) is a British commentator on
music and cultural affairs and also a novelist. He has been
Assistant Editor of the Evening
since 2002 and has presented
Radio 3 from 2000.
Before working for the Standard
, he wrote for the
The Maestro Myth
(1991) charts the history of conducting
from its rise as an independent profession in the 1870s to its
subsequent preoccupations with power, wealth and celebrity.
When the Music Stops
(US title: Who Killed Classical
, 1997) is the first documented history of the classical
music business, examining its backstage workings and foretelling
the collapse of the record industry. Maestros, Masterpieces and
Madness: The Secret Life and Shameful Death of the Classical Record
(US title: The Life and Death of Classical
, 2007) is billed as an inside account of the rise and
fall of recording, combined with a critical selection and analysis
of 100 discs and 20 recording disasters.
Lebrecht has written extensively about the composer Gustav Mahler
, in Mahler Remembered
(1987) and elsewhere; and about contemporary music, in The
Complete Companion to 20th Century Music
(2000). He is the
founder and editor of the Phaidon
series of 20th century composer biographies.
His novel The Song of Names
, a tale of two boys growing up
in wartime London, appeared in 2001 and went on to win the 2002 Whitbread Award
Lebrecht's writing has often been attacked as provocative and
misinformed. For example, musicologist Richard Taruskin
described Lebrecht as "a
sloppy but entertaining British muckraker". An unnamed figure
identified as "one of the world's leading conductors" told The
that Lebrecht had for years been getting away with
"pompous, preposterous judgment" and "inept research".
2007 the founder of Naxos Records,
Klaus Heymann, sued Lebrecht's
publisher, Penguin Books, for defamation
in London's High Court of
Heymann claimed that Lebrecht had wrongly
accused him of "serious business malpractices" in his book
Maestros, Masterpieces & Madness
, and identified at
least 15 statements he claimed were inaccurate. The case was
settled out of court. As a result of the settlement, Penguin issued
a statement apologizing for "the hurt and damage which [Heymann]
has suffered". The publisher also agreed to pay an undisclosed sum
in legal fees to Heymann, to make a donation to charity, to refrain
from repeating the disputed allegations and to seek the return of
all unsold copies of Lebrecht's book. Commenting on the affair,
Heymann said that "For me it’s beyond belief how any journalist in
five pages can make so many factual mistakes. It’s shocking. Also,
he [Lebrecht] really doesn’t understand the record business." The
settlement did not extend to the US edition of Lebrecht's book, but
Heymann vowed to seek its withdrawal in the United States, saying
"The book made me look like a shit, so something had to be done.
When Lebrecht talks to people he doesn't take notes so he confuses
and confounds what people say."
Lebrecht is on record as attacking the accuracy of music reporting
in the blogosphere
. In his Evening
column he wrote that "Until bloggers deliver hard
facts … paid for newspapers will continue to set the standard as
the only show in town". Some bloggers used this statement to charge
Lebrecht with hypocrisy in light of the Heymann settlement.
(Despite his criticism of classical music blogs
launched his own blog, Slipped Disc
, in March 2007).
- Also published as Hush! Handel's in a Passion:
tales of Bach, Handel, and their contemporaries.
- Updated editions published 1997, 2001
- Revised edition published 2000 as The Complete Companion to
- Also published as Who Killed Classical Music?: maestros,
managers, and corporate politics.
- Also published as The Life and Death of Classical Music:
featuring the 100 best and 20 worst recordings ever made.
- Slipped Disc, March 15, 2007