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September 23, 2008


Gary Hanson

In recent days, the music writers’ blogsphere has been rife with assumptions and even accusations that the management of The Cleveland Orchestra engineered personnel changes at Cleveland’s daily newspaper, The Plain Dealer. These accusations are false.

I want to set the record straight: I was completely surprised by the news last week that Plain Dealer music critic Donald Rosenberg has been re-assigned and will no longer cover The Cleveland Orchestra for the newspaper.

A half dozen critics have called or emailed me this week asking if I met with the newspaper’s editors to lodge complaints. The answer is I have never met with them to protest Donald Rosenberg’s opinions. In the normal course of business during my tenure with the Orchestra, I have spoken with every editor, past and present, about the newspaper's coverage. In those meetings I have delivered compliments and concerns about their news and feature coverage as well as their editorial positions and decisions. But in every case I have also said, very explicitly, that the Orchestra’s management understands and respects the paper's and the critic’s role in expressing opinion about our artistic activities. And whether or not we agree with the opinion we fully accept and support their right and responsibility to publish it.

Donald Rosenberg has written about The Cleveland Orchestra for decades. I worked directly with him for many years, especially during my early tenure here as Director of Public Relations. In that role, I opened the Orchestra archives to him for research on his comprehensive history of the Orchestra “Second to None.” I very much enjoyed the productive and professional relationship we’ve shared. I appreciate and admire a great deal of his work on the subject of the Orchestra and I am grateful for his dedication to regular and comprehensive classical music coverage. Over the years we have agreed and we have disagreed. All the same I will miss working with him.

Steve Smith

Thanks, Gary, for stopping by to clarify matters. I'd actually read your position, as stated here, on MusicalAmerica.com this morning, and I have no cause to doubt that you are representing yourself truthfully. Your own position is clearly beyond reproach.

On the other hand, no one was born yesterday; connections at the very highest levels between orchestras and newspapers exist everywhere. Susan Elliott at MA.com pointed out that the current and immediate past publishers of the Plain Dealer are on the Cleveland Orchestra board. To suggest that no conversations on the subject at hand ever occurred, that no complaints were aired, seems untenable.

I grant that it is not merely possible but genuinely more likely that editor Susan Goldberg, alone or with others on her staff, simply felt it was time for some fresh air, a new take on Welser-Möst's hard work with this august orchestra. And you'll notice that in my original post I did not suggest in any way that the Cleveland Orchestra helped to engineer Rosenberg's ouster.

But surely you must understand, especially in light of those high-level connections, that manipulation would cross the mind of any thinking individual, whether they wrote as much or not.

Henry holland

If Mr. Rosenberg is looking for work, could he please come out to Los Angeles and replace Mark Swed at the Los Angeles Times? Please? PLEASE? :-)

Eric Skelly

Having worked with Don Rosenberg during my brief stint as PR Manager for The Cleveland Orchestra in the mid-90s I can attest to the fact that any newspaper should consider itself very fortunate to have a music critic with the knowledge, commitment, integrity and talent that Don Rosenberg brings to the job. When I was there, of course, Dohnanyi was music director, and the accolades flowed freely from The Plain Dealer and pretty much everywhere. Nobody was complaining about Don Rosenberg then. He could do no wrong. If anything, the powers that be took it for granted that the accolades would always roll in from Don, and therein, I suspect, is the problem. Don Rosenberg is no shill...never has been.

cembalista del fuoco

As a professional musician in Cleveland, I have to say that there is *great* discontent amongst the musicians of the Cleveland Orchestra. The board members and supporters of the Orchestra need to ponder why so many of the orchestra's musicians, including principal players, have resigned in the last 2 years. Musicians are deeply frustrated at having to perform concerts that lack any compelling interpretive force.

It was clear to me from FWM's first concert here as Music Director that he would be an excellent Opera conductor, and belongs in the pit. Conducting orchestral concerts onstage, however, requires the capacity to communicate musical emotions in such a way that the players can reflect the conductor's characterization of every phrase. FWM is a fine and thoughtful musician, but his completely abstract and intellectual rehearsal style is not effective in communicating with this American orchestra. The result is often just notes on the page, nothing more.

The supporters and board members who have been pressuring the Plain Dealer to take the scandalous action of removing their nationally respected music critic think they are helping their beloved orchestra. They are mistaken. An orchestra whose finest musicians are leaving, and whose audience at home is dwindling, and whose success lies in invitations to the Music Director's home country, is not on a healthy path.

Don Rosenberg is not only an extraordinarily insightful musician but also a journalist of the highest integrity. Apparently journalistic integrity is no longer allowed at the Plain Dealer.

The President and C.E.O. of the Plain Dealer, Terrance Egger, is a board member of the Cleveland Orchestra. What more needs to be said?

dominique conus

what is great music? how is it discovered? who is to say: This is great music? It's all thanks to pioneers such as yourself that great music is discovered.Won't you please go to http://greatpianomusic and see for yourself if the late Serge Conus, Son of Julius Conus (violin and composer) was a great composer

Joshua Rothkopf

If, as Gary Hanson puts it, his organization "fully accepts and supports" the rights of critics to publish adverse opinions, then it would be a sign of GREAT MORAL FIBER on the part of the orchestra itself to publicly call for Mr. Rosenberg's immediate reinstatement to his beat. Why have they not done so? Mr. Hanson should hold a press conference indicating his disappointment with the paper.

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