A Portrait in 4 Movements, Patner
Author: Andrew Patner
Editors: John R. Schmidt, Douglas W. Shadle
Format: Hardcover, 272 pages
Publisher: University of Chicago Press (2019)
“Playing in an orchestra in an intelligent way is the best school for democracy.” — Daniel Barenboim
The Chicago Symphony Orchestra has been led by a storied group of conductors. From 1994 to 2015, through the eras of Daniel Barenboim, Pierre Boulez, Bernard Haitink and Riccardo Muti, Andrew Patner was right there. As music critic for the Chicago Sun-Times and WFMT radio, Patner traced the arc of the CSO’s changing repertories, all while cultivating a deep rapport with its 4 principal conductors.
This book assembles Patner’s reviews of concerts given by the CSO during this time, as well as transcripts of his remarkable radio interviews with these colossal figures. These pages hold tidbits for the curious, such as Patner’s "driving survey" that playfully ranks the maestros he knew on a scale of "total comfort" to "fright level five," and the observation that Muti appears to be a southpaw on the baseball field. Moving easily between registers, they also open revealing windows onto the sometimes-difficult pasts that brought these conductors to music in the first place, including Boulez’s and Haitink’s heartbreaking experiences of Nazi occupation in their native countries as children.
Throughout, these reviews and interviews are threaded together with insights about the power of music and the techniques behind it — from the conductors’ varied approaches to research, preparing scores and interacting with other musicians, to how the sound and personality of the orchestra evolved over time, to the ways that we can all learn to listen better and hear more in the music we love.
Featuring a foreword by fellow critic Alex Ross on the ethos and humor that informed Patner’s writing, as well as an introduction and extensive historical commentary by musicologist Douglas W. Shadle, this book offers a rich portrait of the musical life of Chicago through the eyes and ears of one of its most beloved critics.
About Andrew Patner:
Andrew Patner was a native Chicagoan and lifelong observer of arts in the city. A former editor and staff writer of Chicago Magazine and staff reporter for the Wall Street Journal, he was an arts critic and program host and producer for WBEZ, Chicago’s NPR affiliate, for 8 years. Patner was a regular contributor of arts criticism to the Chicago Sun-Times from 1991 until his death and was often heard as a critic and interviewer on WFMT, Chicago’s classical radio station.