Conference Report: Music Criticism 1950-2000 (Day 3)

Barcelona: October 11, 2017

Conference Organized By: 

Centro Studi Opera Omnia Luigi Boccherini, Lucca and the Societat Catalana de Musicologia, Barcelona

Sitting with friends in a tapas bar in the center of Barcelona Tuesday night, we saw Catalonian President Carles Puigdemont (pr. Poojdemon) make an endless speech in which he declared independence, then suspended the declaration indefinitely, then threatened to unsuspend the suspension. The general reaction, among the minority who seemed to care, was disgust. On Wednesday the federal government in Madrid demanded to know whether he had declared independence or not. I suppose it’s comforting to know that politics is equally screwed up everywhere.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday morning, back at the Institut d’Estudis Catalans, musicology was proceeding smoothly, with talks on the intersection between musicology and music criticism, as well as a couple of  obligatory papers on Adorno—only one of which actually took place for personal reasons on the part of the second speaker.

This was probably just as well, as Adorno would have been turning over in his grave at the thought of the next three papers—sensitive and intelligent explorations of music criticism and jazz from Christa Bruckner-Haring (Institute for Jazz Research, University of Music and Performing Arts Graz), Ryan Bruce (University of Guelph), and Vincenzo Martorella (Conservatori di Sassari, Vinezia e Ferrara). On this last day of the conference, it was refreshing to look back and see how naturally discussions of jazz and film music rubbed shoulders with more expected presentations concerning the major classics. Several of these papers were undoubted highlights of the proceedings.

For the “Grand Finale” on Wednesday afternoon, four papers addressed the major topic of Music Criticism and Reception—possibly the most important value, historically, that music criticism has for researchers today. Noted Mendelssohn scholar Siegwart Reichwald (Converse College, Spartenburg, SC) stepped outside of his Fach to offer a stimulating discussion of Astor Piazzola’s concerts in New York City; Armando Ianniello (Università di Pavia-Cremona) delivered an exceptionally lucid analysis of the evolution of Nino Rota’s music for La Strada from the original film to an independent ballet; Eric Taxier (City University of New York) tackled a new interpretational model for Louis Andriessen’s De Staat; and the conference concluded with Australian independent scholar Marc Pinner’s exploration of controversies engendered by the Sydney Piano Competition.

It was a sign of the general interest in the topics presented that so many participants remained to the very end to applaud the final group of presenters. Conferences such as this are organized in wonderful destinations like Barcelona to attract scholars expecting to combine work with a bit of tourism on the side. The result, often enough, is a steady dwindling of attendance as the days roll on. Happily, the gorgeous Institut d’Estudis Catalans held its own appeal as a venue for the presentations, while the depth and variety of the papers kept everyone coming back for more.

David Hurwitz