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Critic’s lawsuit struck a chord

Longtime Cleveland Plain Dealer classical music critic Don Rosenberg last week lost his lawsuit against the paper and the Cleveland Orchestra, which he alleged forced him out of his position because of negative reviews in 2008. (Rosenberg has been re-assigned on the paper’s staff.)

Many in the classical music world have already weighed in. But I thought the best takes were those that spoke of the larger issue at play here: the role of the arts and the arts critic in society. It’s something Glenn Beck has discussed in recent weeks, taking Baltimore to task for maintaining funding levels on the Lyric despite all of its budget woes.

Martin Bernheimer, a Pulitzer Prize-winning critic, wrote in the Financial Times that Rosenberg’s case is an “alarming sign of the times”:

As government cuts of arts subsidies start to bite all over Europe, especially in Britain, there is talk of relying on “the American model.” That means an increased reliance on individual contributions – which goes along with an acceptance, presumably, of the individual powers that accompany substantial donations. Where does critical independence fit into this?

Chicago Tribune movie critic Michael Phillips wrote it’s a healthy sign when the triangular relationship between critic, newspaper and art community gets “sticky.”

There is so much fear and self-censorship in the critics’ ranks in America today. There are so few full-time salaries. You can smell the caution and paranoia in too many reviews weighed down by generalities and a stenographer’s devotion to “objectivity,” which isn’t what this endeavor is about at all. It’s about informed, vividly argued subjectivity.

Phillips also responded to Beck:

Criticism is a way of writing about life, and the world, and a symphony’s place in it, or a performer’s, or a photograph’s. …[N]o matter how frightening the economy, we must remind ourselves that we demonize the humanities… at the risk of becoming a nation we don’t want to become.