Given the overwhelming volume of reviews and essays published in newspapers, periodicals, blogs and specialist journals across the world over the course of hundreds of years, compiling a ‘history’ of music criticism is an ambitious project.
Yet, as editor Christopher Dingle puts it in his introduction to The Cambridge History of Music Criticism, the history of music criticism can be thought of as an “alternate history” of music, focusing on those who chronicle and critique it. As he points out, for all its limitations as a benchmark of the success (or otherwise) of a piece of music or performance, “music criticism frequently provides the only record of what actually happened and even how it sounded.”
While Jean Sibelius famously claimed no statues were erected to honour critics, classical music enthusiasts may nonetheless be familiar with the names of better-known critics such as the much-quoted Eduard Hanslick of Vienna, or the likes of Hector Berlioz, Ethel Smythand Peggy Glanville-Hickswho wrote criticism in addition to composing music.
This extensive compendium, however, starts by...