The attacks on me aren't making sense.

Oh, jeez…they're at it again. I wish I'd seen it earlier, but only now (in mid-January) did I read a column by Boston Globe music critic Richard Dyer, which ran on Christmas Day. Not all of it was about me, but here's the part that was:


 By Richard Dyer, Globe Staff, 12/25/98

Andre Previn, Boston Symphony Orchestra concertmaster Malcolm Lowe, and Nicholas T. Zervas, president of the BSO's board of trustees, are among those who have responded to critic Gregory Sandow's mega-attack on the BSO and its artistic director Seiji Ozawa, which was published in the Wall Street Journal Dec. 15.
In a letter to the Wall Street Journal's editor, Previn wrote that he read the article ``with bewilderment bordering on the surreal. I have had the good fortune to conduct the Boston Symphony Orchestra regularly for a great many years. . . . and I have never considered the accomplishments of the orchestra as anything less than of the very highest caliber. Whether it is a reduced orchestra for Mozart and Haydn, or a huge ensemble for Shostakovich and Mahler, my admiration (as well as the audience's) for the playing has been deep and appreciative.
``My travels take me to many of the great world-class orchestras, Vienna, London, Berlin, New York, etc., and the Boston Symphony unquestionably ranks with them at the top of the ladder. It is quite impossible for a truly great orchestra such as this to be impaired by its music director; the pride of the players in their own musicianship is much too pronounced. Besides which, Seiji Ozawa's worldwide preeminence is much too well-known and firmly established to be sniped at. He is a great conductor, and the BSO is a great orchestra.''
Lowe was distressed by Sandow's extensive quotation from a letter criticizing Ozawa that he cosigned with principal cellist Jules Eskin, which appeared several years ago in an unofficial newsletter published by a group of BSO players called Counterpoint. ``I was frustrated and upset to see my name attached to the article since your reporter did not contact me and chose to quote a letter published nearly four years ago in an internal orchestra publication. Our letter was aimed at communication and overtime trade-agreement issues; it was not an anti-Ozawa piece as your reporter claims. . . . I am proud and honored to be the concertmaster for the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Seiji Ozawa. I have great respect for the institution, for Seiji Ozawa, and for my colleagues in the orchestra. The Boston Symphony Orchestra maintains its integrity, dedication, and musicianship at the highest level.''
Zervas responded to what he called ``an unbecoming and unwarranted attack. We are distressed at [Sandow's] attempt to substantiate his negative views about Mr. Ozawa and the BSO by invoking a handful of unnamed sources positioned as expert witnesses.'' Zervas characterized Sandow's view of Ozawa as an ``insulting, reductive, and racist view of him as a samurai kept in place in order to raise Japanese money.'' Zervas's letter was accompanied by 10 favorable reviews of the programs Sandow criticized that appeared in other publications in Europe and the United States.
Meanwhile, at the Baltimore Sun, critic Stephen Wigler weighed in with his view. ``Some of what Sandow says is just wrong. Japanese support of Ozawa and his orchestra, while generous, amounts to no more than 1 or 2 percent of the Boston Symphony Orchestra's budget. . . . What I do believe is that the Boston Symphony is one of the world's great orchestras and that Ozawa, while perhaps an indifferent interpreter of Mozart or Beethoven, is a superb conductor of difficult 20th-century pieces by Bartok, Stravinsky, or Messiaen. And I know for sure that my editors at The Sun would never -- not even in an opinion piece -- allow me to use as many unnamed sources as the Journal permitted Sandow to do.''

Incredible. If you read my review -- the one that started all of this -- you won't find me saying that Japanese money keeps Ozawa afloat. In fact, I said it didn't.
I hadn't answered any of the BSO's attacks, but this was too much. So I e-mailed the following letter to the Globe, with a copy to Dyer:

I expected protest when I wrote my Wall Street Journal comments on the Boston Symphony, but the near-hysteria of some of the remarks Richard Dyer quotes ("Beleaguered BSO Answers Wall Street Journal Attack," December 25) leaves me shocked.
I’m especially surprised at Nicholas T. Zervas, president of the BSO's board of trustees, who attacks me for an "insulting, reductive, and racist view of [Seiji Ozawa] as a samurai kept in place in order to raise Japanese money.'' These are things I didn’t say. I’d heard the charge about Japanese money while I was writing my piece, so I asked Mark Volpe, the BSO’s General Manager, what he thought of it. Mark refuted it, and I quoted him approvingly.
As for calling Ozawa a "samurai," one of my sources did that, not me. But I’m fascinated by the notion that I’m racist. One of the BSO’s senior staff floated that same accusation to me privately, not about me, but about others who criticize Ozawa. Is this a standard BSO spin? I might add that the source I quoted is, at least officially, pro-Ozawa. If the BSO doesn’t like the word "samurai," it should argue with its own supporters.
Anyone who’d like to read what I really wrote -- and see my response to some of the other charges leveled at me -- should visit my website, www.gregsandow.com.

(The Globe printed this letter -- minus the final paragraph about this website -- in their Sunday arts section on January 31. I loved their headline: "Much Ado About Nothing?")

I've already commented on Malcolm Lowe. To Andre Previn, I can only say --once I stop laughing -- "Do tell us, Mr. Previn, why we should believe any statement so flagrantly self-interested?" The Boston Symphony performed his Piano Concerto in December, and this month (January) he's conducting the orchestra, as well as playing with the Boston Symphony Chamber Players. I'm not saying he's lying (I have no idea what he really thinks), but I'll tell you when I'll find his words convincing -- when he's equally outspoken about the conductors and orchestras he doesn't like.
As for my colleague from the Baltimore Sun, I'm distressed that he, like Nicholas Zervas, didn't read me carefully. He doesn't understand that I rejected the claims about Japanese money.
And I wonder if he pondered the implications of his final comment, where he says he knows for sure that h
is editors at The Sun "would never -- not even in an opinion piece -- allow me to use as many unnamed sources as the Journal permitted Sandow to do." Since the Wall Street Journal is one of the country's four or five top newspapers, maybe its editors know what they're doing.
(Because I understand the problems with unnamed sources, I told my editor who mine were, so he could evaluate them himself. It's worth noting that these sources are people I don't know very well. They aren't, in other words, Greg's little anti-Ozawa clique. They're all people I happened to encounter, who upon hearing the words "Seiji Ozawa" said -- without any prompting from me -- what I quoted them as saying. They provide a good sample of what you hear about Ozawa and the BSO in the classical music world, if you get around enough, and if people feel they can talk to you honestly.)