Recently, the chief classical music critic of The New York Times, Anthony Tommasini, adroitly summarised the nebulous perils of his job: ‘Music, especially purely instrumental music, resists being described in language. It’s very hard to convey sounds through words. Perhaps that’s what we most love about music: that it’s beyond description, deeper than words. Yet the poor music critic has to try.’ Many have indeed tried and, despite the demands of daily or nightly deadlines, more than a few of them have succeeded in conveying to the general reader the essence of what they hear and see. Mr Tommasini, who attends at least three (probably more) musical events a week, is certainly one of these critics. His preparation: ‘A lifelong immersion in music.’
Michael Shmith reviews 'Ernest Newman: A critical biography' by Paul Watt
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Michael Shmith was arts editor of The Age from 1985 to 1993. He was the paper’s opera critic from 2010 to 2017. He is also the author of a biography of Gustav Mahler, and is editing the letters of his late stepfather, Lord Harewood.
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