New York: Harold C. Schonberg, the ubiquitous and authoritative chief music critic o f The New York Times from 1960 to 1980, died Saturday in New York. He was 87.
Writing daily reviews and contemplative Sunday pieces, Schonberg set the standard for critical evaluation and journalistic thoroughness. He wrote his reviews in a crisp, often staccato style that gave his evaluations unequivocal clarity and directness, attributes that earned him a Pulitzer Prize for criticism in 1971, the first for a music critic.
However significant his opinions and endorsements, he viewed his role simply and directly. “I write for myself - not necessarily for readers, not for musicians,” he said in a 1967 interview with Editor and Publisher. “Criticism is only informed opinion,” he said. “I write a piece that is a personal reaction based, hopefully, on a lo t o f years o f study, background, scholarship and whatever intuition I have. It’s not a critic’s job to be right o r wrong; it’s his job to express an opinion in readable English.”
He discovered early that he had a superb musical memory that allowed him to remember pieces in great detail after a single hearing. His first reviews were published in the Musical Advance in 1936, when he was still an undergraduate at Brooklyn College. He joined the staff o f The New York Times in 1950 and became record editor in 1955. Five years later, when Howard Taubman succeeded Brooks Atkinson as The Times’s senior theater critic, Schonberg became senior music critic.
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