Rosenberg’s lawsuit. But assuming it were true that orchestra officials had urged his dismissal, he said, “So what?”

“I consider what he wrote to be the equivalent of urging the removal of the music director of the Cleveland Orchestra,” Mr. Duvin said. “There are many people who considered his relentless negative assessment, when contrasted with worldwide praise, to be personal, petty and vindictive.”

The lawyer said it was natural for orchestra management to react strongly to such an assessment from its hometown paper. “He doesn’t like what happened,” Mr. Duvin said. “That’s too bad. We didn’t like it either, for years.”

Ms. Goldberg said Thursday she had no comment, but in a previous interview she said outside interests had not influenced the paper’s editorial decisions and called Mr. Rosenberg’s job change an “internal personnel matter.”

Mr. Rosenberg covered the orchestra for nearly three decades, first for The Akron Beacon Journal and since 1992 for The Plain Dealer. He has long been known for faulting the Cleveland Orchestra’s music director, Franz Welser-Möst, although he has also praised him on occasion. Other American critics have also tended to be negative about Mr. Welser-Möst. Europeans are generally more positive.

The lawsuit traces Mr. Rosenberg’s problems to a column he wrote in 2004 while traveling with the orchestra on tour. The column quoted Mr. Welser-Möst’s comments to a Swiss magazine in which he spoke of using charm to raise money from “rich widows” and took note of the “blue hair ladies” in the orchestra’s audience.

He was quoted as saying that not even $5,000 would get a handshake with the maestro but that $10 million would guarantee dinner. He also compared Cleveland to “an inflated farmer’s village.” A public relations official for the orchestra told Mr. Rosenberg at the time that he would suffer “consequences,” the suit said. A “punitive and retributive campaign was launched” by the orchestra defendants, it said.

Mr. Rosenberg said he was banished from the orchestra’s executive offices at Severance Hall to a tiny room to write his deadline reviews after being falsely accused of having gone through the public relations director’s papers. He said he had been barred from rehearsals, backstage, tour parties, the players’ bus and interviewing the conductor. Orchestra officials urged the paper to remove him, he said.

Orchestra management also told Mr. Rosenberg’s editors that he had left concerts that he was reviewing before they were over, the suit said, and made a presentation of his reviews to a former editor of The Plain Dealer in an effort to soften the coverage.

Mr. Hanson and Mr. Ireland met with Ms. Goldberg in January to complain, according to the suit, and Mr. Hanson told Ms. Goldberg that the relationship between the orchestra and Mr. Rosenberg was “irreparable.” The next month, Ms. Goldberg warned Mr. Rosenberg that his “consistently negative” and “predictable” reviews had compromised the newspaper’s credibility.

The New York Times, December 11, 2008

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I grew up with the Cleveland Orchestra, and I've never heard them play badly. I've only seen Franz conduct a few times, and, though he's no George Szell, I thought he did a fine job.

The problem with critics is they can't really DO anything, except criticize. I can't tell you how many times I've read lousy reviews of perfectly great albums/performances/artists and great reviews of lousy albums/performances/artists.

I've never been able to figure out what gives someone who's never made a recording, or conducted a symphony, or performed in front of thousands of people, the qualifications to judge someone who has? Most of the rock critics I've met were just failed musicians.

In the end, it's all subjective, anyway. In a few years there won't be any more newspapers. Don Rosenberg just got a head start looking for his next gig. :P

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Eric-Thanks for your insightful and funny "take".

By the way when I went to Brooklyn College I gave "Raspberries" a great review in the "Kingsman" college newspaper 'cause I'm not even a failed musician...I'd like to think I'm a highly successful fan (Whatever that is?).

I hope my review helped 'cause back then I was a really,really influential 21 year old college kid. :) -Ira.

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I guess if what Eric says about critics is true, and people agree with it so much...well, if you've never played music yourself, you'd better never criticize musicians or any kind of music again. You're not allowed to express an opinion, because you haven't done it yourself and thus have no basis upon which to judge.

What about that last movie you saw? Are you a screenwriter, a director, a producer, an actor? No? If not, forget about expressing your opinions on movies. The same goes for TV shows...You can't judge whether anyone did their job well unless you've done it yourself. Oh, and if you ARE a former screenwriter, director, producer, actor, etc., well, you're not allowed to say anything negative about the work of others, because it's just sour grapes from a person who failed...

