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In Cleveland, a critical clash

September 30, 2008
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Classical music fans, musicians, critics and administrators around the country are taking sides in a battle that's been raging in Cleveland.

The situtation: After years of blasting Cleveland Orchestra music director Franz Welser-Most, Cleveland Plain Dealer music critic Donald Rosenberg has been taken off the music beat and reassigned to other arts and entertainment matters at the paper.

Two factors worth noting: 1. Rosenberg had been covering music there and elsewhere for 28 years. He is not a top-of-the-head writer reassigned from the suburban beat. 2. The Cleveland Orchestra is one of the anchoring cultural institutions in the city and perhaps its only arts organization well known and well respected beyond the Ohio borders.

The conflict between critic and conductor has been known in the arts community and beyond for years. In June, Welser-Most told the New York Times “...if the same person writes after six years that the orchestra plays beautifully and what I do is bad, somehow it misses logic.”

The Plain Dealer folks are calling it an internal matter and not sharing much info. The newspaper's ombudsperson did a solid job of recognizing the issues on both sides, concluding: "Like many of you, I am sad to lose Donald Rosenberg's voice as orchestra critic of this newspaper. But it doesn't follow that the decision to remove him was based on anything other than [editor] Susan Goldberg's honest belief that the change would be in the best interests of the newspaper and its readers - a decision that is her right and responsibility to make."

So what should happen when a city's newspaper of record features a critic who consistantly and clearer disagrees with the esthetic of one of its highest profile arts creators?

What should happen in Indy if any of the small pool of critics consistantly wrote negatively about the work of the IRT, the ISO, the Indianapolis Opera, or the IMA?

Your thoughts?
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