Mr. Goldman played “Finlandia” with such feeling and attention to tonal detail that I dropped my Popsicle, and the lady alongside me, who was about to reach the bottom of her Cracker Jack box, held off searching for her prize until the end of the piece.
That is from a 1949 New Yorker review of a Goldman Band performance in Central Park, written by Philip Hamburger. I have associated that name with the The New Yorker for some time, but did not know Hamburger served as music critic for the magazine for a year until I read Friends Talking in the Night, an anthology of Hamburger’s sixty years of writing for The New Yorker. I highly recommend the volume, not just for the examples of music criticism, but for the widely varied writing on all manner of topics.
Although not a musician, Hamburger’s writing about music is sensitive and thoughtful, lively and engaged. He is interested in new music, commenting approvingly on a Koussevitzky program with the BSO that included works by Foss, Schuman, Cowell, Barber, and Piston (with all the composers present). He is also uncommonly funny.
There is very little than can be said about the opening opera [at the Met in 1948]. There is a good deal to be said about the Opera Opening.
-“Otello,” Maybe (December 1948)
I’m afraid Miss Pons has reached a point, operatically, where she should be seen and not heard. She was admirably decorative, but when it came to the singing – well, let’s talk about network time and package deals.
-Mostly Positive (December 1948)
The rest of the program was scarcely more satisfying. Mr. Münch gave us Lalo’s overture to “le Roi d’Ys, ” which, as far as I’m concerned, could be renamed “The Ride of the Rockettes”.
-Hark (January 1949)
Mr. Berglun sang Jokanaan, the Prophet, with superb dedication, but physically he was so detached and immobile that I felt matters had changed hardly at all when the Prophet’s head was served up, toward the close of the ceremonies, on a platter… Miss Thorborg, as the cold-blooded mother of Salome, was adequately depraved.
-Minority Report (1949)
There are also interesting tidbits to be picked up by reading reviews from 60 years ago. Who would have thought that Britten’s “The Rape of Lucretia” was produced at the Ziegfeld Theatre in New York in 1949, with the role of Lucretia taken by… Kitty Carlisle???