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Something I Heard: New York Times Critic Remembers 1981-2008 Paperback – September 30, 2015
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"No one today can match the limpid elegance and intellectual precision of his style,
which recalls the heyday of Virgil Thomson."
-The New Yorker
"Holland has a remarkable ability to conjure up the essence of a composer or a piece of music in a few deftly chosen words.
He is, I think, an aphorist of unparalleled virtuosity."
-San Francisco Chronicle
"Perhaps the most important of this town's arbiters."
About the Author
Bernard Holland was born in Tidewater Virginia and attended the University of Virginia. He spent the next decade studying piano performance in Europe, first in Vienna, then Paris and finally London. He returned to the United States where he reviewed concerts for a supermarket news circular before being hired as a rock critic for the Pittsburgh Post Gazette. A review of a John Denver caught the eye of the the New York Times culture department. He was hired as a classical music freelancer and a year later became a staff critic.
He divides his time between New York City and Campobello Island in Canada with his wife of many years.
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Top customer reviews
passages and descriptions brought tears to his eyes!! Thank you Bernard for such an emotional and educational book for my Dad!!
Susan from Los Angeles
As a the weird kid who started classical piano at age six and loved it (and kept at it for eleven years), I picked up Holland's book with excitement! I never made it to my childhood dream of professional pianist, but reading through Holland's essays gave me a special thrill. Running the gamut from Chopin to Glass to learning about an inside look at the music business (not what people think; but is it ever?), I felt thoroughly entertained, informed, and quite honestly, sad when I realized I'd read it all.
Thankfully, it's so jam-packed with clever writing, I'll be able to read back through it many times and pick up something new. I've already purchased a copy for a pianist friend, as well as my own father who has been a classical piano aficionado since practically his birth. 5 BIG stars.
The essays are mostly short and beautiful. They approach specifics about performances that I missed (but will go back and find the recordings and DVDs of), but also say some incredibly astute things about music and performance as an elemental force in this lifetime. This is where Holland shines most brilliantly. His preoccupation with the question of race in performance was enlightening (such as in 'Symphonic Blackness' where I realized I had never even thought of some of the points he raises about the strict segregation of classical performance), and his intense focus on Mahler and Wagner as defining composers was similar to my own – I was quite happy that many of the reviews approached their works that I was familiar with.
I was also impressed where Holland was able to share some really great writing in general. His question about the nature of Opera, Musical Theater, and the role of the audience in 'Information or Beauty I' was staggeringly astute. His humor and self-deprecating analysis of getting older that takes the form of a musical satire in the halls of a drug store in 'Duane Reade Opera' was laugh out loud funny. 'On Blogging' and 'Critics II' was simply a brilliant observation on the craft of writing for an audience itself.
Overall, a really great reading experience. I devoured it in a couple nights, but it will definitely be revisited as I listen along to the specific performances that Holland mentions in these wonderful essays.
Reading his essays again bring back wonderful memories of concerts at Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall and the like. I had forgotten how much I enjoyed his sense of humor, breadth of knowledge and well written passages.
If you are a music aficionado like myself, I trust you will find Something I Heard to be a wonderful addition to your collection.
I expected to read a few essays and put the book on my coffee table but I kept being drawn to read, just one more. His writing will keep you coming back for more.