Michael Shmith

Michael Shmith

Michael Shmith is a Melbourne-based writer and editor. His latest book, Merlyn (Hardie Grant, 2021) is a biography of the widow of Sidney Myer.

A Survey of Classical Music Boxed Sets (Universal Music)

ABR Arts 14 November 2016
A Survey of Classical Music Boxed Sets (Universal Music)
Part of the enduring attraction of CDs, is that the format is still the nonpareil of repertoire and artistry for dedicated collectors. The boxed set, which is of course not a new idea (think of Karajan’s 1960s set of Beethoven symphonies for Deutsche Grammophon), is ideally suited to CD, not just for technical convenience and historical importance, but for what you might call display purposes. O ... (read more)

Green Room | Michael Shmith interviews Brett Dean

September 2016, no. 384 22 August 2016
Brett Dean, perhaps Australia's pre-eminent composer and certainly one of its most productive, is personable, witty, and engaging. He talks with heartfelt eloquence about his work, but always with a refreshing directness and clarity that illuminates rather than obscures. Humour, too. This takes a special talent when the subject is Hamlet. The gloomy Dane is uppermost in Dean's mind at present, as ... (read more)

An A-Z of Alfred Brendel by Michael Shmith (Alfred Brendel: The Complete Philips Recordings. 114 CDs)

ABR Arts 01 August 2016
An A-Z of Alfred Brendel by Michael Shmith (Alfred Brendel: The Complete Philips Recordings. 114 CDs)
Why an A-Z of Brendel? Well, this is what the man himself has to say in the preface to his slim volume, A Pianist's A-Z: A piano lover's reader (2013): 'This book distils what, at my advanced age, I feel able to say about music, musicians, and matters of my pianistic profession ... Comprehensiveness is not an issue – my literary sympathies tend towards the fragment and the aphorism.' Brendel's ... (read more)

Deutsche Grammophon Gesellschaft: The Mono Era, 1948-1957

ABR Arts 29 April 2016
Deutsche Grammophon Gesellschaft: The Mono Era, 1948-1957
It is one of the most recognised symbols in the classical-record industry: German graphic designer Hans Domizlaff's crown of stylised tulips that constitutes the colophon (or logo, as we would now say) of Deutsche Grammophon Gesellschaft. Domizlaff sketched out the colophon in pencil on tracing paper in 1949. By this time, DG was an already venerable recording company (it was founded in 1898), an ... (read more)

Stage Door | Michael Shmith interviews Leo Schofield

April 2016, no. 380 24 March 2016
In the early 1990s, after Leo Schofield was – not without controversy – appointed the artistic director of the Melbourne Festival, Clive James referred to our own emerging cultural tsar as 'Australia's Diaghilev'. Which, I guess, retrospectively makes Sergei Pavlovich Russia's Schofield. There is an element of truth in James's witticism, especially these days when one considers the artistic a ... (read more)

Michael Shmith reviews 'Sinatra' by James Kaplan

January-February 2016, no. 378 18 December 2015
Michael Shmith reviews 'Sinatra' by James Kaplan
Just in time for the Frank Sinatra centenary – 12 December should be a gazetted public holiday – comes the thumping second part of James Kaplan's monumental biography. Taken together, Volume I – Frank: The Voice (2010, 786 pages) – and its behemoth successor, Sinatra: The Chairman (979 pages), comprise a formidable and scrupulously detailed account of the rise, fall, and resurrection of Sa ... (read more)

Debussy and Bruckner (Australian World Orchestra)

ABR Arts 03 August 2015
Hot on the heels from its two triumphant concerts at the Sydney Opera House Concert Hall, the Australian World Orchestra headed south for its Melbourne appearance. Alas – and no jokes about Melbourne weather, please; it’s still too sensitive a subject – somewhere betwixt Harbourside and Southbank, the dreaded lurgy struck conductor Simon Rattle and soloist, mezzo-soprano, Magdalena Kožená. ... (read more)

Michael Shmith reviews 'Rules of Engagement' by Kim Williams

December 2014, no. 367 24 November 2014
Michael Shmith reviews 'Rules of Engagement' by Kim Williams
What this is not, as Kim Williams is quick to tell us (introduction, paragraph two), is a dog-bites-Murdoch account of that nasty business in August 2013 that saw Williams summarily ousted as chief executive of News Corp Australia. Other disgruntled former Ruprechtian courtiers such as former editor-in-chief of The Herald Sun Bruce Guthrie, who sought and won legal redress and indeed wrote an acco ... (read more)

Michael Shmith reviews 'Music in the Castle of Heaven: A portrait of Johann Sebastian Bach' by John Eliot Gardiner

June–July 2014, no. 362 01 June 2014
Michael Shmith reviews 'Music in the Castle of Heaven: A portrait of Johann Sebastian Bach' by John Eliot Gardiner
I was a part-time pilgrim on John Eliot Gardiner’s extraordinary year-long journey, from Christmas 1999 to New Year’s Eve 2000, when he took Johann Sebastian Bach on the road. Gardiner’s Bach Cantata Pilgrimage, with his fifteen-member Monteverdi Choir and the twenty instrumentalists of the English Baroque Soloists, performed in Britain, Europe, and the United States all of JSB’s 198 survi ... (read more)

Michael Shmith reviews 'Counting One’s Blessings: The Selected Letters of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother' by William Shawcross

February 2013, no. 348 29 January 2013
Michael Shmith reviews 'Counting One’s Blessings: The Selected Letters of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother' by William Shawcross
It is fitting to compare the longevity of the Queen Mother’s life with a magnificent hand-woven carpet running along a length of parquet down a torch-lit ancestral hallway: she was the embodiment of the twentieth century precisely because her life more or less spanned it. She was born on 4 August 1900 and (allowing for a bit of overhang into this century) died on Easter Saturday, 30 March 2002. ... (read more)
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