Horowitz, Joseph 1948–

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Horowitz, Joseph 1948–

PERSONAL: Born February 12 1948, in New York, NY; son of Jacob (a doctor) and Leah (a psychiatric social worker) Horowitz. Education: Swarthmore College, B.A., 1970; University of California, Berkeley, M.J., 1975.

ADDRESSES: HomeNew York, NY.

CAREER: Writer, artistic consultant, educator, music historian, lecturer, orchestral administrator, and musician. New York Times, New York City, music critic, 1976–80; Kaufmann Concert Hall of 92nd St., New York City, program editor and chief annotator, 1981–. Freelance artistic consultant for orchestras, 1999–. New Jersey Symphony, festival consultant and humanities coordinator; Pacific Symphony (California), artistic advisor; Brooklyn Philharmonic Orchestra, artistic advisor and executive director, 1992–97; American Symphony Orchestra League, director of historical projects, 1999–; Eastman School of Music, instructor, 2000–02; Columbia University, senior fellow, arts journalism program, 2001; instructor at the Manhattan School of Music, New England Conservatory, and the Mannes College of Music. Brooklyn College, Institute for Studies in American Music, visiting professor. Post-Classical Ensemble, founder and artistic director. Toradze Piano Studio, artistic advisor.

AWARDS, HONORS: ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award, 1983, for Conversations with Arrau and for The Russian Stravinsky (program book of the Brooklyn Philharmonic Orchestra); National Book Critics Circle Award nomination for best criticism, 1987, for Understanding Toscanini: How He Became an American Culture-God and Helped Create a New Audience for Old Music; Irving Lowens Award, Sonneck Society, 1996, for Wagner Nights: An American History; best books of 2005 selection, the Economist, for Classical Music in America: A History of Its Rise and Fall.


Conversations with Arrau, Knopf (New York, NY), 1982, published as Arrau on Music and Performance, Dover Publications (Mineola, NY), 1999.

Understanding Toscanini: How He Became an American Culture-God and Helped Create a New Audience for Old Music, Knopf (New York, NY), 1987, published as Understanding Toscanini: A Social History of American Concert Life, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 1994.

The Ivory Trade: Piano Competitions and the Business of Music, Summit Books (New York, NY), 1990.

Wagner Nights: An American History, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 1994.

The Post-Classical Predicament: Essays on Music and Society, Northeastern University Press (Boston, MA), 1995.

Dvorak in America: In Search of the New World, Cricket Books (Chicago, IL), 2003.

Classical Music in America: A History of Its Rise and Fall, Norton (New York, NY), 2005.

Artists in Exile: How Refugees from War and Revolution Transformed the American Performing Arts, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2007.

Editor of Brooklyn Philharmonic Orchestra program books, including The Russian Stravinsky.

Contributor to books, including Dvorak and His World, edited by Michael Beckerman, 1983; Words on Music, edited by Jack Sullivan, 1990; Wager in Performance, edited by Barry Millington and Stewart Spencer, 1992; Cultivating Music in America: Women Patrons and Activists since 1860, edited by Ralph Locke and Cyrilla Barr, 1997; The Philadelphia Orchestra: A Century of Music, edited by John Ardoin, 1999; and Wagner and the Jews, edited by Dieter Borchmeyer, 2000.

Contributor to periodicals, including High Fidelity, Musical America, New York Times Magazine, New York Review of Books, American Scholar, American Music, Musical Quarterly, Opera News, Times Literary Supplement, and Opus.

Author's books have been translated into six languages.

SIDELIGHTS: Former New York Times music critic Joseph Horowitz brings his talent for analysis to his surveys of notable musicians. Among his books are Conversations with Arrau, Understanding Toscanini: How He Became an American Culture-God and Helped Create a New Audience for Old Music, Dvorak in America: In Search of the New World, and Classical Music in America: A History of Its Rise and Fall.

