Edward Downes (American musicologist)

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Edward Olin Davenport Downes (August 12, 1911 – December 26, 2001) was an American musicologist, professor and music critic. He is perhaps best known as the host and quizmaster of the Metropolitan Opera Quiz on the Metropolitan Opera radio broadcasts from 1958 to 1996.

Early life[edit]

Downes was born in West Roxbury, Massachusetts,[1] the son of Olin Downes.[1] He was educated at Columbia University and the Manhattan School of Music and received a Ph.D. in musicology from Harvard University in 1958.[1] Downes served in the Army during World War II. During the war he worked for a time for Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., preparing briefing books for the Office of Strategic Services.[1]


Downes taught at Wellesley College, the Longy School of Music, the University of Minnesota. Much of the end of his career was as a professor at Queens College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, where he taught and advised doctoral students.[1]

Downes was at one time music critic of The Boston Evening Transcript, The New York Post.[2] Downes also wrote program notes for the New York Philharmonic for eighteen years.

In 1955, after his father died, Downes went to work for the New York Times.[2] Downes stayed at the Times for two years. He then received an offer to host the opera quiz on the Metropolitan Opera radio broadcasts for 20 weeks a year, for the same salary that he received at the Times for an entire year's work.[2] He was host and quizmaster of the Metropolitan Opera Quiz on the Metropolitan Opera radio broadcasts from 1958 to 1996.[1]

Selected works[edit]

As author:

  • Adventures in Symphonic Music. New York: Farrar & Rinehart, Inc. 1944
  • The New York Philharmonic Guide to the Symphony. ISBN 0-8027-0540-5

As editor:

  • Perspectives in Musicology: The Inaugural Lectures of the Ph.D. Program in Music at the City University of New York. Edited by Barry S. Brook, Edward O. D. Downes, and Sherman Van Solkema. 1967. ISBN 0-393-09952-0

As translator:

  • Janáček, Leos. Jenufa. Australia : Pellinor Pty Ltd., 1984
  • Shostakovich, Dmitri: Katerina Ismailova. English translation by Edward Downes. New York: Leeds Music, 1963.
  • Verdi, The Man in his Letters, as edited and selected by Franz Werfel and Paul Stefan. Translated by Edward Downes.


  1. ^ a b c d e f Tommasini, Anthony (December 28, 2001), Edward Downes, 90, Opera Quizmaster, New York, NY: New York Times. 
  2. ^ a b c Tommasini, Anthony (December 14, 1996), An Operatic Voice That Doesn't Sing, New York, NY: The New York Times. 

External links[edit]