Photo by Phillip Nangle
You’re a rising star pianist on the cusp of international success. You’ve had some notable bookings – including a concert in the prestigious International Piano Series at London’s Southbank Centre – but a Google search of your name throws up a mediocre review on the first page of results. So, what to do: accept that this is a musician’s lot in the 21st century, grow a thick skin and work on new projects to promote online; or try to have the offending item removed, at whatever cost?
Dejan Lazić chose the latter. In private email correspondence with the Washington Post, the pianist asked editors to take down a review from 2010 under the European Union ‘right to be forgotten’ ruling (see p8). The review itself, written by the critic Anne Midgette, was well balanced. Midgette praised Lazić for showing that ‘he can do anything he wants at the keyboard, detailing chords with a jeweler’s precision’ and observed that he was a ‘profoundly gifted’ artist. But she also criticised Lazić’s ‘playacting gestures’ and questioned the importance of his earlier project transcribing the Brahms Violin Concerto for piano (an arrangement that has been highly praised elsewhere).
The Post flatly refused the request and published an article that included quotes from Lazić’s emails. The paper claimed that the removal of a review was tantamount to censorship and that musicians could not engineer coverage to suit their public persona. The article also suggested that Lazić’s complaint should have been directed not at the newspaper but at the search engine, whose algorithms work in seemingly mysterious and fluid ways.
Reviewers have the right to comment on an artist’s musical shortcomings, as long as the writing is fair and accurate. I have also received requests for reviews to be removed from digital platforms – something I have never agreed to. Lazić’s complaint went viral: as global news platforms picked up on the story, the review he so desperately wanted buried was viewed by thousands more. A Grimm fairy tale for the internet era.