Conversations with Arrau is a retrospective look at the life and career of Chilean pianist Claudio Arrau. It includes interviews with Arrau and his associates, among them Daniel Barenboin, Garrick Ohlsson, and Sir Colin Davis. In his Washington Post review, music critic Joseph McLellan noted that the book "is informative and readable on [Arrau's] performing preferences, techniques and quirks, his attitudes toward various composers and colleagues, his drives and superstitions, even the often harrowing details of his biography and his psyche." Although the musician's life is presented through a series of interviews, Horowitz's "skillful questions and sensitive editing produce a smooth narrative of the pianist's life and capture his passion for music," observed New York Times Book Review contributor GraceAnne Andreassi DeCandido. Linda Sanders believed these refinements are due to the author's critical background: "Horowitz's knowledgeable grasp of Arrau's playing and history allows him to bypass the more pedestrian forms of information-gathering and go directly to the heart of each subject," the critic commented in the Nation. "Conversations with Arrau," summarized Sanders, "is quite simply the best book I've ever read about a performing musician."

Understanding Toscanini "does not aim to explore Toscanini's psyche as much as to chart the development of his public image—a myth, even a fetish—that was brilliantly exploited by the organizations employing him," described Rupert Christiansen in the Listener. Although conductor Arturo Toscanini began his career in Europe, his almost three decades with the New York Philharmonic and the NBC Symphony (created especially for him) had a great influence on both the American public and his musical peers. Horowitz's main thesis is that "the Toscanini legend … had much less to do with the appreciation of art than with a response to the peculiarly American sort of hucksterism practiced by P.T. Barnum," recounted Herbert Glass in the Los Angeles Times Book Review. The result, asserted Horowitz, was a standardization of orchestral repertoire that ironically limited the scope of music being brought to the American public at the same time it was supposedly "democratizing" classical music.

The book contains analyses of various elements of the American culture and music scenes, during the period 1926–54, the years of Toscanini's most powerful influence. "In digesting countless reviews," wrote Michael Walsh in Time, "Horowitz has provided a valuable look at the state of American music criticism during the first half of the century." In addition, some of the analyses "reproduce in discursive language the highly charged effect of Toscanini's performances," observed Edward W. Said in the New York Times Book Review. Nevertheless, Said found that the author "is simply too linear and repetitive, too single-minded and too homogenizing in his analyses." Washington Post Book World contributor Samuel Lipman also saw a single-mindedness in Horowitz's assessment of Toscanini himself: "[The] tendentious formulation of a real problem unfortunately confuses the victim with the perpetrator," ultimately blaming Toscanini for all the attention the public lavished on him. Similarly, Christiansen wonders about Toscanini's "own views on the gigantic shadow he cast over the American musical scene, and why has Horowitz, otherwise an impeccable researcher, not interviewed anyone who knew or even played for him?" But whatever its shortcomings, Understanding Toscanini "provides at once a comprehensive portrait of Toscanini's adopted musical milieu and an outspoken caveat on the dangers of commercializing high culture," concluded John von Rhein of the Chicago Tribune Books. "It represents an important, substantial addition to the literature," added the critic, "one that will be read and argued over long after the superficial, fatuous or fawning volumes that have been written on Toscanini have disappeared."

Dvorak in America recounts the time that composer Dvorak spent in the United States during the 1890s. While in America, Dvorak taught at the National Conservatory of Music in New York and composed such works as his New World Symphony. Horowitz describes how Dvorak's tastes diverged from the mainstream of the time, and elaborates on the composer's controversial opinions on American music. For example, Dvorak found what he considered the truly distinctive aspects of American music in the music of African Americans and Native Americans, and believed after hearing slave songs and Native American performances that American classical music should be derived "from the melodies and rhythms of all its people," commented Roger Leslie in Booklist. Horowitz discusses the influence these styles of music had on Dvorak's own compositions, and includes a detailed account of the development of the New World Symphony. School Library Journal reviewer Ginny Gustin called the book "an engaging account" that will be "a welcome addition to music and biography collections." Readers of Horowitz's book will find a "renewed appreciation of the person, Dvorak, as well as renewed admiration for his music," observed Richard Ammon in General Music Today.

