Music criticism in New Zealand may be said to have begun with the writings of C. N. Baeyertz, a German who for some 30 years edited the Triad, a monthly magazine which was nominally devoted to music, science, and art. First published in Dunedin in 1892, the Triad used to appear in various provincial editions, so that local events could be adequately covered. From 1915 to 1925 (when it went out of existence) it was published in Sydney. In addition to editing the magazine, Baeyertz was the writer of the “Obiter dicta” columns in which month by month he waged vigorous verbal warfare on concert performers whose standards fell short of his critical judgments. Artists, their choice of music, and sometimes their audiences, all came under his fire. Baeyertz always attacked fearlessly, pinpointing faults in pungent language. Of Dame Clara Butt, for example, whose New Zealand concert tour brought plaudits from the daily press, he wrote: “In her phrasing she makes mincemeat of a song. The impression she gives is that of one who started singing before being properly trained”. At a time when George Bernard Shaw was enlivening English musical criticism with his characteristic wit, directness, and courage, Baeyertz, with rather less subtlety or polish but with considerable perspicacity, was flaying faults of technique or taste. His judgments, reviewed half a century later, were for the most part sound, and his criticism, for all its acerbity, was frequently constructive.
Another German who for many years wrote musical criticism was H. M. Lund, a well-known pianoforte teacher who was music critic for the Christchurch Press. More recently, a vigorous writer to many journals and a columnist on music for the Dunedin Evening Star over a long period is L. D. Austin.
Most of the leading daily newspapers of the chief cities of New Zealand employ professional music critics. On the whole the space given to coverage of concerts and general musical matters is reasonable, with a notable increase in recent years to include the wider field of light music, radio broadcasts, and gramophone record reviews. In most cases critical notices are signed. In the daily newspapers, where notices must be quickly written for the next day's issue, they perhaps lean to conservatism. In periodicals, such as The New Zealand Listener, and Landfall, tne critic has longer to reflect on his impression of a performance or a new musical work, and is accordingly able to offer a more considered opinion.
by Linden Charles Mansell Saunders, M.A., MUS.B., Music Master, King's College, Auckland.