Page, Tim 1954-
PAGE, Tim 1954-
PERSONAL: Born October 11, 1954, in San Diego, CA; son of Ellis Batten and Elizabeth Latimer (Thaxton) Page; married Vanessa Marie Weeks, 1984; children: William Dean, Robert Leonard, John Sherman. Education: Columbia University, B.A., 1979; studied at the Tanglewood Music Center and the Mannes College of Music.
ADDRESSES: Agent—The Melanie Jackson Agency, 250 W. 57th St., New York, NY 10019.
CAREER: Music critic, author, biographer. Soho News, New York, NY, music critic, 1979-82; New York Times, New York, music writer, 1982-87; Newsday and New York Newsday, New York, chief music critic, 1987-95; Washington Post, Washington, DC, chief classical music critic, 1995-99; St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, St. Louis, MO, artistic advisor and creative chair, 1999-2000; Washington Post, music critic, 2000—. Produced and hosted daily radio program, New, Old and Unexpected, for WNYC-FM (New York, NY), 1981-92; cofounded Catalyst, a contemporary music label for BMG Classics.
MEMBER: Century Association.
AWARDS, HONORS: Deems Taylor award, American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers, 1983; Pulitzer Prize for distinguished music criticism, 1997.
Music from the Road: Views and Reviews, 1978-1992, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1992.
William Kapell: A Documentary Life History of the American Pianist, International Piano Archives at the University of Maryland (College Park, MD), 1992.
Dawn Powell: A Biography, Henry Holt (New York, NY), 1998.
Tim Page on Music: Views and Reviews, foreword by Anthony Tommasini, Amadeus Press (Portland, OR), 2002.
The Hip Pocket Guide to New York City, Harper & Row (New York, NY), 1982.
The Glenn Gould Reader, Knopf (New York, NY), 1984.
(With wife, Vanessa Weeks Page) Selected Letters of Virgil Thomson, Summit (New York, NY), 1988.
Dawn Powell at Her Best, Steerforth (South Royalton, VT), 1994.
The Diaries of Dawn Powell, 1931-1965, Steerforth (South Royalton, VT), 1995.
(With Michael Sexton) Dawn Powell, Four Plays, Steerforth Press (South Royalton, VT), 1999.
Dawn Powell, Selected Letters of Dawn Powell, 1913-1965, Henry Holt (New York, NY), 1999.
The Unknown Sigrid Undset: Jenny and Other Works, translated by Tiina Nunnally, Steerforth Press (South Royalton, VT), 2001.
SIDELIGHTS: Tim Page has been a music critic for the New York Times, Newsday, and the SoHo News, and was with the Washington Post from 1995 to 1999. For six years in the 1980s, Page's New, Old, andUnexpected was heard by New York radio listeners on WNYC. Page produced over 1,500 programs for the show and featured music of all types. As the show finished its long run, New York music reviewer Peter G. Davis wrote that it had been "one of the major oases in the FM-music desert." In 1999 Page became the artistic advisor and creative chair of the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra, but after one year, he returned to the Washington Post.
Page collected the writings, essays, interviews, reviews, and liner notes of his friend, pianist Glenn Gould, and published them as The Glenn Gould Reader. A New Yorker reviewer called Gould "a wonderful, if quirky, critic and thinker" in his approach to music. Terry Teachout wrote in the National Review that Gould's "best writings on music were as thought-provoking, closely argued, and compelling as his best performances." "Except for John Cage, no contemporary musician I know of has written so imaginatively about music and its uses," wrote Evan Eisenberg in the Nation. "But Gould's writing has been ignored, possibly because mere performers are not supposed to have ideas…. Although his early writing is dandified and Germanic—a horrible combination—most of Gould's prose has the clarity and wit of his pianism, if not quite its chill beauty. He may ornament a phrase with a jaunty cliche now and then, but the long line is always his own."
Page and his wife, Vanessa Weeks Page, collected the letters of the "Grand Old Man of American music," composer and New York Herald Tribune music critic Virgil Thomson. A Publishers Weekly reviewer commented that although "there have been collections of [Thomson's writings], … none [are] as various and personally revealing" as the Pages' effort.
Page's Music from the Road: Views and Reviews, 1978-1992 is a collection of sixty-five articles, reviews, and interviews. Booklist reviewer Ray Olson called Page "an ideal serious music critic for the deeply interested but perhaps not musically schooled reader." "Page's reviews are sound, energetic and, one can't help feeling, impeccably honest," wrote Brian Kellow in Opera News. The reviews span the works of classical and contemporary composers, including popular songwriters such as Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys. The subjects of profiles in Music from the Road include Gould, Leonard Slatkin, Christopher Keene, and Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg. Kellow called these "thoughtful [and] revealing." E. Gaub wrote in Library Journal that Page "writes with enthusiasm and an open mind, and he obviously likes music." Gaub called the book "compulsively readable."
