A Celebration of the Work of the Music Critic Andrew Patner

July 12, 2019
By
John R. Schmidt, Douglas W. Shadle, Alex Ross, and Maestro Riccardo Muti discuss A Portrait in Four Movements by Andrew Patner at the Italian Cultural Institute. (Photo by Vincent Di Sandro.)

In early May, Chicago’s classical music lovers gathered to celebrate the late music critic Andrew Patner, whose collection of writings, A Portrait in Four Movements was recently published by the University of Chicago Press. To celebrate the book, the book’s contributors organized a panel discussion at the Italian Cultural Institute of Chicago.

Andrew Patner was a Chicago-based journalist, broadcaster, critic, and interviewer. He was a celebrated classical music critic, contributing to the Chicago Sun-Times from 1991 until his death, at age 55, in 2015. On his weekly radio programs on WFMT, “Critical Thinking” and “Critic’s Choice,” Patner interviewed both renowned and up-and-coming conductors and composers. In his career as critic, Patner was able to trace the arc of the CSO’s changing repertories, all while cultivating a deep rapport with its four principal conductors.

This discussion of Patner’s life and work featured the book’s three contributors, New Yorker music critic Alex Ross, attorney and Symphony trustee John R. Schmidt, and musicologist Douglas W. Shadle. Maestro Riccardo Muti, music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, also joined the discussion.

The panelists shared memories of Patner, who was both an insightful music critic and a devoted friend. Speaking at the event, Ross, the critic at the New Yorker, recalled his lively email correspondence with Patner, which began when Patner emailed corrections, or “factual caveats” to Ross’s pieces. Maestro Muti recalled visiting The Frick Collection in New York City with Patner, who was just as knowledgeable about art history as he was about music. “[Andrew and I] didn’t speak so much about music, we spoke about human life…” Muti said. “When you miss a person like this, the society loses something.”

At the end of the event, Patner’s partner Tom Bachtell joined the panelists to raise a toast to Patner—a touching tribute to a beloved member of the classical music community.

Patner’s legacy as a critic and friend will surely live on. Writing about Patner in the Chicago Tribune, David Royko said: “His joy began with the music, and then sharing the music with readers and listeners, opening windows to art and culture, with missionary zeal. . . . Because, in essence, he was a generous and eager teacher. He did not approach music as mere entertainment. For Patner, music was lifeblood for a rich and meaningful existence, and his role was to share it. We were — and now with this book, are — the fortunate beneficiaries.”

A full recording of the event can be found online, courtesy of WFMT: https://www.wfmt.com/2019/05/17/patner-panel/

Read an excerpt from A Portrait in Four Movements on the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s Sounds & Stories blog: https://csosoundsandstories.org/embracing-eclecticism-on-baseball-and-programming/

A Portrait in Four Movements is available now! Find it on our website, online at any major booksellers, or at your local bookstore.

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