Harold Schonberg

'Criticism is only informed opinion ... it's not a critic's job to be right or wrong ...' - Harold C Schonberg

Critic and author Harold Charles Schonberg was born into a musical family in New York City on 29 November 1915. He began piano studies at the age of four, and the piano was to remain his speciality. Once, famously, he asked his associates to guess the sex of pianists by listening to recordings of their playing.

He wrote his first reviews whilst an undergraduate at Brooklyn, and after serving in the United States Army in World War II he joined the New York Sun as a music critic, moving on to the New York Times in 1950. By 1960 he was chief music critic, and held the position for twenty years, becoming the first music critic to win the Pulitzer Prize for criticism in 1971.

He had a very capable intellect, which included the ability to remember music in detail after only one hearing, and he often wrote his reviews in less than an hour. He wrote a series of books about music, including The Great Pianists (1956, revised 1987), The Great Conductors (1981), Facing the Music (1981), The Glorious Ones: Classical Music's Legendary Performers (1985) and Horowitz: his life and music (1992). He also wrote about books and chess.

Schonberg was highly critical of the person he called 'the Peter Pan of music' - Leonard Bernstein. Schonberg thought Bernstein too showmanlike and that he conducted in a way that made the musical structure too obvious to audiences.

Harold Schonberg died in hospital in Manhattan, New York on 26 July 2003, aged eighty-seven. Allan Kozinn wrote in his New York Times obituary that Schonberg 'set the standard for critical evaluation and journalistic thoroughness'.


A selection of articles about Harold Schonberg

DVD Spotlight. Seldom Equalled - Michelangeli plays Beethoven, Galuppi and Scarlatti, and impresses Howard Smith. 'His relentless perfectionism allows him spellbinding precision ...'

CD Spotlight. Formidable Technique - Elena Kuschnerova plays Stravinsky, recommended by Howard Smith. '... unrivalled.'