Another senior music critic calls it quits

Another senior music critic calls it quits


norman lebrecht

January 11, 2021

The Chicago writer Howard Reich, who succeeded John von Rhein on the Tribune only 30 months ago, has given up his post on the paper to spend more time writing books.

In the pandemic, there are no concerts or operas to review. What happens after is uncertain.

Reich posted his farewell today: 

Forty-three years ago, while still a music student at Northwestern University, I caught quite a break.

I sent a paper that I’d written for a class to an editor at the Tribune, the newspaper I had been ogling since before I knew how to read. My topic was somewhat arcane: the status of contemporary classical music in Chicago.

To my amazement, the Tribune published it.

That led to an avalanche of freelance assignments, which led to me joining the staff in 1983, which now has led to my retirement from the newspaper on Jan. 15. 

Last month, Rupert Christiansen stepped down at the London Daily Telegraph.

Who’s next?


  • JussiB says:

    do they still put classical music in “entertainment” section of the Chicago Tribune? I remember Muti hated it when he saw concert reviews in “entertainment” page.

    • V.Lind says:

      Where did he want it — in sports? Sounds properly snobbish.

      Newspapers are not only there, and weren’t. even in the glory days, to stroke the tender sensibilities of old-line conductors. Sections are broad. Music goes on in a theatre. Many families budget for it out of what they broadly refer to as “entertainment,” not “house” or “food.”

      And, God knows, even if it is not the term concert-goers would regularly use, they sometimes even leave a hall feeling entertained.

    • Tom says:

      So, sports? Business? Gardening? Puzzles and Games? Obits?

    • Concertgoer says:

      The arts are not entertainment.

    • JussiB says:

      Ideally should bein “Arts & Culture”

  • sam says:

    Just as well, he only wrote kiss ass adoration reviews of Muti and the CSO, which perhaps may be the case that Muti and the CSO are perfection, in which case, there is no need for a critic.

  • Chicagorat says:

    The Chicago Tribune should take this opportunity to raise the profile of its arts section and choose an actual music critic to do this job vs. a Muti sycophant. We don’t ask the Tribune to turn on a dime and become a world-class paper overnight, but a little bit of dignity would not hurt.

  • Jeffrey Biegel says:

    Looking forward to your next chapter in life, Howard. Glad we connected recently, and good luck as you continue on the yellow brick road. Thank you for your many years of informative reading and service to our industry.

  • Patricia says:

    I remember thinking the NY TIMES had hit a new low when it started to review rock. That is now the least of their problems.

  • Old Man in the Midwest says:

    The private equity firm that held a majority stake in the Tribune finally bought the entire paper last week. My guess is that this is part of larger move to buy out reporters and editors who are on the higher end of the payroll.

    A once great newspaper is being chiseled down in an effort to be profitable for the owners.

    It’s unfortunate in that I doubt that there will be dedicated reviewer for Classical music.

    Most likely some young stringers who can put three sentences together in a row and demonstrate that they know Beethoven came after Mozart and before Brahms.

  • Edgar Self says:

    I met Howard at Alexis Weissenberg’s recital in a poor venue, the Chicago Theater on State Street. After his opening Bach partita, Weissenberg left the stage for a long time, eventually returning to cancel the rest of his program, saying the acoustics were so bad he couldn’t hear himself. We were hearing everything twice. He had been on the phone to his agent and decided to cancel. I was sitting near Howard, whom I knew only as the “Tribune” jazz reviewer. We chatted while waiting for refunds. It was the only time I briefly heard Weissenberg live.

    When Howard replaced John von Rhein, I didn’t know of his classical training and was surprised by how well he combined it with jazz, wearing both hats/ It isn’t far from Reich to Rhein.

    He must now be of early-retirement age. I wish him all good things in future. The secret of retiring is to keep doing it until you get it right, like practicing falling.

  • Jonathan Elvey says:

    A splendid critic – and more than that, a splendid journalist. For many years he has entertained and educated us, above and beyond telling us what he thinks of something. Very much like Norman, in fact. And so a thinning number thins again.