The list goes on...extend it to painting or anything else you want...

Suffice it to say that I disagree with Eric on this point...I think it's perfectly possible to judge and criticize a piece of work done by someone else. We all have eyes and ears and that's all it takes to judge whether we like or don't like something. A little more education may make us better judges of whether it's actually of good quality or not, but the fact is, nobody has to be able to DO something in order to criticize how someone else does it. And dismissing all negative criticism as "the envy of the failed" is just too simplistic.

That doesn't mean critics are right or justified all the time. It just means that there are good ones and bad ones, and there are also good ones who don't correctly call everything the way it ultimately gets viewed over the long term.

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I believe Roger Ebert's "claim to fame," prior to becoming a film critic, was that he wrote the screenplay for Russ Meyer's "Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls."

On a side note, I dated one of the stars of that film, Erika Gavin, back in the mid-seventies. She was waitressing at The Roxy at the time. I had no idea she was one of "Russ's girls". Turns out she has QUITE a history in film.

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Ya know...I love romantic comedies.

They always get slammed by critics for being formulaic..which they are.

But I look...and if a movie is makin' money...or if Drew Barrymore is in 'it...I know I'll like it.(Exception..."Ready To Launch"-Yuk!)

Among the lambasted movies I love..."Fever Pitch" (Barrymore/Fallon) "50 First Dates" (Barrymore/Sandler) "Music And Lyrics" (Barrymore/Grant) "Serendipity" (Beckinsale/Cusack) ...So I agree...Critics ain't always so much of a much!-Ira.

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Man,Eric...You are so sharp...To quote the Kinks you go right "To The Bone"...I'm a teacher,I don't pretend to be an artist...but I know what it's like to have these pompous, theoretical,bureaucrats drop into your room and take apart your lessons when they have the social skills of orangutans!

If I'm not mistaken Trindy obviously likes your music but this is not the first time she has been a bit "adversarial"...and I ain't quite sure what's up. :mellow: -Ira.

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ira said:

If I'm not mistaken Trindy obviously likes your music but this is not the first time she has been a bit "adversarial"...and I ain't quite sure what's up.

Give Trindy a break here. Just because she disagrees with Eric doesn't make her "adversarial." Ira do you actually agree with EVERYTHING Eric says? I love Eric's MUSIC but he certainly doesn't walk on water as far as other subjects are concerned - at least not for me. Sorry if that makes me "adversarial", but with all due respect, there's something wrong if we cannot express an opinion that is contrary to Eric's.

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Um .... I am way beyond adversarial in most of the opinions I express - and I certainly don't kiss anyone's ass. I believe Trindy made a good point about things - I'm not a follower of the Pied Piper just because he's playing a decent tune. AHAHAHHAHA :P And that can be taken any way anyone wants to - and I am in accounting/banking....

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ira said:

I'm about to have a drink with GMan and Angelina in beautiful Bayonne N.J. ...So Marvin..."Please don't talk abot me when I'm gone".(Frank Sinatra,Kate Smith...and others.)

The point I have made many times before is, why the need to agree with EVERYTHING Eric says? Are you afraid of how he might react? I would think he'd be more interested in people who had a different, intelligent opinion, than people who feel the need to (in Barbara's words) "suck up."

Through the lifetime of this board I've been saying how much I hate the "WD" album. So what? It's my opinion. When I first met Eric in 2004, the VERY FIRST thing he said to me was, "Marvin! So you're the guy who hates WD!" At least I made an impression.

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I agree with what Eric has said AND Trindy. A couple of things...

What did Trindy say that disrespected any artist? She was giving her view on professional critics. Calling that disrespectful is silly at best.

We now can all rest easy.It appears that we now know that all the evil in the world can be attributed to "Pompous talk radio". Heh.

I'd say Marv was alluding to more folks than just Ira. Of course I'm not Marv, and this is just an educated guess.

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Marvin...Hollies...This site is recreational.

It is a place where the richest people don't get the best seats. It is an egalitarian site

Relax...It's a site where Middle-Age people who have passions talk to eachother.

Stop criticizing.Just listen to the music.

I truly wish everyone in this crazy world could enjoy what we here at EC.Com enjoy.

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