Philly mourns a music critic

Philly mourns a music critic


norman lebrecht

May 15, 2018

Daniel Webster, who has died at 86, was classical music critic of the Philadelphia Inquirer from 1963 to 1999, spanning the late-Ormandy, Muti and Sawallisch eras. In 1973 he was among the first western journalists to visit China with an orchestra.

‘His contribution for many, many years to the musical and cultural life in Philadelphia has been very important, said Muti. ‘He was knowledgeable, honest, critical, and a very nice person.’





  • Caravaggio says:

    The implication being that so many “critics” (too many?) are ignorant, dishonest, biased, and bitchy. True.

    • nimitta says:

      Caravaggio: “The implication being that so many “critics” (too many?) are ignorant, dishonest, biased, and bitchy. True.”

      A troll-ish comment that is false on both counts. Riccardo Muti implied no such thing, and it’s difficult to find music criticism nowadays whose authors are “ignorant, dishonest, biased, and bitchy”…except from a couple of bratty young Brits [redacted]

      • Jon H says:

        There are plenty of reviewers who don’t know what they’re talking about (but to be fair you can’t be expected to know about every composer and every score from a 500 year period). Some reviewers echo what they’ve read about a performer or composer and aren’t completely trusting and relying on their own ears. Biased – we all have expectations built on what we’ve heard in the past, especially in formative years – it’s difficult to remove that and say this is what’s “right” for all listeners.
        And then, there’s that problem of all the musicians being professional, with many years experience – all the notes are there – the speeds and balance are good – but the reviewer just isn’t satisfied (maybe they want different programming). If we truly are all different, we will not agree completely in the end. But if you can encourage some discovery, that’s good.

  • Ross Amico says:

    Sorry to learn of this. I must have read hundreds of his reviews in the 1980s and ’90s.

  • Oded Zehavi says:

    Webster had very good ear for contemporary music and always wrote elegantly on the Philadelphia based composers (s.a. Crumb and Rochberg)

  • Tom Varley says:

    His reviews were always a pleasure to read and he was a real gentleman. Once in the 1980s – pre-Internet, of course, he very favorably reviewed a Chicago Symphony fund raising album (not commercially available) of Reiner radio broadcasts, including a superb Schumann 2nd Symphony, but didn’t provide any information on how to buy the album. I called the Inquirer, was put through to Mr. Webster and he graciously gave me the information, along with a comment to the effect of “I probably should have included that.”

  • Diana Burgwyn says:

    I knew Dan Webster as a colleague and a friend. I will always remember him as a delightful and gentle man of a quiet presence and subtle wit. Never did a sense of ego permeate his reviews–only the music was important. Dan’s innate kindness permeated his writing, but he was at the same time honest in criticism. I have not seen Dan in some years, but I will never forget how he helped me through rough times and shared with me in good times. I loved to hear him laugh, and his good humor was contagious. Dan Webster was loved by many in the world of classical music–a tribute to a unique man in a profession not always known for its generosity of spirit.