William Kapell was a gifted pianist who died in a plane crash at the age of thirty-one. Page found much of the material for William Kapell: A Documentary Life History of the American Pianist in the University of Maryland's International Piano Archives. Notes reviewer Paul Orgel wrote, "The collage-like layout of this oversized volume is particularly attractive." Kapell was a promoter of new American music and also favored the works of Bach, Schubert, and Mozart. One of the documents included in the book is a letter from Kapell's teacher, Olga Samaroff, wherein she spelled out what she felt Kapell had learned from her. Kapell's views on piano technique can be read in his 1950 essay for Etude, also included. Orgel said this tribute to Kapell includes articles by his friends "that give testimony to his personal magnetism and to the inspiration that his high musical standards brought to other musicians."
Page has been instrumental in the revival of interest in American author Dawn Powell (1896-1965), and The Diaries of Dawn Powell, 1931-1965 were particularly well received. Powell had kept her diary sporadically after moving to Greenwich Village in 1925. It was in 1931 that she began to record her thoughts in earnest. Terry Teachout wrote in the New York Times Book Review that "the first sentence—'The tragedy of people who once were glamorous, now trying in mediocre stations to modestly refer to their pasts'—announces its nature: it would be a writer's notebook, concerned less with earthshaking events and true confessions than with the raw material of what later became her novels…. This is not to say that the diaries are lacking in gossip value. In fact, the book is full of cruelly funny vignettes, some as short as a single steel-tipped line."
Powell was born in Ohio and moved to New York, NY in 1918. Except for a few trips back to see relatives, some work in Hollywood, and one trip to Paris, she lived in New York. Daniel Aaron wrote in the New Republic that Powell "stayed anchored to her 'rock,' the site of her serio-comic tales, a harder place than F. Scott Fitzgerald's lost city but no less magical. It was her Happy Island and Vanity Fair, where hospitable bartenders, cadging artists, promoters of the culture trade, 'society' types, dupes, and rogues were equally entitled to breathe 'the heady New York air, that delirious narcotic of ancient sewer dust, gasoline fumes, roasting coffee beans, and the harsh smell of sea that intoxicates inland nostrils.'" Powell married Joseph Gousha, with whom she had a son who was afflicted with autism.
Powell had published fifteen novels, several collections of short stories, and a play by 1965. Among her novels were Turn, Magic Wheel, The Happy Island, Angels on Toast, A Time to Be Born, The Locusts Have No King, The Wicked Pavilion, and The Golden Spur. Powell had many admirers, including Ernest Hemingway, Edmund Wilson, John Dos Passos, and Malcolm Cowley. Aaron noted that "it does seem strange" that there is no entry for Powell in The Oxford Companion to American Literature, Notable Women, or The Encyclopedia of New York. Edmund Wilson wrote of Powell's failure to capture the attention of the general public. Aaron noted Wilson's explanation was that "she refused to blow her own horn, disdained interviewers, and spurned publicity. Worse, she did nothing 'to stimulate feminine daydreams.' Women couldn't identify with heroines who seemed 'to be as sordid and absurd as the men.'" Powell's novels were definitely not romances.
Aaron felt there were other reasons for her "marginality in American letters. She was never trendy, and although she was on good terms at one time with radical artists and writers … and would as soon drink with a communist as a capitalist, she remained apolitical. Throughout the 1930s and 1940s, her targets were not only the well-heeled patrons and patronizers of the arts, and the 'wit-proof' middle class, but also the 'so sincerely feebleminded' left intellectuals whose support at this point might have made a difference to her fortunes."
When Powell died and was laid to rest in a pauper's grave in Potter's Field, only a few of her books were in print. Since Gore Vidal's detailed tribute to Powell in the New York Review of Books in 1987 renewed interest in her work, eleven of her novels have been reissued.
Commenting on Dawn Powell: A Biography, Ray Roberts wrote in Publishers Weekly that Powell "is well-served by Page, who does a superb job establishing her right to an honored place in the pantheon of American letters." Library Journal reviewer Denise S. Sticha called the biography "immensely readable; Powell's life makes interesting copy, and Page can tell a good story." Page is also editor of Selected Letters of Dawn Powell, 1913-1965. Richard Bernstein wrote in the New York Times that "if hadn't been for the continuing labors of Tim Page, it seems likely that Dawn Powell would be entirely forgotten."
