Andrew Porter (music critic)

Andrew Brian Porter (26 August 1928 – 3 April 2015) was a British music critic, scholar, organist and opera director.[1]

Andrew Porter
Born26 August 1928
Cape Town, South Africa
Died3 April 2015(2015-04-03) (aged 86)
London, United Kingdom
OccupationMusic critic


Born in Cape Town, South Africa,[2] Porter studied organ at University College, Oxford in the late 1940s. He then began writing music criticism for various London newspapers, including The Times and The Daily Telegraph. In 1953, he joined The Financial Times, where he served as the lead critic until 1972. Stanley Sadie, in the 2001 edition of the Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, wrote that Porter "built up a distinctive tradition of criticism, with longer notices than were customary in British daily papers, based on his elegant, spacious literary style and always informed by a knowledge of music history and the findings of textual scholarship as well as an exceptionally wide range of sympathies."[3]

In 1960, Porter became the editor of The Musical Times. From 1972 to 1973 he served a term as the music critic of The New Yorker. Returning to the magazine in 1974, he remained its music critic until he moved back to London in 1992. His writings for The New Yorker won respect from leading figures in the musical world. The composer and critic Virgil Thomson, in a 1974 commentary on the state of music criticism, stated, "Nobody reviewing in America has anything like Porter's command of [opera]. Nor has The New Yorker ever before had access through music to so distinguished a mind."[4] In particular, with operas that were unfamiliar to him, Porter exercised additional diligence in his preparation for his reviews. According to Opera News:

When reviewing an opera that was new to him, such as Bloch's Macbeth, he might attend three performances before he felt qualified to write about it; he frequently returned to productions after opening night to refine his viewpoint, and he reviewed virtually all music only after learning it from the score."[5]

In his latter years, Porter wrote for The Observer, Opera, and The Times Literary Supplement.[6]

Porter translated the libretti of 37 operas,[1] of which his English translations of Der Ring des Nibelungen and The Magic Flute have been widely performed. He also directed several operas for either fully staged or semi-staged performance.[1] He authored the librettos for John Eaton's The Tempest, after Shakespeare,[7] and Bright Sheng's The Song of Majnun, based on the ancient Persian story.[8]

As a scholar, Porter notably discovered excised portions of Verdi's Don Carlos in the library of the Paris Opera, which led to the restoration of the original version of the work.[2] Porter was a consultant for a 1996 production at the Théâtre du Châtelet that used the critical edition which incorporated his scholarship.[9]

In 2003, Porter was honored with the publication of a festschrift, Words on Music: Essays in Honor of Andrew Porter on the Occasion of His 75th Birthday.[10]

Porter died of pneumonia on 3 April 2015. His twin sister was his only surviving relation.[2] He continued attending performances, including one of Die Meistersinger, even while sick, and his final two reviews for Opera, of Gaetano Donizetti's Il furioso all'isola di San Domingo and I pazzi per progetto, went to press hours before his death.[6]



  • A Musical Season: A Critic from Abroad in America, Viking Press (1974), ISBN 0-670-49650-2
  • The Ring of the Nibelung (translation), Norton (1976) ISBN 0-393-02192-0
  • Music of Three Seasons, 1974–1977, Farrar, Straus and Giroux (1978), ISBN 0-374-21646-0
  • Music of Three More Seasons, 1977–1980, Knopf (1981), ISBN 0-394-51813-6
  • Verdi's Macbeth: A Sourcebook (with David Rosen), Cambridge University Press (1984), ISBN 0-521-26520-7
  • Musical Events: A Chronicle, 1980–1983, Summit Books (1987), ISBN 0-671-63538-7
  • Musical Events: A Chronicle, 1983–1986, Summit Books (1989), ISBN 0-671-63539-5


  1. ^ a b c Opera: "Opera Magazine Editorial Board", accessed 2 January 2011
  2. ^ a b c Margalit Fox (31 March 2015). "Andrew Porter, New Yorker Classical Music Critic, Dies at 86". The New York Times. Retrieved 4 April 2015.
  3. ^ Stanley Sadie, "Porter, Andrew," Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, vol. 20, 184–85.
  4. ^ Virgil Thomson, "A Drenching of Music, But a Drought of Critics," New York Times, 27 October 1974
  5. ^ William R. Braun (3 April 2015). "Andrew Porter, 86, Longtime New Yorker Critic Whose Prose and Musical Discoveries Changed Opera, Has Died". Opera News. Retrieved 4 April 2015.
  6. ^ a b Alex Ross (4 April 2015). "Postscript: Andrew Porter (1928-2015)". The New Yorker. Retrieved 18 September 2015.
  7. ^ "John Eaton". Retrieved 18 September 2015.
  8. ^ "Bright Sheng". Retrieved 18 September 2015.
  9. ^ David Stevens (6 March 1996). "'Don Carlos,' Early and Late". The New York Times. Retrieved 4 April 2015.
  10. ^ David Rosen and Claire Brook, ed., Words on Music: Essays in Honor of Andrew Porter on the Occasion of His 75th Birthday, Pendragon Press (2003), ISBN 1-57647-097-0

External linksEdit

Preceded by
Winthrop Sargeant
Music Critic of The New Yorker
1972–1973, 1974–1992
Succeeded by
Paul Griffiths