A critical generation has signed off

A critical generation has signed off


norman lebrecht

July 22, 2015

In the past seven months we have lost Michael Kennedy, Andrew Porter and, most recently, Edward Greenfield, whose funeral is being held today.

They had little in common by way of character, taste or temperament. Michael was a twinkle-eyed journalist with a nose for a story and a passion for the irrational plots of Richard Strauss.

Michael Kennedy right

Andrew was an opera man first and foremost, on first appearance dour and dry, probably most content to be hunched in a museum over a Verdi manuscript.

andrew porter

Ted was a party man, happiest with a glass of record label champagne in hand. All left us at a respectable age.



They were the last of a line that knew not social media. Andrew wrote by hand, never using a typewriter. I’m not sure the other two ever mastered a computer. Certainly, none of them used Twitter or Facebook.

Critics of their era left a performance keeping their thoughts to themselves until an opinion could be cogently formed and preserved in cold, black print. They did not knee-jerk an instant response. Their day is done.




  • Martin Bernheimer says:

    “They did not knee-jerk an instant response. Their day is done. “– too true, and too sad.

    • Nigel Simeone says:

      Yes, it’s very sad. And while they didn’t “knee-jerk an instant response” (as Norman puts it), they often had to produce virtually instant prose, phoned in to the copy-desk a few minutes after the concert. So that cogently-formed opinion (and it usually was just that) was sometimes written at speed – in time for us all to read about the concert at breakfast the next morning. What they had was deep knowledge, eloquence, a reluctance to court sensation and thorough preparation.

      • Halldor says:

        All qualities that are abundantly present in the work of today’s critics. The tradition continues: something that these three writers recognised. They never wallowed in nostalgia for a supposedly lost golden age. Look around you, and read what’s being written.

        • Jon Hamilton says:

          […and as a passing footnote, Nigel [who I do not know] represents some of those very qualities in the excellence of his critical writing and scholarship, not to mention his musicianship].

  • DLowe says:

    I don’t recall much knee-jerking from today’s critcs either. The ones that are on Twitter might occasionally comment on how much they enjoyed a performance, that’s about it. Can’t quite understand you on the whole critic issue.