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Practice, practice

May 31, 2008

Re "How to be a classical snob," Opinion, May 23

The sure route to effective snobbery is experience. Those who have surfed famous beaches for years can sneer at the newbies. Longtime bloggers can swiftly put down the arrivistes.

To be knowledgeable about classical music requires only listening -- lots of it. True, recordings are unsatisfying, especially to those of us familiar with the music at close range but who listen anyway. Most won't know the difference until they come to a live show. Definitely dispensable are books and lectures, because they won't mean anything without hearing the music, and good music explains itself.

Thomas Wright

Oak Park, Ill.

The writer is a member of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

There is more to being a classical music snob than sitting through a performance of Mahler's Sixth Symphony, which is one of the ugliest, most boring pieces ever written. You also have to believe that vinyl recordings are better than CDs, and that old dead fogies like pianist Arthur Schnabel are better performers than hot chicks like pianist Helene Grimaud or violinist Hilary Hahn.

And by the way, live performances can offer an experience that can't be duplicated on CD -- but you don't have to pay $50 to attend a concert in the cramped Disney Hall with its muddy surround-sound acoustics. All you have to do is log on to YouTube, which has videos of live performances of thousands of symphonies, concertos and chamber works.

Matthew Okada

Pasadena

Seldom have I seen so many perfectly good words perverted into such dangerous drivel. Joel Stein has fallen victim to the most common of common ills -- trying to be cute, self-deprecating and popular for the sake of being cute, self-deprecating and popular.

I was not aware that there was a shortage of those seeking mediocrity in Los Angeles.

Stein's quarrel with Mahler (in fact, his quarrel with refinement in general) rises way above the pettiness of even the most annoying critics of classical music. The critics, at least, have an underlying appreciation for that which they eviscerate.

Of course, Stein secretly loves classical music. Too bad he feels the need to package his interest in false populism that will only enhance the brotherhood of hip ignorance.

Todd Mason

Mar Vista

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