Page and translator Tiina Nunnally collaborated on a biography of another little-known woman. In The Unknown Sigrid Undset: Jenny and Other Works, Page studies the life of the Norwegian Nobel Prize-winner (1928) who died in 1949. Page first discovered her work from a list of Powell's favorite books. Page "drew a complete blank" when he saw the title Jenny and hunted down a copy of an English-language version. He has included Jenny, two short stories, and approximately fifty pages of letters from Undset to her Swedish pen pal, Andrea (Dea) Hedberg. Writing those letters and reading were the young woman's only pleasures. After her father died, she spent ten years as an office worker to help support her mother and sister. But in 1907, she published Fru Marta Oulie, a racy novel by Norwegian standards of the time. Other novels enabled her to make a living as a writer, and she moved to Rome, where she became part of the Scandinavian artistic community, and met Norwegian artist Anders Svarstad, who left his wife to marry her. Jenny is set in Rome and is the story of a sexually liberated artist who has an affair with a young man and then his father. The novel includes elements of graphic rape, pregnancy, childbirth, infant death, and self-destruction.
Undset and her husband returned to Norway, where she raised their two children and his three, and wrote her classic, Kristin Lavransdatter, which, unfortunately for English readers, suffered in its translation. Undset was a traditionalist when it came to gender roles. New York Times Book Review contributor Bruce Bawer noted that in one of the letters, which Undset wrote at nineteen, "she slams the feminists of her day with the asperity of a Camille Paglia, insisting on the ineradicable nature of sex differences ('most marriages run aground because the two people have tried to know each other too well') and nostalgically recalling the 'glorious days of the women's movement'—that is, the nineteenth century."
Possibly, Undset, who had seen difficult times, was unable to embrace any sort of idealism. She returned to Rome and had her marriage annulled, following which she became Roman Catholic. "She is, one might say," wrote Bawer, "rather like Norway itself, its soul—half Viking, half Christian—torn between bold adventure and stark self-denial. In any event, she was an uncommonly fine writer of fiction. Tim Page and Tiina Nunnally deserve much credit for delivering her from her long and deserved American obscurity."
Tim Page on Music: Views and Reviews is his second collection of this type, and the sixty-five pieces include work for which he earned the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism in 1997. His subjects range from Bobby McFerrin to Placido Domingo, and he draws parallels to all the arts. Included is the last interview of Robert Shaw of the great Robert Shaw Chorale. Bloomsbury Review contributor Ann McCutchan called the volume "the sort of book one can dip into at random for enlightenment and delight."
Page told CA: "I have been a child filmmaker, a cocktail pianist, a radio host, a record producer, a critic and a biographer. I have no idea what will come next. I follow my impulses, not any set idea of what I 'should' be doing. This has tended to confuse some people, but I think that it has also kept me growing and interested."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Bloomsbury Review, November, 2002, Ann McCutchan, review of Tim Page on Music: Views and Reviews.
Booklist, September 1, 1992, Ray Olson, review of Music from the Road: Views and Reviews, 1978-1992, p. 22.
Library Journal, October 1, 1992, E. Gaub, review of Music from the Road, p. 90; September 15, 1998, Denise S. Sticha, review of Dawn Powell: A Biography, p. 80.
Nation, March 16, 1985, Evan Eisenberg, review of The Glenn Gould Reader, pp. 310-312.
National Review, March 14, 1986, Terry Teachout, review of The Glenn Gould Reader, p. 61.
New Republic, April 8, 1996, Daniel Aaron, review of The Diaries of Dawn Powell, 1931-1965, pp. 37-39.
New Yorker, February 4, 1985, review of The Glenn Gould Reader, p. 102.
New York Times, October 22, 1999, Richard Bernstein, review of Selected Letters of Dawn Powell, 1913-1965, p. 49.
New York Times Book Review, November 26, 1995, Terry Teachout, review of The Diaries of Dawn Powell, 1931-1965, p. 9; June 3, 2001, Bruce Bawer, review of The Unknown Sigrid Undset: Jenny and Other Works, p. 42.
Notes, March, 1994, Paul Orgel, review of William Kapell: A Documentary Life History of the American Pianist, pp. 1015-1018.
Opera News, March 27, 1993, Brian Kellow, review of Music from the Road, pp. 48-49; February, 2003, Jonathan Rabb, review of Tim Page on Music, p. 97.
Publishers Weekly, May 13, 1988, review of Selected Letters of Virgil Thomson, p. 256; August 3, 1998, Ray Roberts, review of Dawn Powell: A Biography, p. 61; April 30, 2001, review of The Unknown Sigrid Undset, p. 54.
Review of Contemporary Fiction, fall, 2001, James Crossley, review of The Unknown Sigrid Undset, p. 220.
Scandinavian Studies, spring, 2002, Sherrill Harbison, review of The Unknown Sigrid Undset, p. 108.
A Day in the Life of Timmy Page (film), produced by David and Iris Hoffman, 1997.*