Meet Michael Clive, Pacific Symphony’s program annotator

By Erica Sharp

“Sometimes as a joke I refer to myself as ‘your intrepid annotator,’” said Michael Clive, longtime program note writer for Pacific Symphony, in an interview last week. He had just arrived back at his Connecticut home and grabbed a cup of coffee, ready now for a chat on the phone.

Clive was referring to a Symphony Magazine piece written about his style of program note writing during his early years with Pacific Symphony. “The premise of that article is that program notes were taking a new direction. They were becoming less formal and more interesting.”

Though he had done some program book writing for regional orchestras as a volunteer when he was 23, Pacific Symphony was officially the first orchestra he wrote program notes for. After Clive’s fellowship at the National Endowment for the Arts for classical music writers, Joseph Horowitz, former artistic advisor of the orchestra, recommended that he contact the Symphony.

From the very start, he was encouraged to take chances in his writing.

“Every time I have written something and thought it was risky, they put it in,” he said. “I said you can take it out if you want, but they have left it.”

Clive obtained his masters of arts degree in music criticism at the Peabody Institute of The Johns Hopkins University in 1987. At the time he was enrolled at the university he had a job with an advertising agency in New York and was living what he described as “a very corporate” lifestyle.

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Reviews of Pacific Symphony’s Carnegie Hall performance

Here are links to the reviews of Pacific Symphony’s debut at Carnegie Hall on April 21 in a program of music by Ravi Shankar and Philip Glass. I will add reviews if as they come in.

The New York Times

The Orange County Register

Agence Press France

Berkshire Fine Arts

Classical Voice North America (John Rockwell)

Photo: Richard Termine

Books on classical music: Some essentials (2)

Having a few books of music criticism — the right ones, at least — is an essential part of any serious classical music lover’s library. Good music criticism teaches us how to listen to and think about music.

A great book to start with is Tim Page on Music by none other than my friend Tim Page.

It’s a terrific volume for many reasons, but one of them that I’m always struck by is his prose style. It is conversational in the best sense, but not “breezy” in the way that most people mean when they say “conversational.” No, Tim’s prose has a real warmth, grace and flow. You can read it out loud and it sounds well (probably because Tim does that himself before he publishes a piece). It addresses the reader as if he is as intelligent as Tim, and just as interested in the subject matter.

Sometimes considered a critical no-no, the first person pronoun is used by Tim in a masterly way. He makes its use thoroughly convincing because somehow he talks directly and intimately to the reader and the use of the “I” becomes modest rather than boastful.

Along with Martin Bernheimer and Justin Davidson, he is one of only three living music critics to have won the Pulitzer Prize.

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The state of music criticism

Music critic G.B. Shaw

Three recent articles on the state of arts journalism in general and music criticism in particular. These are perceptive pieces, one and all, and not quick reads. The first article takes off from my appointment here at Pacific Symphony to consider a broader perspective.

Miscellany

(Curated news and views from around the web. Click on the highlighted links to read the full articles.)

In The New Yorker, David Denby writes a fine summing up of the career of conductor Arturo Toscanini, on the occasion of the maestro’s 150th anniversary and the publication of a mammoth new biography by Harvey Sachs…. The Canadian guide to classical music slang intersects with our own only intermittently, but it’s still amusing…. Beethoven’s Ninth means different things to different people, including, probably, the leaders attending the G-20 summit…. Tom Service has written a guide to contemporary classical music, taking 50 composers and their music one at a time…. Italian conductors still make headlines: Riccardo Muti has led a joint concert in Tehran with the the Luigi Cherubini Youth Orchestra and the Tehran Symphony Orchestra …. Mason Bates’s new opera “The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs” will have its premiere at Santa Fe Opera this month…. A new recording (well, a reissue and remastering) features the music of — gasp — music critics. Some can.