With due respect to the Smiths of Fountain Valley (Orange County Letters, Jan. 2), who were mystified about the qualifications of Chris Pasles as music critic, I think it is clear that Pasles' qualifications are simply those exhibited by Martin Bernheimer for so many years: a sour disposition and an acid pen. As to "Why Pasles?"; well, if Bernheimer, then why not Pasles?
Indeed, Pasles appears to be trying to surpass the old master himself.
Pasles conjectured that soprano Roberta Peters' "stage whisper" to conductor Keith Clark (review of the Pacific Symphony Orchestra's New Year's concert, printed Jan. 2) requested and achieved, with only a few words, a unique enlivenment of turgid tempi, into which Clark and the orchestra almost immediately relapsed. Pasles' claim is nearly baseless, and so silly as to be almost unworthy of comment.
But this isn't the first time that Pasles has speculated on a soloist's communications with Clark. If memory serves me correctly, Pasles also claimed in an October review that a clarinet soloist attempted to correct Clark's tempi by "nodding" at him. My wife and I attended that performance. While the clarinetist played magnificently, his mannerisms were eccentric. He nodded, bobbed and wandered around the stage as he played, and seemed unable to end a phrase with a high note without rising to his tiptoes. If any of this was a message for Clark, it could have been clear to no one. Except, perhaps, to that subtle and perceptive rascal, Pasles.
If Pasles cannot provide firsthand (or even secondhand) testimony in the matter, then let's hear no more imagined insight into sotto voce communication between soloist and conductor.
With regard to Pasles' consistently harsh judgment of the performance of Clark and the PSO, my personal experience is that Pasles is both wrong and determinedly wrongheaded. I hesitate to suggest it, but might we be seeing a bit of parochialism here? Perhaps negative commentary by The Times' music critics regarding Clark and the PSO should be taken with more than just a grain of salt. More likely, Pasles is just trying to establish churlish bona fides.
ROBERT L. ARCHIBALD