Cover image for Virgil Thomson : music chronicles, 1940-1954
Virgil Thomson : music chronicles, 1940-1954
Thomson, Virgil, 1896-1989, author.
Publication Information:
New York, N.Y. : The Library of America, [2014]

[Place of distribution not identified] : Distributed to the trade in the United States by Penguin Random House Inc. : and [distributed] in Canada by Penguin Random House Canada Ltd., [2014]

Physical Description:
xxi, 1177 pages ; 21 cm.
When, in October 1940, the New York Herald Tribune named the composer Virgil Thomson (1896-1989) its chief music critic, the management of the paper braced itself for an uproar. Perhaps best known for his collaboration with librettist Gertrude Stein on the whimsically nonsensical "anti-opera" Four Saints in Three Acts, Thomson was notorious among conservative concertgoers as a leader of America's musical avant-garde and a maverick writer who delighted in unmasking the timidity, amateurism, and artistic pretensions of New York's music establishment. But controversy--together with wit, good writing, and critical authority--was exactly what the Herald Tribune was looking for. "Only such an assumption can explain, " Thomson later concluded, "why a musician so little schooled in daily journalism, a composer so committed to the modern, and a polemicist so contemptuous as myself of music's power structure should have been offered a post of that prestige." in Virgil Thomson the Herald Tribune got its full share of controversy. It also got something American music journalism had not had before and has rarely had since: a critic who could describe from experience the sounds he hears, the presence and temperaments of the musician producing them, and the urgent matters of art, culture, tradition, talent, and taste that a musician's performance embodies, all in a signature style that charmed a wide readership. "Thomson was open to every stylistic persuasion, " John Rockwell of The New York Times has written, and he "concerned himself with music that most music critics didn't consider music at all--jazz, folk, gospel. ... He wrote with enthusiasm and perception about the new music he liked, sweeping his readers along with him. By so doing, he built bridges--long dilapidated or never constructed--between music, the other arts, and the American intellectual community. Indeed, in his music and in his prose, he has given us as profound a vision of American culture as anyone has yet achieved." Music Chronicles 1940-1954 presents the best of Thomson's newspaper criticism as the author collected it in four books long out of print: The Musical Scene (1945), The Art of Judging Music (1948), Music Right and Left (1951), and Music Reviewed (1967). The volume is rounded out by a generous selection of other writings from the Herald Tribune years and, in an appendix, eight early essays in which Thomson announced the themes and developed the voice that would distinguish him as America's indispensable composer-critic.--
Musical scene -- Art of judging music -- Music right and left -- From music reviewed, 1940-1954 -- Other writings.
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ML60 .T514 2014 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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For fourteen crucial years in the middle of the twentieth century, Virgil Thompson surveyed the worlds of opera and classical music from his vantage as the nationally syndicated music critic for the New York Herald Tribune. An accomplished composer who knew music from the inside, Thompson communicated its joys and complexities to a wide readership in a clear and winning style, and his daily reviews and Sunday columns set a high water-mark in American cultural journalism. With this volume Thompson's writings are available for the first time in decades.

Author Notes

Tim Page is the author of "Dawn Powell: A Biography" & editor of "Dawn Powell at Her Best" & "The Diaries of Dawn Powell." Formerly the chief music critic for "The Washington Post," he is now the artistic advisor & creative chair for the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra.

(Publisher Provided) Tim Page was born in San Diego, California on October 11, 1954. In 1967, he was the subject of a short documentary entitled A Day with Timmy Page that chronicled his early interest in filmmaking. He graduated from Columbia University in 1979 and was already writing for the arts magazine Soho News and other publications. He later worked in radio, was a music writer and culture reporter for The New York Times, a chief music critic for Newsday, and a chief classical music critic for The Washington Post. He received the Pulitzer Prize in 1997 for his writings about music in The Washington Post. He is a professor of journalism and music at the University of Southern California. In 1991, he became interested in the life and work of American author Dawn Powell and played an essential role in her revival. He has written several books including The Glenn Gould Reader, Selected Letters of Virgil Thomson, William Kapell: A Documentary Life History of the American Pianist, Dawn Powell: A Biography, and Parallel Play: Growing up with Undiagnosed Asperger's.

(Bowker Author Biography)