Michael Shmith reviews 'Ernest Newman: A critical biography' by Paul Watt

Michael Shmith reviews 'Ernest Newman: A critical biography' by Paul Watt

Ernest Newman: A critical biography

by Paul Watt

The Boydell Press, $45 hb, 270 pp, 9781783271900

Michael Shmith

Michael Shmith

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


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.’

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Published in November 2017, no. 396