I’m not the first, nor will be the last to say it: The chief role of the critic is to confirm what people already believe. I was reminded of this as I joined my fellow Banff International String Quartet Competition audience members at breakfast.
The first words the early diners exchanged with each other were not Good Morning, but What Do You Think of The Results? — asked with an intensely meaningful look.
This, the final breakfast of an incredible week, was the liveliest of all.
Since my first review for the Toronto Star 12-1/2 years ago, I learned (sometimes the hard, scathing, letter-to-the-editor way) that because people connect deeply and react strongly to Art, they need to share that connection with others.
Part of that connection and sharing process involves having one’s impressions confirmed and reinforced. It’s human nature.
Whenever I get a chance to speak on music criticism, I say something about how the critic represents but one of many factors that fuel a healthy conversation about a particular artform. But, stripped of all the fine words and noble thoughts, what each and every one of us desires more than a Callebaut chocolate is to discover that we are right.
Think about the last movie you saw, the last book you read, the last piece of visual art you inspected, the last concert you heard. Wasn’t it nice to share your impressions, suspicions or elation and have them confirmed?
Just like every other person in the room, I had my list of favourite quartets as I stood listening to the judges’ verdict last night. Had the three finalists matched my list, I would have walked back to my room feeling taller than the Banff Centre’s Rocky backdrop.
But that wasn’t the case. I scratched my head and perhaps even tossed in my bed for a few minutes before finding peace. The peace came from knowing there is a process in place at this and every other high-calibre competition that produces its own wisdom and its own judgments based on a system designed to help ensure as much fairness as humanly possible.
That won’t stop many of us from going to hear this afternoon’s Beethoven with a mind to second-guess the judges. But, ultimately, it’s a lot more fulfilling to listen, appreciate and let the universe unfold as it should.
The three finalists — the Navarra, Cavatine and Dover Quartets — begin their Beethoven round at 4 p.m. Eastern today here.