In Classical Music in America, Horowitz takes the provocative stance that classical music in the United States has reached its zenith and is in a steady state of decline, rapidly approaching the point where it is no longer popular or even viable. With his analysis, "Horowitz is able to begin to provide answers to hypotheses about how and why classical music has not only lost its once overwhelming cultural prestige in America, but is now potentially on the verge of being marginalized out of existence," commented reviewer Ron Wiecki in Notes. The popularity of classical music in America rose until a period shortly after World War I, Horowitz states, and then began to decline thereafter. In Horowitz's view, the music patrons, critics, and venue administrators "who shaped the development of 'serious' music in the U.S. made two fundamental errors: they preferred European to native composers, and they favored masterpieces of the past over performances of contemporary classical works," noted a Kirkus Reviews critic. Compounding the problem are "changing audiences, the blurring of classical and pop culture, and the lack of composer/performers leading to the cult of performance over the creative act," remarked Wesley True in the American Music Teacher. Horowitz looks at the development of prominent symphony orchestras and musical cultures in Boston and elsewhere, and how the attitudes of those musicians and groups helped shaped the course of American classical music. He makes "significant progress in proving his premise, that the transformation of classical music in America into the veneration of performers at the expense of creativity has resulted in a distorted musical life that is adrift and unable to assert its value in a culture dominated by short-term outlooks and the relativization of aesthetic values," Wiecki concluded. Library Journal contributor Bruce R. Schueneman named Horowitz's book "a splendid social history of classical music in America." Within the volume, "the writing is often brilliant, the insights often useful," commented Martin Bernheimer in Opera News. Booklist reviewer Alan Hirsch concluded that "this excellent, readable, concise history would grace any collection" of music and music criticism.



American Music, winter, 1995, Ora Frishberg Saloman, review of Wagner Nights: An American History, p. 497.

American Music Teacher, August-September, 2005, Wesley True, review of Classical Music in America: A History of Its Rise and Fall, p. 96.

American Record Guide, November-December, 1995, Mark L. Lehman, review of The Post-Classical Predicament, p. 310.

Booklist, June 1, 2003, Roger Leslie, review of Dvorak in America: In Search of the New World, p. 1789; March 1, 2005, Alan Hirsch, review of Classical Music in America, p. 1127.

General Music Today, spring, 2005, Richard Ammon, review of Dvorak in America, p. 22.

Kirkus Reviews, January 1, 2005, review of Classical Music in America, p. 34.

Library Journal, January 1, 2005, Bruce R. Schueneman, review of Classical Music in America, p. 114.

Listener, July 23, 1987, Rupert Christiansen, review of Understanding Toscanini: How He Became an American Culture-God and Helped Create a New Audience for Old Music.

Los Angeles Times Book Review, April 26, 1987, Herbert Glass, review of Understanding Toscanini, p. 2.

Nation, June 11, 1983, review of Conversations with Arrau, p. 737.

New Leader, April 20, 1987, Barry Gewen, review of Understanding Toscanini, p. 14.

New York Times Book Review, March 20, 1983, review of Conversations with Arrau, p. 16; March 8, 1987, Edward W. Said, review of Understanding Toscanini, p. 7.

Notes, March, 2006, Ron Wiecki, review of Classical Music in America, p. 700.

Opera News, January 21, 1995, Robert A. Tuggle, review of Wagner Nights, p. 43; October, 1995, David McKee, review of The Post-Classical Predicament, p. 60; February, 2005, Martin Bernheimer, review of Classical Music in America, p. 81.

Publishers Weekly, August 8, 1994, review of Wagner Nights, p. 410; April 10, 1995, review of The Post-Classical Predicament, p. 47; January 24, 2005, review of Classical Music in America, p. 232.

School Library Journal, August, 2003, Ginny Gustin, review of Dvorak in America, p. 176.

Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), February 15, 1987, review of Understanding Toscanini, p. 6.

Washington Post, October 23, 1982, Joseph McLellan, review of Conversations with Arrau, p. C10.

Washington Post Book World, March 1, 1987, Samuel Lipman, "Toscanini: Symphonies for the New World," p. 1.


America Magazine, http://www.americamagazine.org/ (October 7, 2006), Roger Evans, review of Classical Music in America.

Bernstein Artists Web site, http://www.bernsarts.com/ (October 7, 2006), biography of Joseph Horowitz.

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Horowitz, Joseph 1948–