The last music critics in America

The last music critics in America


norman lebrecht

August 12, 2015

WQXR has drawn a map of America showing the final outposts where critics are still employed.

The numbers are down from 65 two decades ago to a mere dozen today.

Scott Cantrell, the retiring critic in Dallas, says: ‘There’s no future in arts criticism as a full-time job…’


Read more and listen to the program here.


  • David Boxwell says:

    But there is now a big future in being a full-time Kardashian blogger. . .

  • Neil Thompson Shade says:

    Glad to see Tim Smith (Baltimore) and Anne Midgette (Washington, DC) are listed as I enjoy both of their commentary. On Sundays I splash out and get the NY Times to catch up on more national events.

  • Harry Kirschner says:

    Los Angeles continues to be saddled with Mark Swed.

    • Ross says:

      And New York continues to be saddled with Anthony Tommasini.
      Please, get rid of that man, and I’ll start reading the NY Times again.

      • Harry Kirschner says:

        Trade you Swed and an intern to be named later for Tommasini.

      • John says:

        I suppose LATimes and NYTimes could just fire — and not replace — their critics so you wouldn’t have to gripe about them anymore.

      • MWnyc says:

        You write as if Tommassini were the only classical critic writing for the Times. There are five others, all of whose bylines appear frequently.

        • Marc says:

          I don’t read the Times every day so– who am I missing? Tommasini and five others; I can think of Woolfe, Oestreich, Schwietzer, and… ?

    • Melissa Liu says:

      “Los Angeles continues to be saddled with Mark Swed.”
      Bravo! So glad someone else shares my view on Mr. Swed, a mouthpiece for the L.A. Phil and a relentless cheerleader for Dudamel and certain scantily-clad pianists.

      “And New York continues to be saddled with Anthony Tommasini.”
      Agreed here also.

      These “critics” promote their own agenda (such as “new” music and “innovations”) at the expense of classical music.
      Let’s face it, these reviews are no longer taken seriously by what few people who still read them, and hardly wield the influences of bygone days. At best, they are no better than individual opinions, which are still plentiful (and often better written) in blog posts.

      • MWnyc says:

        All reviews are individual opinions. Why do so many people seem to have trouble remembering that?

        • Melissa Liu says:

          “All reviews are individual opinions. Why do so many people seem to have trouble remembering that?”
          But that’s my point exactly.
          What few of us there are that still read these reviews have no trouble remembering that at all, which is why I question the real value of these professional reviewers presumed to wield extraordinary influences on concert organizers and other professional “critics.” I for one am not sad to see their departures.

      • Harry Kirschner says:

        I like Dudamel a lot. But, I was always annoyed by Swed’s relentless fawning over the prior MD and over all the exciting! adventurous! new music! paving the way to the future of classical music!(R)(TM)(C)

        • Melissa Liu says:

          > I was always annoyed by Swed’s relentless fawning over …
          That’s my biggest issue with Mr. Swed’s reviews — he often comes across as more of a fan boy than a critic. Downright embarrassing.

  • herrera says:

    Has anyone else noticed? The last couple of weeks, the critics of the NYT are reviewing operas from… (wait for it)…Salzburg and Bayreuth.

    One, so the NYT can afford sending its critics to the most expensive festivals in the most exclusive classical music vacation spots, but can’t afford to keep a full roster of critics?

    Two, ok, ok, Mostly Mozart at Lincoln Center and the NY Phil in Central Park don’t hold a candle to Salzburg and Bayreuth, but can’t the NYT at least dispatch its critics to local, American festivals, like Tanglewood (Boston)? Ravinia (Chicago)? Blossom (Cleveland)? Vail (NY, Philadelphia, Dallas)? or even its arch-rival Hollywood Bowl (LA)?

    Three, does the NYT really think that it’s so international and cosmopolitan that its critics don’t need to focus on the local arts but must fly all over the world to review operas that, by the way, are streamed live free on Medici TV?

    Apparently, whatever crisis exists for American music critics, they don’t exist at the NYT.

    • herrera says:

      I’m happy to report that Mr. Tommasini is back this morning in the pages of the NYT to review the New York Mostly Mozart Festival.

      (By the way, for the inner-city residents of Salzburg who can’t get away this summer to New York, Mostly Mozart is also streamed live free on Medici TV.)

    • Dave T says:

      Not sure of the scheduling of the Salzburg live stream vis-a-vis the review in the NYT but if the latter appears first it could shed light on whether one should invest one’s time in the stream or even, for the rare and fortunate few, attendance in person. In comparison, many (most?) performances at the domestic festivals you note are only one-offs and a review would not serve that valuable purpose.