The probable elephant in the room re: Mäkelä is his identity as a (very) white male. Alex Ross wasn't choosing at random when he chose to compare directly to Xian Zhang (neither white nor male).

My two cents: Mäkelä seems to be in fine position (signed with Decca, routinely "showered with praise" as "an orchestral golden boy"). One could probably therefore cherry-pick some really good reviews of even this Sibelius cycle. Do I think Alex Ross et al. needed to go so hard on him? No - it unfortunately seems to be the typical cycle of commentary for certain people to hear that someone is being touted, and automatically listen more critically. Why couldn't he tout Xian Zhang without putting down another conductor?

Also, it must be said that Ross's comparison of Zhang to Szell was under very specific auspices: he considers Zhang's career to be a happier alternative for the future of conductors than Mäkelä's, preferring music directors to put down roots with an orchestra, rather than be "itinerant maestros who draw big salaries in multiple cities." Fair enough!

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Couldn’t agree more re. Mäkelä. The fact that critics dislike his Sibelius cycle is one thing (for my part he brings out lots of interesting and thoughtful details, even if the whole picture more often than not fails to congeal). What bothers me, however, is the tone of the Mäkelä criticism than its substance. Ross makes glib reference to his looks and resorts to hyperbolic exasperation (“The idea that someone in his mid-twenties could have mastered these complex and elusive scores…” is not a million miles removed from “Who does this punk kid think he is?”). Kosman is a little better, using Mäkelä’s professional achievements as a way of discussing the classical music industry’s quasi-exploitative cult of youth. Even so, his critique exhibits an underlying gatekeeping instinct that is sadly ubiquitous among both professional and amateur critics, nearly all of whom are middle-aged plus.

Yes, a 26-year-old has limited life experience on which to draw, but how much does that really matter for musical interpretation? If you were to hear two recordings of, say, Mahler 2, one by a twenty-something upstart prodigy and another by an aged eminence grise, what fraction of your annual income would you be willing to bet on your ability to tell which is which? My answer: not much at all.

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The Pelēcis piece is great (again!). And I think it's the first time a piece has been re-posted to the Mixtape? Must be pretty good 😉

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