The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music review: Blog reader Igor was also at Lola Astanova’s Carnegie hall recital and says the mainstream critics got it right when they panned it.

February 5, 2012

By Jacob Stockinger

You may recall that a couple of week ago, I posted stories about the Carnegie Hall recital debut to benefit the American Cancer Society (with guest celebrities Donald Trump and Julie Andrew) by 28-year-old Uzbekistan-born pianist Lola Astanova (below), who likes to perform in the latest fashions and who is not shy about promoting herself and her good looks to further her concert career. (That is why she also invites comparison to pianist Yuja Wang.)

Here is a link to that first post:

Then a week later, I posted a number of reviews of that recital. Most of the critics said it was so-so, though a couple were more enthusiastic. Here is a link to that second post:

But subsequently I heard from two listeners who each attended the recital and were there on the spot.

Now, of course, we all know how unreliable eyewitnesses can be, thanks to the many death-penalty reversals secured around the U.S. by The Innocence Project. Eyewitness testimony, and “ear-witness” testimony too, has long known to be notoriously unreliable. So have critics’ assessments and reviews.

Add in the subjectivity of the arts and both the person making the art and the person consuming it, and the question of reliability is compounded.

In any case I want to offer two sides, one pro and one con, from two people who both attended the recital.

You can make up your own mind which one is right, or if the truth lies somewhere in between.

Yesterday, I featured Alexander Grey who wrote at length and thoughtfully to the blog, in two installments.

Here is a different and dissenting or disgreeing review, one that backs up the mainstream viewers, form the blog reader Igor:

Igor writes:

People at the concert were NOT experienced concert-goers – quite the opposite, which was very easy to determine: Most of them applauded at the end of each movement of Chopin’s “Funeral March” Sonata.

No, not from enthusiasm.

The audience simply was not informed that the end of a movement is not the end of the piece. Many of them attended a classical concert for the first time, all for different reasons – relation to the American Cancer Society, celebrity names involved, etc.

A lot of people left at the intermission – a fact that was mentioned by few reviewers and newspapers. The concert was listed as “sold out” at the day of performance – but large amount of tickets was just given out as an invitation, with purpose to fill out the hall.

There is an artificial and extremely aggressive attempt to impose this particular pianist as a “star” – even though she does not have any previous credits to put on her bio – no competitions, no significant public performances (the one with Gergiev (below) was a private initiative), no trace of any professional music management company interested or involved.

To give a credit to the girl, I must say that she definitely has personality and courage. Her behavior on stage (below) was, indeed, provocative – yet it had very little connection with what was played at the moment. But she does not SOUND like someone who is interested in music – bling seems to be much more important, and some piano skills just come to serve this goal.

Carnegie Hall can be rented for various purposes, especially for a benefit concert like that. Money can push media exposure. It can even hire a group of people writing good reviews – not in major newspapers like The New York Times, of course.

It takes Horowitz (below) to make a piano sound like Horowitz piano, you know.

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