After 46 years of covering classical music, Andy Pincus of The Eagle retires | Berkshire landscapes


LENOX — In the past 100 years, The Berkshire Eagle has had just two classical music critics — including the primary concert critic assignment since the Boston Symphony opened its summer home at Tanglewood in 1937.

Pittsfield’s Jay C. Rosenfeld worked for The Eagle from 1919 until shortly before his death in October 1975, reviewing Berkshire gigs and covering Tanglewood.

From 1975 until last summer, so did 91-year-old Lenox resident Andrew L. Pincus, whose retirement is announced today.

Newspaper clipping from Rosenfeld's obituary

Jay Rosenfeld was the Berkshire Eagle’s first classical music critic, a position he held for 55 years. Andrew L. Pincus took over from Rosenfeld in 1975. Between them, the pair have enjoyed a remarkable century writing about world-class music in the Berkshires.

Both have written for The New York Times as freelancers. Their combined longevity covering classical music is an almost certain American record.

Pincus, originally from Atlanta, later moved to New Orleans with his family. His parents – Bernard, a merchant in a department store and Amelia, a housewife – were great music lovers.

His career in journalism followed graduating from Dartmouth College with a degree in music and service for the US Army in Germany during the Korean War era. After learning the ropes in New Jersey newspapers, he was hired at The Eagle in 1967 as editor, responsible for the front page and managing international and national news.


When he started, Pincus recalls, Eagle owner and publisher Lawrence K. “Pete” Miller gave him lofty marching orders: “I want you to turn this paper into” a little New York Times. “.”

It didn’t take long. In 1973, editorial page editor Roger Linscott won a Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Writingthe following year, media critic Ben Bagdikian cited just three major newspapers in an article in Time Magazine: The New York Times, Le Monde de Paris and The Berkshire Eagle.

Eighteen years after joining The Eagle, Pincus decided to go freelance, devoting himself to classical music but also writing essays on life in the Berkshires and three books. In 1983 and 1987 he won the prestigious ASCAP Deems Taylor Award for music criticism.

“Andy’s love for Tanglewood – its traditions, its traditions – is palpable,” said Tony Fogg, vice president of artistic planning for the BSO who joined the orchestra’s administration in 1994. “Over years he has seen and chronicled everything about the festival: the changing accents and tastes of three different music directors, the morphing of various education and training programs, the growth of the campus, the big celebrations , the comings and goings of major personalities.

“Through it all, he’s stayed true to a set of criteria that always puts absolute musical values ​​at the heart, regardless of fads or fads or commercial appeal,” Fogg said. “We didn’t always wholeheartedly agree with his point of view, but we always respected his conviction and the honesty of his answers.”


Pincus has also covered the local off-season music scene, including the highly regarded Berkshire Symphony student-faculty orchestra based at Williams College.

Ronald Feldman, music director of the orchestra, artist-in-residence in the music department at Williams and cellist at the Boston Symphony from 1967 (when he was 19) to 2001, said that “reviewers must rely on personal preferences, previous performances, recordings and academic research to assess a performance.

“How can you accurately compare a performance of a local ensemble with that of an established professional ensemble? Andy figured out how to walk that fine line,” he continued. “Whether you’re the Boston Symphony or the Berkshire Symphony, he was careful to make fair judgments. His knowledge of contemporary music has always been well documented.

In Feldman’s opinion, “Andy always had something interesting to say, sometimes accompanied by a slightly darker, sobering commentary. I didn’t always agree with his criticisms but I always found a lot to learn from his comments. I always look forward to reading his reviews. I wish him good luck.

Jeffrey Borak, theater critic for The Eagle and former arts and entertainment editor, worked closely with Pincus until 2021.

“It’s been a privilege in the fullest sense of the word to work with Andy for the 30+ years that I’ve served as The Eagle’s Art Editor,” Borak said. “When I came here in April 1986, he taught me some of the tricks of the trade based on his own training and skills as an editor. What impressed me most about working with him was c “is the knowledge he brought to his craft; the elegance of his writing, which always speaks about the music, never about him. His work ethic is of the highest order. He is tough, uncompromising, a professional professional .

Excerpts from The Eagle’s recent interview with Pincus follow, slightly edited for length:

Looking Back: Catching Birds Is Part of This Bandleader's Job Pops, July 28, 1979, by Andrew L. Pincus

Q: How and when did you discover your affinity for music?

A: One night when I was 6 or 7, I was in bed, supposedly asleep, when I heard my parents playing what I discovered to be Beethoven’s Violin Concerto on the phonograph. The response was so lasting, so permanent, it stayed with me, so whenever the music kicked on, I listened.

Q: Did you take an instrument?

A: I did it. Clarinet in primary school. At Dartmouth, I took theory, harmony, orchestration. I had a vague idea of ​​becoming a conductor; I put on a recording and practiced in front of a mirror. At New England Music Camp near Waterville, Maine, my mentor who led the student-teacher orchestra recognized that I had no skill or talent. Then I was drafted into the army, posted to Germany as an infantryman, but I became a clerk-typist and also the “troop information and education officer” of the company.

Q: Where did you first meet your partner Kate?

A: It all started at summer camp, where she was a flautist and librarian. Kate came to Germany and we got married there. Old school romance is what it was, with a common interest in music. [Kate, a professional hand-weaver and longtime owner of the Weaver’s Fancy shop in downtown Lenox, died in May 2019].

Q: After two years in the military, what happened next?

A: I got a master’s degree in the English department at Rutgers and took most of the courses for a Ph.D. aiming to become an English teacher. But I didn’t like university life, so many arguments for so little. So I walked across the street to the office of the New Jersey Press Association and got a job at the Netcong-Stanhope News, a small weekly, where I worked as editor, reporter, ad salesman, and delivery boy. This is where I did my basic training in journalism, learning to do everything. Next, a big step into the Newark Evening News as a reporter for three years.

Q: How did you come to The Eagle in 1967?

A: I was on a very big weekly in Somerville, NJ But after three years the editor wasn’t retiring and the paper wasn’t running every day. It was a dead end. So I walked across the street to the library and saw an ad for an editor position at the Berkshire Eagle. Three weeks later, I was living in Richmond and working at The Eagle as a front-page editor, a really big job.

Q: When were you asked to succeed Jay Rosenfeld as classical critic?

A: I never thought of being a music critic. But after eight years at The Eagle, I thought maybe it would be fun to do something else but not full time, just something else in my life to get back into music. It was Milton Bass [then the arts and entertainment editor] who got me the job. My first BSO Tanglewood gig was in the summer of 1975. After one of my first reviews, which was a pan, a BSO member tapped me on the shoulder, told me I had wrote a bad review, then told me, “Do it again.” That’s when I learned to be as honest as possible, to be respectful, not to hurt people, but if it’s bad, say it’s bad, in nice language, but don’t coat it. It was a great lesson.

Q: How has the audience changed over the years, if any?

A: I think they remain fairly stable in size, taste and level of education. We have a good local audience for off-season gigs. At Tanglewood, the lineup isn’t just old chestnuts, but shorter tunes so if you don’t like one, there are three more.

Q: What trends do you expect?

A: Seems like there’s an increase in Pops and Pops style programming, it’s not overwhelming the classic stuff but it’s starting to be the camel with its head in the tent. Pops is a legit part of the BSO, so I would expect even more of that.

Q: Looking back, how would you sum up the role of a critic?

A: For me, a critic is an educator in the broadest sense, using their knowledge and experience to illuminate music for others. What is good with classical music and opera is that you can always go further. Agree or not, a good critic enriches your listening and your life.


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