New book by Monash musicologist Dr Paul Watt explores the legendary career of British music critic Ernest Newman

Dr Paul Watt’s latest book, Ernest Newman: A Critical Biography, has just been published.

Ernest Newman (1868–1959) was one of the most significant critics of his generation. The author of thousands of articles and many books, Newman wrote on a cornucopia of subjects including English and French literature, evolutionary theory and biographical method, as well as French, German and Russian music.

Newman is best remembered for his magisterial Life of Richard Wagner, published in four volumes between 1933 and 1946, and his tenure as chief music critic on The Sunday Times from 1920 to 1958. Newman was renowned as a witty and sometimes feisty writer but also a champion of and advocate for the emerging discipline of musicology.

In outlining why he wrote this book Dr Watt said:

‘Although Newman is known for his work on Wagner I wanted to show that he was no one-trick pony and that his intellectual outlook was European in scope, varied in application and long-lasting. Most of Newman’s books are still in print today, even those published more than 100 years ago.

‘I also wanted to show Newman’s rationalist ideology framed virtually everything he wrote. He was a stickler for the use of method and objectivity, which of course aligned him with the ambitions of many of his contemporaries including French literary critics and German historians.

‘I hope readers will be surprised by what’s in this book. It is neither a conventional biography nor a book that solely focuses on Newman’s newspaper work. It examines the reasons why he wrote on particular topics, the sometime difficult interactions he had with editors and publishers and ultimately the impact his work had on musical life and letters in Britain, Europe and North America.

Ernest Newman: A Critical Biography is published by Boydell & Brewer.