It saddens me often how much better the Arts section of the New York Times is than the Style section of the Washington Post. The name says it all. The Style folks do the best they can with the space they are given, and it is sometimes good. However, far too often, the Style page is afflicted with what I call the NPR effect, spending precious columns on trash on television and popular music. What Style does is fine, but could we please have a section for the arts? The arts, I say, and not pop ephemera.
This comes up because I was struck this afternoon, while my car was having its oil changed and I sat reading the papers in a café, by an article (In Salzburg, a Warm Birthday Party on a Cold Night, January 28) by James R. Oestreich in the New York Times. As you might expect, there was really great music making in Salzburg last night, with Riccardo Muti conducting the Vienna Philharmonic at the Salzburg Festspielhaus (see the Web site's slide show, too). The impressive list of guest artists included Cecilia Bartoli (replacing an indisposed Renée Fleming at the last minute), Thomas Hampson, Mitsuko Uchida, Gidon Kremer, and Yuri Bashmet. The paragraphs that set me off were the following (emphasis added):
Mr. Muti ended the evening with the final chorus from "Die Zauberflöte," with the orchestra joined by the Vienna Singverein: a satisfying close to an event a considerable cut above the typical all-star extravaganza. The concert was broadcast around the world on radio. It was also televised in most of the civilized world, which evidently no longer includes the United States. It was not picked up by Channel 13, PBS or — to the knowledge of its director, Brian Large — any other American outlet: a slight made all the more remarkable by the expected presence of two noted American singers, Ms. Fleming and Mr. Hampson.That's right, I am not the only one to lament that, once again, PBS has let us down. One commenter on my anti-NPR/PBS post got upset with what I wrote, but here is the same idea published in the New York Times. By the way, the same day there was another concert in Salzburg, in the Mozarteum, with Nikolaus Harnoncourt leading the Vienna Philharmonic in Mozart's Symphony No. 40, and Pierre-Laurent Aimard playing with three members of the Vienna Phil for the G minor piano quartet. It doesn't get much better than that. Take a look at James Oestreich's bloglike Salzburg Journal for more information.