Sparks but no flame: the case of the aggrieved pianist

In 2010, Washington Post classical writer (extraordinaire, imho) Anne Midgette attended a recital by pianist Dejan Lazic. Later, Midgette took Lazic apart in her review of the show, titled “Sparks but no flame: Pianist Dejan Lazic at Kennedy Center’s Terrace Theater.” Here are a few of Midgette’s lines:

Grandiloquence is an occupational hazard for a solo musician. There you are, alone onstage, playing works that are acknowledged to be monumentally great with breathtaking ability. It can be hard to avoid assuming the trappings of greatness. Exhibit A is Dejan Lazic.

Not too salty, but there’s this…

The selection of [Chopin and Schubert] is usually a way to demonstrate a pianist’s sensitivity as well as his virtuosity. This performance, though, kept one eye fixed on monumentality. Some of the pieces (…) sounded less like light solo piano works than an attempt to rival the volume of a concerto with full orchestra. This scherzo became cartoon-like in its lurches from minutely small to very, very large.

Okay, don’t let Lazic read this:

[He used] a host of concert-pianist playacting gestures: head flung back at the end of a phrase; left hand conducting the right hand; or a whole ballet of fingers hovering over keys and picking out their targets before an opening note was even struck. (…) There were fine moments, but they stubbornly refused to add up to anything more than a self-conscious display of Fine Moments.

Midgette went in. Pen > sword.

Now, the crafty Lazic is fighting back. Get back critic! Citing the European Union’s agreement with Google, known to some as the “right to be forgotten,” Lazic says the Washington Post should eighty-six Midgette’s piece because it’s defamatory, and it’s effing up his Google search results.

Is it? Try it for yourself.


Sure as sugar, fourth one down: “Sparks but no flame.”

Lazic — who’s got quite the brass pair on him, no? — does have a point here. The review dents his credibility. Probably cuts into his checks, too, because who reads that and thinks, I gotta hire this guy! Every time he applies for a teaching position, “Sparks but no flame.” Every time a fan or Tinder date Googles him, “Sparks but no flame.” (For the record, it’s not even on the first page of Bing results. Bing!! What the hell is it?)

But asking papers to take down “bad” reviews means censoring writers and reporting. In this case, Midgette was reporting and editorializing. But she’s a vetted, not-infallible-but-still-trustworthy thinker. At best, critics cut through the dross and expose the truth. And damn it, let the record show Midgette also wrote beautiful things about Lazic:

The very first notes (…) at the start of the program signalled that he can do anything he wants at the keyboard, detailing chords with a jeweler’s precision, then laying little curls of notes atop a cushion of sound like diamonds nestled on velvet.


Speaking as someone with just a trash heap of bad pics, ill-conceived web pieces, and other detritus floating around the web, the only way fight back is publish more stuff. Constantly. Lazic, this review is from 2010, bro! Get over it. Start your own blog or something.

Is now a good time to mention that, because of the controversy, Lazic is getting more attention than he’s ever had? I guess that’s karmic retribution.


By dubuquecello

I'm a Dubuque, Iowa native. Interested in cello, tennis, donuts and other things. I'm a classical music optimist.

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