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.


(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.