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Tom Manoff

Tom Manoff

Composer and author Tom Manoff has been the classical music critic for NPR's All Things Considered since 1985.

In addition to his work at NPR, Manoff has written for the New York Times and other newspapers. Manoff's compositions include music for the Oscar-winning documentary Down and Out in the USA and Honor is so Sublime Perfection, performed at Tanglewood.

Currently, Manoff is working on an opera "The Trials of Katherina Kepler" and Chase the White Horse, a political memoir about his family.

His first book The Music Kit (WW Norton and Company, 1976-2001) has long been among the top-selling college textbooks for fundamentals of music. His second text, Music: A Living Language (Norton, 1982), was praised for its groundbreaking approach placing standard music history in a broader historical, cultural and musical context. The publication was the first college text from a major publisher to explore all musical styles as equal art forms.

At age five, Manoff started playing the piano. By the time he reached 10, Manoff began studying piano, theory and analysis with pianist and conductor David Labovitz.

Manoff studied at the Manhattan School of Music. His teachers included Ludmila Ulehla for theory and composition, Bronson Ragan in keyboard improvisation and figured bass, Hugh Ross in choral conducting, Anton Coppola in orchestral conducting, and Nicholas Flagello for orchestration.

In 1967, while still a student, Manoff joined the faculty of the Manhattan School's Preparatory Division. He taught theory, ear training, and composition for 11 years. A year after his faculty appointment, Manoff was appointed head of theory, composition, and teacher training at the Third Street Music School Settlement. In this role he developed intensive programs for young minority students with professional musical potential.

Manoff was a Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) worker during the Civil Rights movement in Mississippi in 1964 and 1965.

  • Behind the well-known Christmas song that bears his name is the story of what made King Wenceslas so good.
  • Pianist Shai Wosner has been performing to critical acclaim for years, but has just made his debut recording. Music critic Tom Manoff has been looking forward to the CD, having recently heard Wosner in recital.
  • Written around the time of World War One, Sergei Rachmaninov's "All Night Vigil" is an extraordinary choral music composition. A new recording of Rachmaninov's work from conductor Paul Hillier and The Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir is out, and music critic Tom Manoff says it's magnificent.
  • Although cellist Matt Haimovitz was raised in the United States, he was born in the Middle East to Romanian parents. His new CD, Goulash, explores his family's heritage. Music critic Tom Manoff says that it also touches on an ongoing debate about the future of classical music.
  • The 5 Browns, five piano-playing siblings, made history when all five -- Desirae, Deondra, Gregory, Melody and Ryan -- attended Juilliard at the same time. They have released their first recording.
  • Anthony Holborne was an English composer during the Elizabethan age. While his music is fairly popular, little is known about his life. A group of musicians has created an imaginary biography of the composer's life, using the titles of Holborne's songs. This whimsical biography is performed by the Kings Noyse on a CD called My Selfe. Tom Manoff has a review.
  • Critic Tom Manoff has discovered 17th-century Italy and the music of Anno 1630. In the project, three musicians take the music of little-known composers from the early Renaissance period and perform it, using an ancient newly refurbished organ, harp and violin. The CD Anno 1630 is on the Winter and Winter label.
  • Tom Manoff reviews a new CD of lullabies by Hesperion XXI. This gorgeous CD is filled with lovely playing by this early music ensemble. What makes this CD even more lovely is the singing of Montserrat Figueras. She sings these lullabies from various cultures including Spain and the middle east. The CD is called Ninna Nanna by Hesperion XXI on the Alia Vox label.
  • West Side Story was an instant sensation, a bold new kind of musical theater that dealt with controversial themes of race and gang violence.