The Henry Russel Lecture at the University of Michigan
11 March 1997
Few writers on music have been as colorful, as astute, or as infuriating as the composer-critic Virgil Thomson. Chief music critic for the late, lamented New York Herald-Tribune from 1940 through 1954, he used his bully-pulpit to increase public awareness of the newest American music and our best young native composers and performers. He also shamelessly used his critic's power to obtain performances of his own music and to settle scores in the music world in the most highhanded way possible. He certainly indulged in some of the "old-American" set of prejudices that can also be found in the writings of a close counterpart, H. L. Mencken. As with Mencken, however, the rereading of Thomson is usually worth the occasional wince.