Last week my trio played two concerts in Wigmore Hall, one of the world’s premier venues for chamber music. Both concerts were sold out, with people standing at the back and people being turned away at the box office. Yet there was not a single review in any newspaper. These two concerts marked almost the end of a successful concert season in which, however, I don’t think we have had a single review.
Why does it matter, if the audience enjoyed our concerts? It matters because reviews are still used as a proof of one’s standing in the music world. Reviews from respected newspapers are exchanged between promoters, collected by agents, and widely used by performers to show that their own or their managers’ claims about their playing are not just idle chat. On an official level, hard copies of printed reviews are required by certain institutions. If you visit the United States as a soloist, for example, a work visa application requires you to submit hard copies of reviews, in substantial numbers and from publications with a good reputation. How else can you prove to people who are not musicians that you’re held in some kind of esteem, in the arts world at least? But how can you provide the necessary reviews if none have been written?
As you become better known, of course, reviews are less and less essential. But how on earth are young musicians to build up a portfolio if nobody comes to review their performances?