Tim Page is a Professor at both the Thornton School of Music and the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the ­University of Southern California. He won the Pulitzer Prize for criticism in 1997 for his writings about music in The Washington Post. (April 2019)


Late Bloomer

Elliott Carter, New York City, September 1995


by David Schiff
There is a fond belief that we glean otherworldly revelations from the late works of composers. We meditate upon the hymnlike final scores from the dying Beethoven and Schubert, are heartened by the brisk comic affirmations of Falstaff, Verdi’s farewell to opera, and marvel at the serene, luxuriant leave-taking in …

The Wizard of Salzburg

Herbert von Karajan (right) with the violinist Nathan Milstein during a rehearsal, Lucerne, 1957

Herbert von Karajan: Complete Recordings on Deutsche Grammophon and Decca

The one-dollar tables outside secondhand bookstores often contain isolated volumes from what were once complete collections of a single author. There may be works by Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, or Nathaniel Hawthorne, but also by less well-remembered writers such as James Russell Lowell, Charles Dudley Warner, or John Galsworthy. Abandoned …

The Perfectionist

Arturo Toscanini conducting his last concert with the NBC Symphony Orchestra, April 1954

Toscanini: Musician of Conscience

by Harvey Sachs
Harvey Sachs’s lifelong study of Toscanini has paid off in his gigantic and extraordinary new book about the conductor. Indeed, I cannot think of another biography of a classical musician to which it can be compared: in its breadth, scope, and encyclopedic command of factual detail it reminds me of nothing so much as Robert A. Caro’s The Power Broker.

An Elusive Cold War Star

Van Cliburn performing in the Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatory during the first Tchaikovsky International Competition, which he won, April 1958

When the World Stopped to Listen: Van Cliburn’s Cold War Triumph and Its Aftermath

by Stuart Isacoff

Moscow Nights: The Van Cliburn Story—How One Man and His Piano Transformed the Cold War

by Nigel Cliff
When Van Cliburn died in 2013, he was by far the most famous concert pianist in American history, although he had effectively retired from performance decades before. His had been a strange and complicated life.


The Pleasures of Richard Strauss

By the time Richard Strauss died, many musicians and critics considered him an embarrassing fossil. Born while Berlioz and Rossini still lived—and a dozen years before Johannes Brahms had written any of his own symphonies—Strauss composed steadily for some sixty-five years and died a few months after the premieres of Elliott Carter’s Cello Sonata and John Cage’s Sonatas and Interludes for Prepared Piano. But the path he took long overshadowed a clear assessment of his enormous accomplishments as a composer of opera and orchestral music.

A Moment for Stockhausen

Karlheinz Stockhausen, 1975

There are certain composers whose music we can recognize and identify immediately. It is unnecessary to listen to more than a few moments of any mature work by Olivier Messiaen, Elliott Carter, or Philip Glass (to name three dissimilar artists) to realize who was responsible for its creation. But there are others whose music may change radically from piece to piece—or, for that matter, from measure to measure. The German composer Karlheinz Stockhausen falls into this camp.

The Hall of Horowitz

Pianist Vladimir Horowitz receiving a standing ovation upon his return to the concert stage at Carnegie Hall after a twelve-year absence, May 9, 1965

Vladimir Horowitz Live at Carnegie Hall—some thirty hours of music—doesn’t include every performance the pianist played there (he made his house debut in 1928, more than a decade before the invention of magnetic tape would have permitted such sustained recording) but offers extensive documentation of performances ranging from 1943 through 1976.

Listening to Elliott Carter

Elliott Carter at the piano, 1989

It is now just a year since the death of the composer Elliott Carter and his absence still seems a little unreal. He lived a very long life—he died thirty-six days before his one hundred and fourth birthday—and he remained active up to the end, creating some of the warmest, most direct and intimate music of his career in his final years. Such longevity in itself is astounding: think of long-lived composers like Giuseppe Verdi, Richard Strauss, and Jean Sibelius, and then consider that all of them were either dead or retired at the point when Carter was embarking on his first and only opera, What’s Next?, at the age of eighty-eight, with another fifteen years of work yet ahead of him.