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THE SCOOP | Legendary New York Times Music Critic Steps Down

By Michael Vincent on November 23, 2021

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It’s the end of an era for the classical music community, as one of its loudest voices calls it a day.

Chief Music Critic for The New York Times, Anthony “Tony” Tommasini, will be stepping down to pursue other interests, including playing the piano again.

“I have been honoured, humbled and grateful to be a chief critic at, let’s face it, the world’s finest, most important newspaper,” Tommasini told The Times. “Being among so many awesomely impressive and supportive colleagues has inspired me continuously. But I want to do some teaching again. I have a couple book ideas. I want to see if I can remember how to play the piano!”

Tommasini began his career as a pianist and went on to Yale University and Boston University, where he earned a Doctorate of Musical Arts. He taught nonfiction writing workshops at Wesleyan University and Brandeis University, as well as at Emerson College.

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In 1986, he began working as a freelance music critic for the Boston Globe for a decade.

After moving to New York in 1997, he began working as a freelance critic for The Times. In 2000, he was appointed Chief Music Critic after just four years on the job.

He was mentored by composer and critic Virgil Thomson early in his career; he later issued two CDs of Thomson’s piano pieces and wrote Thomson’s biography. Tommasini has also published two more volumes and is working on a new collection of essays.

Milestone Contributions

  • Advised American orchestras to abandon blind auditions in favour of an affirmative-action strategy in 2014 to improve player diversity.
  • Did the last interview with Jonathan Larson, the creator of the blockbuster musical Rent, who died of an aortic aneurysm later that evening. The story of the musical’s birth might never have been recorded if it hadn’t been for the interview.
  • Helped promote new opera, including Kaija Saariaho’s L’Amour de Loin in Salzburg, Thomas’s Adès’s The Tempest, Mark-Anthony Turnage’s Anna Nicole at the Royal Opera in London, and Terence Blanchard’s Fire Shut Up in My Bones in St. Louis.
  • Was an important contributor to articulating the controversy behind disgraced Metropolitan Opera conductor James Levine.

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THE SCOOP | L'Ensemble contemporain de Montréal To Cease Operations In 2022

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