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Geoffrey Chew

(b Prague, 23 June 1914; d Prague, 8 Feb 1945). Czech musicologist, violinist, and music critic. After studying law and arts at Prague University, and the violin at the Prague Conservatoire (1933–7), he became a member of the Czech Philharmonic and of the Pro Arte Antiqua ensemble, and was very active as journalist and critic, editing and writing for Hudební věstník and Smetana, besides contributing articles on musical subjects during the German occupation to České slovo, the party organ of the patriotic, moderate-socialist Česká strana národně sociální. As a musicologist he was wide-ranging, writing on 18th-century music, preparing a catalogue of Dvořák’s works and editing 20th-century Czech operas, besides the items listed below. A provocative review in České slovo of a Smetana concert in 1945 led to his being arrested, tortured, and executed by the German occupying authorities.

(selective list)

ed. and trans.: Vlastní životopis V. I. Tomáška...

Article

Marta Ottlová, Milan Pospíšil, John Tyrrell and Kelly St Pierre

[Friedrich]

(b Leitomischl, Bohemia [now Litomyšl, Czech Republic], 2 March 1824; d Prague, 12 May 1884). Czech composer, conductor, teacher, and music critic often described as the ‘father’ or ‘inventor’ of Czech national music. While his first language was German and his first nationalist compositions were based on Swedish narratives, Smetana asserted himself as composer of specifically Czech music from the 1860s, and his music posthumously became synonymous with a Czech national musical style. Today, Smetana’s eight operas, including Prodaná nevěsta (‘The Bartered Bride’), as well as his cycle of symphonic poems Má vlast (‘My Fatherland’) form the foundation of the Czech classical musical canon. His opera Libuše is also frequently cited as an ‘apotheosis’ of Czech music, especially in conjunction with the first movement of Má vlast, entitled ‘Vyšehrad’.

After his death, Smetana was transformed in the minds of his audiences and advocates from a composer of nationalistic music to a national symbol himself; he and his works became enduring points of reference for Czechs’ ever-shifting borders, politics, administrations, ethnicities, and imagined futures through the 20th century. For this reason, the actual Smetana in many ways has become inseparable from the myth of ‘Smetana’, as later critics and historians molded his life and work to match their needs. The composer’s supposed greatness, genius, Czechness, tragic deafness, and heroism all give voice to the shifting needs, anxieties, and interests of his audiences as much as to the composer himself....

Article

Paula Morgan

(b New York, NY, Aug 26, 1894; d Cleveland, OH, Jan 4, 1969). American pianist and writer on music, half-brother of frank Loesser . He studied at City College of New York, Columbia University, and the Institute of Musical Art, New York. He made his debut as a pianist in Berlin in 1913 and in New York in 1916, and thereafter toured the United States, Australia, and the Far East. Loesser joined the piano faculty of the Cleveland Institute in 1926; he was head of the piano department there from 1953 until his death. He also wrote program notes for the Cleveland Orchestra (1927–42) and was music critic of the Cleveland Press (1939–56). During World War II Loesser was an intelligence officer with the US Army; after the war he was posted to Japan, where he performed with the Japan SO (1946) and lectured (in Japanese). He was the author of ...

Article

Ramona H. Matthews

(b Appleton, WI, July 21, 1893; d Neenah, WI, Nov 3, 1975). American pianist, teacher, and writer on music. He was educated at Charleston (South Carolina) College and the University of Wisconsin, and then went to Europe (1920) to study at the University of Madrid and elsewhere, his teachers including the pianist moriz Rosenthal. He settled in Paris to perform, teach, and write, serving as music and drama critic for the Paris Tribune (1921–34) and Paris correspondent for the Musical Digest of New York (1922–9), the Musical Courier of New York (1932–41), the Nuova Italia musicale of Rome, and the Musical Times of London. He was an enthusiastic promoter of concerts of American music in France, and organized the first European festival of American music (Bad Homburg, Germany, 1931). On his return to America (1942) he settled in Appleton to teach and write. He received several honors from the French government for his services to music, and was made a Chevalier of the Légion d’honneur in ...

Article

George J. Grella

[Robert ]

(b Albuquerque, NM, April 19, 1957). American composer, performer, instrument builder, and journalist. In high school he learned to play guitar, flute, violin, and percussion. In 1976 he enrolled at the Oberlin Conservatory, where he built a Serge modular synthesizer. He also formed the Fall Mountain ensemble with the reed player Ned Rothenberg and the violinist Jim Katzin. After leaving Oberlin in 1979 without a degree, he toured with Anthony Braxton’s Creative Music Orchestra then settled in New York. There he began playing with John Zorn, Eugene Chadbourne, Wayne Horvitz, and Fred Frith and embarked on an idiosyncratic and individualistic career.

