Allan Kozinn ousted as music critic

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Ricordanza
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Allan Kozinn ousted as music critic

Post by Ricordanza » Mon Sep 03, 2012 7:55 pm

Whether it's called a reassignment or a demotion, the sad fact is that the New York Times has removed Allan Kozinn (my favorite music critic) from his post as music critic and reassigned him as a general "cultural" reporter. Here's his Facebook post on the subject, with a link to an article by Norman Lebrecht on the subject:
Well, since word about this seems to be out, I might as well repost it as well. I think officially, all I can say is that it's been more than a privilege to write about music and musicians for the Times for the last 35 years. I've heard, seen and covered a few lifetimes worth of great and interesting music although there's a great deal more I wanted to do - I've really enjoyed watching the new music world really catch fire in recent years - I'll obviously continue to keep tabs on it through Steve Smith's work, not to mention directly, where possible while I'm doing whatever it is I'll be doing instead. http://www.artsjournal.com/slippeddisc/ ... ritic.html

John F
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Re: Allan Kozinn ousted as music critic

Post by John F » Mon Sep 03, 2012 8:42 pm

The Times's classical music staff has been a shadow of its former self since the retirement of Donal Henahan as chief critic in 1991. That's when senior music critic John Rockwell was passed over for the top job and imported Edward Rothstein instead. (Full disclosure: John is a college classmate and a friend.) Rothstein's opinions were odd, and sometimes it wasn't clear just what his opinion was; he didn't last long. He was quickly succeeded by the incompetent Bernard Holland, who likewise didn't last long in the top job; following him came Paul Griffiths, who was at least competent and remained for a decade before moving on to the New Yorker. The Times then plucked the amiable Anthony Tommasini from the Boston Globe (owned by the Times), where he was Paul Dyer's #2 and appeared to like everything, and that's where we stand now.

The best of the Times's classical music staff in the 2000s have been Alan Kozinn and Jeremy Eichler. Eichler was sent to the Globe as their chief music writer and has been doing work there that's worthy of Dyer, for many years America's best classical music reviewer. And now Kozinn is being dismissed. The Arts Journal piece says that Tommasini's heir apparent is Zachary Woolfe, whose New York Times reviews have not stood out in any way.

In terms of quality classical music journalism, this makes no sense. But then, it's been decades since classical music coverage really mattered to the powers that be at the Times. Previously the Times's top music writers won Pulitzer Prizes for their work, Harold C. Schonberg in 1971 and Henahan in 1986; if the current staff included any potential Pulitzer Prize winners, it lost them with the demotions of John Rockwell and Alan Kozinn.
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Donald Isler
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Re: Allan Kozinn ousted as music critic

Post by Donald Isler » Tue Sep 04, 2012 10:38 am

Henahan (who died recently) was a good writer, but not very much respected by musicians. It's true that he did not very much like my debut recital, but I am very far from being the only musician who appreciated his writing ability, but thought little of his musical knowledge. All the other people mentioned here were better thought of by those in our profession.

Another note: Ross Parmenter, who was a close friend of our family, and was long-time music editor of the Times was very disappointed when he was passed over for the top critic's job in 1960. Harold Schonberg was picked instead. Ross' reaction was to reassess what he really wanted to do with his life and, within a few years, he retired from the Times and spent the rest of his working years writing books that he'd always wanted to write on other subjects. Likewise, I'm sure this will not be the last we hear of Mr. Kozinn.
Donald Isler

John F
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Re: Allan Kozinn ousted as music critic

Post by John F » Tue Sep 04, 2012 11:40 am

Between you and me, I wasn't a big fan of Donal Henahan either, but he did get the Pulitzer, so somebody did! Newspapermen are more likely to appreciate a reviewer's writing style than assess the depth of his/her musical knowledge - and both musicians and academics enjoy finding fault with anybody in the reviewer's chair. I've even seen some criticism of Andrew Porter. But at the Times, it's been easier for them in recent years and decades.
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Werner
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Re: Allan Kozinn ousted as music critic

Post by Werner » Tue Sep 04, 2012 1:58 pm

I'm happy to see John's characterizaion of Tommasini as "amiable."I like the attitude of informed respect he displays toward music and performers - a wholesome departure from Henahan's attitude of superiority - well written as he occasionally did.

My favorite among Times chief crititics was Schonberg, whose commitment to quality never wavered, agree with him or not.

It will be a pity to see Kozinn go. I should be sorry to lose Tommasini, who has kept the department up to a very respectable level.
Werner Isler

Ricordanza
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Re: Allan Kozinn ousted as music critic

Post by Ricordanza » Sat Sep 08, 2012 7:56 am

New Yorker critic and author Alex Ross posted the following comments:
Long and winding road

Allan Kozinn, a long-serving and widely respected classical critic for the New York Times, is being taken off the music beat and assigned to general cultural reporting. Allan wrote yesterday in a public message on his Facebook page: "It's been more than a privilege to write about music and musicians for the Times for the last thirty-five years. I've heard, seen and covered a few lifetimes' worth of great and interesting music. Although there's a great deal more I wanted to do — I've really enjoyed watching the new-music world catch fire in recent years — I'll obviously continue to keep tabs on it through Steve Smith's work, not to mention directly, where possible, while I'm doing whatever it is I'll be doing instead." Many in the music world, myself included, are baffled and saddened by this development: a petition calling for his reinstatement gathered hundreds of signatures overnight. Whatever the outcome of that effort, Allan must be gratified to see this outpouring of appreciation for his decades of work. He is a critic of vast experience and keen perception.

Update: More than a thousand people have signed the petition, quite a few of them composers and performers who may or may not have received favorable reviews from Allan in the past. The quality that keeps getting mentioned in the comments is this critic's fundamental fairness. "It’s a little like being in It’s a Wonderful Life without having to hang out with Clarence," Allan told Jim Romanesko.
Probably won't do any good, but I signed the petition.

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