Schonberg, ‘NY Times’ Music Critic, Dies


(AP) Harold C. Schonberg, the chief music critic of The New York Times from 1960 to 1980, died in a Manhattan hospital Saturday. He was 87.

Schonberg won the 1971 Pulitzer Prize for criticism, the first won by a music critic. His work both documented and influenced changes in the world of opera and classical music.

“I write for myself not necessarily for readers, not for musicians,” he said in a 1967 interview with Editor & Publisher. “I’d be dead if I tried to please a particular audience. Criticism is only informed opinion.”

In one 1979 column, Schonberg published the results of a test to determine the possibility of distinguishing between male and female pianists.

He prepared a tape with performances by a male and female pianist and asked acquaintances to guess the sex of the player. The results were inconclusive. The column, and a 1980 follow-up, inspired classical radio disc jockeys across the country to present tests of their own.

His musical specialty was the piano and he championed the work of several Russian pianists.

Schonberg was born in Washington Heights in 1915. He began studying the piano when he was 4 years old.

He served the United States Army Airborne Signal Corps during World War II and became a music critic for The New York Sun upon his return to New York.

Schonberg joined the staff of The New York Times in 1950 and became record editor in 1955. He estimated that he wrote 1.3 million words during his two decades as senior critic and wrote 13 books. Some remain standard reference volumes.

He also covered chess and wrote book reviews under a pseudonym.

Schonberg retired as senior critic in 1980 and remained a cultural correspondent for the Times until 1985, contributing record reviews and occasional interviews after that.

He is survived by his sister, Edith Filosa.

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