Andrew Porter

From a death notice for music critic (and more) Andrew Porter, by Margalit Fox in the NYT today:

Andrew Porter, New Yorker Classical Music Critic, Dies at 86

Andrew Porter, a music critic celebrated for his stylistic elegance, immense erudition and polymathic command not only of the work under review but also of everything else in creation conceivably connected with it, died either Thursday night or early Friday in London.

Considered one of the foremost music critics in the world, the Oxford-educated Mr. Porter was widely read on both sides of the Atlantic. He was best known in the United States for his long association with The New Yorker, where he was music critic from 1972 to 1992. There, his purview took in the city’s profuse musical riches as well as those of wherever in the world — and there were many such places — someone he admired was performing something he wanted to hear.

To the work of criticism, Mr. Porter brought a formidable training in music performance (he was an accomplished organist); a deft linguistic ability (he translated the librettos of dozens of operas from the original French, German and Italian into highly regarded English versions); a deep knowledge of music theory, music history and composers’ biographies; a keen attention to the historical context in which a work was composed or performed, and to the prevailing political winds, both musical and non-, during those times; a ready command of the entire production history of an opera or the publication history of a score (he was an occasional opera stage director); the abilities of an intellectual gumshoe (he made a major discovery involving Verdi’s “Don Carlos” that altered the way the opera is understood); an acute sensitivity to the architectural and acoustic qualities of concert halls; a robust cultural understanding of the city in which that hall was located; an appreciation of the ways in which music dovetailed with allied arts (he wrote a good deal of dance criticism early in his career); a phonetician’s familiarity with the vowel sounds of a given language, and how they rendered the words of that language more or less singable; a passion for fealty to a composer’s historical intent that was matched by a commitment to the work of 20th-century composers; and much else.

His prose itself was often described as musical, and he had a lexicographer’s command of the language on which to draw. Reviewing “A Musical Season,” one of several anthologies of Mr. Porter’s work, in The New York Times Book Review in 1974, the music critic John Yohalem wrote approvingly, “In a field that tends to strain verbal resources — there are just so many ways to describe a beautiful sound — Porter uses a vocabulary so wide it would do credit to a pornographer.”

Wonderful: “would do credit to a pornographer”.

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