Harold Charles Schonberg, a Pulitzer Prize-winning music critic for The New York Times, died on July 26. Cause of death was not released. He was 87.
Schonberg took his first trip to the Metropolitan Opera when he was 11. That night he decided he wanted to become a music critic when he grew up. Almost four decades later, he devoted a Sunday column to his recollections of that evening.
As an undergraduate at Brooklyn College, Schonberg published his first reviews in the Musical Advance. He attended grad school at New York University and wrote a master’s thesis on the musical and literary significance of Elizabethan songbooks.
In 1939, Schonberg became a record critic for American Music Lover magazine, a publication that was later renamed the American Record Guide. His career was placed on hold during World War II when he served as a code breaker and parachutist in the United States Army Airborne Signal Corps.
When the war ended, Schonberg returned to New York City and took a job as a music critic for The New York Sun. He also contributed reviews to the Musical Courier, Musical Digest and Gramophone.
Schonberg joined The New York Times in 1950 and became its record editor five years later. By 1960, he was promoted to senior music critic, a position he held for two decades. Schonberg wrote daily reviews and longer Sunday features on opera and classical music. In 1971, he won the Pulitzer Prize for criticism. It was the first time the award was given to a music critic.
Schonberg also had a passion for writing about chess and literature. He covered the Boris Spassky-Bobby Fischer championship match in Reykjavik, Iceland, in 1972, and the championship match between Garry Kasparov and Anatoly Karpov in 1984. From 1972 to 1995, Schonberg reviewed mysteries and thrillers for The New York Times Book Review under the pseudonym Newgate Callendar.
Schonberg also published 13 books, including “The Great Pianists,” “The Lives of the Great Composers” and “Facing the Music,” a collection of his favorite columns.