Michael Steinberg (music critic)

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Michael Steinberg
Carl Michael Alfred Steinberg

(1928-10-04)October 4, 1928
Breslau, Germany
(now Wrocław, Poland)
Died26 July 2009(2009-07-26) (aged 80)
Alma mater
Notable credits

Carl Michael Alfred Steinberg (4 October 1928 – 26 July 2009) was an American music critic and author who specialized in classical music.[1] He was best known, according to San Francisco Chronicle music critic Joshua Kosman, for "the illuminating, witty and often deeply personal notes he wrote for the San Francisco Symphony's program booklets, beginning in 1979."[2] He contributed several entries to the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, wrote articles for music journals and magazine, notes for CDs, and published a number of books on music, both collected published annotations and new writings.

Life and career[edit]

Carl Michael Alfred Steinberg was born in Breslau, Germany (now Wrocław, Poland), on 4 October 1928.[1][2] In 1939 Steinberg was among the 10,000 child refugees transported out of Germany via the Kindertransport; he and his mother settled in England.[3] The two stayed with a family in Stapleford, Cambridgeshire, an assignment organized by the Quakers, and attended The Perse School.[4] After four years in England, Steinberg and his mother joined the eldest brother Franz in St. Louis, US.[4] Steinberg attended Princeton University, where his roommate was the future classical-music scholar and pianist Charles Rosen, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in 1949.[1]

He then received a Masters in Musicology from Princeton, after study with Oliver Strunk (musicology), Edward T. Cone and Milton Babbitt (theory) as well as the composer Bohuslav Martinů.[1][5] After Princeton, he lived two years in Italy on a Fulbright scholarship, followed by a two-year stint in Germany with the U.S. Army.[2] Once this posting ended, he became a faculty member of the Manhattan School of Music, where he taught music history.

Steinberg taught at several colleges in New York and Massachusetts before he became music critic for the Boston Globe in 1964. His time with the Globe was not without controversy. While Steinberg was lauded for his writing, the high standards by which he gauged the performances he reviewed caused friction with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. At one time, the orchestra's members voted to ban Steinberg from attending its concerts.[2] However, after almost 12 years with the Globe, he became program annotator for this orchestra. In 1979, he worked as publications director and artistic advisor for the San Francisco Symphony; he stayed until 1989. He was program annotator for a number of other orchestras during his career, including the New York Philharmonic and the Minnesota Orchestra, the latter of which he served as artistic advisor during the 1990s.

In a 1995 interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, Steinberg said he saw his role as a critic and annotator as someone "building bridges and helping to create contact between listeners—nonprofessional listeners for the most part—and music."[2]

Steinberg died in Edina, Minnesota, at the age of 80.[6][7][8]

Selected publications[edit]


  • Steinberg, Michael; Hadley, Benjamin; Gelles, George, eds. (1980). Britannica Book of Music. New York: Doubleday. ISBN 978-0-385-14191-8.
  • —— (1995). The Symphony. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-506177-2.
  • —— (1998). The Concerto. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-510330-4.
  • —— (2005). Choral Masterworks: A Listener's Guide. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-802921-2.
  • ——; Rothe, Larry (2006). For The Love of Music: Invitations to Listening. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-537020-1.

Grove articles[edit]

Grove Music Online. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2001 (subscription or UK public library membership required)


  1. ^ a b c d Smith, Patrick J. (2009) [2001]. "Steinberg, (Carl) Michael". Grove Music Online. Revised by Maureen Buja. Oxford: Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.article.26641. ISBN 978-1-56159-263-0. Archived from the original on 2021-11-26. Retrieved 2021-11-26. (subscription or UK public library membership required)
  2. ^ a b c d e Kosman, Joshua (27 July 2009). "Michael Steinberg - music critic, educator". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 27 March 2012.
  3. ^ Tommasini, Anthony (29 July 2009). "Michael Steinberg, Music Critic, Teacher and Program Annotator, Is Dead at 80". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 26 November 2021. Retrieved 26 November 2021.
  4. ^ a b Cairns, David (29 September 2009). "Michael Steinberg obituary". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 26 November 2021. Retrieved 26 November 2021.
  5. ^ Huizenga, Tom (27 July 2009). "Music Critic Michael Steinberg Dies At 80". NPR. Archived from the original on 26 November 2021. Retrieved 26 November 2021.
  6. ^ Euan Kerr, Music writer Michael Steinberg dies Archived 2012-10-12 at the Wayback Machine, Minnesota Public Radio, 26 July 2009
  7. ^ Janos Gereben, In Memoriam: Michael Steinberg Archived 2017-05-17 at the Wayback Machine, San Francisco Classical Voice, 27 July 2009
  8. ^ Swed, Mark (26 July 2009). "Michael Steinberg remembered". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 26 January 2022. Retrieved 26 November 2021.

External links[edit]