Ostertag’s work is holistic; he has developed his compositions inseparably from the instruments he has designed, the musicians with whom he has collaborated and improvised, and the explicit and passionate political opinions he has sought to express. In 1980 he released his first solo album, Getting a Head...

Article

Alex Harris Stein

(b Dayton, OH, Oct 14, 1957). American writer, guitarist, and bandleader. He was a staff writer for the Village Voice from 1987 to 2003 (a contributor since 1981) and one of a group of young African Americans writing for the Voice on black culture, politics, and identity. His work focuses on black music and culture from a postmodern, black nationalist perspective and is noteworthy for an unconventional style that Tate describes as blending academic and street culture. One of the first journalists to cover hip hop, he has written about Miles Davis, George Clinton, Jimi Hendrix, Carlos Santana, Bob Dylan, and others. He has contributed to the New York Times, Rolling Stone, VIBE, the Washington Post, Spin, The Nation, Down Beat, and other publications. His books include Flyboy in the Buttermilk (New York, 1992), Midnight Lightning: Jimi Hendrix and the Black Experience (Chicago, 2003), and ...

Article

Davide Ceriani

(b Brooklyn, NY, April 14, 1948). American music critic and pianist. He studied piano with Donald Currier at Yale University (BA 1970, MMus 1972) and with Leonard Shure at Boston University (DMA 1982). Tommasini has taught music at Emerson College (1978–86) and given nonfiction writing workshops at Wesleyan University and Brandeis University. He was appointed a staff music critic at the New York Times in 1997, and in 2000 he became the paper’s chief classical music critic. Prior to joining the Times, he covered music and theater for the Boston Globe.

He has published two books on the composer Virgil Thomson: Virgil Thomson’s Musical Portraits (New York, 1986; an expanded, revised version of Tommasini’s DMA dissertation) and the critically acclaimed Virgil Thomson: Composer on the Aisle (New York, 1997). Tommasini’s latest book, released in 2004, is Opera: a Critic’s Guide to the 100 Most Important Works and the Best Recordings...

Article

Jonas Westover

(b Phalanx, NJ, Jan 19, 1887; d New York, NY, Jan 23, 1943). American drama critic, playwright, and actor. Woollcott is especially known for being a part of the Algonquin Round Table, a group of writers and artists that met for ten years at the Algonquin Hotel in New York. Woollcott attended Hamilton College in 1909, but moved to New York City because of his interest in the theater. From 1914 to 1922 he was writing for The New York Times, eventually moving to the New York World. Writing for The New Yorker, he penned a column entitled “Shouts and Murmurs” (1929–34), which is still a feature of the magazine. Concurrent with his writing, Woollcott also found a home on the radio, where one of his shows, The Town Crier, first appeared in 1929. Known for his sharp tongue mixed with unabashed sentimentality, the critic was compared to his friends James Thurber and George S. Kafuman, the latter of which penned two plays with Woollcott. Woollcott was widely read and highly respected, enough so that a positive review from him could solidify the success of a new production. One important notice was written for ...

Article

Anna E. Kijas

(b Washington, DC, Aug 25, 1960). American pianist, writer, broadcaster, and new music advocate. An extraordinary performer and champion of new American and experimental music, she began formal piano studies at the age of seven with Sharon Mann. At 16, she performed Bach’s D major Toccata at the chamber music festival Sommermusikwochen in Trogen, Switzerland. In 1977, she briefly attended the San Francisco Conservatory before transferring to the University of Michigan and studying English (BA 1985). She serves on the music faculty of the San Francisco Conservatory, writes reviews, program notes, liner notes, and articles, and hosts the classical music show Then and Now on public radio station KALW 91.7 FM. In her performances and other activities, she has promoted the work of early 20th-century composers, including Henry Cowell and Ruth Crawford, and contemporary figures such as Kyle Gann, Terry Riley, and Frederic Rzewski, among many others....

Article

Caroline Polk O’Meara

[Jones, Alexander Roger Wallace ]

(b New York, NY, 1967). American musician and writer. Frere-Jones has performed with his band Ui since the early 1990s, when he also began writing about music for publications including the Village Voice, New York Times, and Spin. Since 2004 he has been the pop music critic at The New Yorker. His columns often cover popular musicians, but he has also been an early champion of many lesser-known groups from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs to the Sleigh Bells. His experience as a professional musician shines in his authorial voice; he writes accessibly and in depth about musical content. Frere-Jones’s controversial 2007 New Yorker article, “A Paler Shade of White,” produced a large amount of support and criticism in the press. The wide-ranging article began with him mourning the absence of African American music traditions in indie rock (centering on the group Arcade Fire) before addressing the question of musical miscegenation, which he claims is sadly absent in most current rock music. Frere-Jones’s clever quips are frequently quoted in the work of other writers, making him something of a critic’s critic....