Ten Newsweek Covers That Featured Classical Musicians

Thursday, October 18, 2012 - 12:24 PM

Newsweek announced Thursday that it will end its print edition and shift to an all-digital format in early 2013. Since 1933, the iconic newsweekly not only covered and summarized world events but occasionally introduced general audiences to classical superstars like Leonard Bernstein and Luciano Pavarotti.

Although it was never known for being as arts-friendly as its chief rival, Time, Newsweek featured a regular arts section with interviews, record reviews and critical commentaries.

Katrine Ames is an arts reporter who came to Newsweek in 1970 as a researcher, and worked her way up to senior editor before leaving in 1996. “When I started, there was music every week,” she recalled in a phone conversation. “This wasn’t just Newsweek, it was everywhere.”

Ames remembers an era when artists like Itzhak Perlman, Zubin Mehta and Pierre Boulez would land on the cover, and the magazine featured a major cover story on Bach’s 300th birthday in December 1985, written by the late music critic Alan Rich. The magazine also featured big names from dance and theater, due to the advocacy of editors like Jack Kroll.

"Jack Kroll would fight tooth and nail,” to get classical music covered, said Aimes. "He would refer to the editors as the ‘scumbag philistines’ when he didn’t get his way.”

But with changes in editors and management, those battles were harder to win. Aimes recalls writing a profile on mezzo-soprano Cecilia Bartoli in 1994. While it ran for a generous 825 words, an editor told her that such a feature would have once appeared on the cover. An effort to get Leonard Bernstein on the cover for his 70th birthday in 1988 didn’t come to fruition.

“Those didn’t sell copies,” said Aimes. She added: “It was a gradual downhill slide. But that was everywhere.”

March 2, 1953: Eugene Ormandy













February 13, 1961: Eileen Farrell














September 14, 1962: Leonard Bernstein


















April 21, 1969: Beverly Sills
















October 11, 1971: Pierre Boulez















April 23, 1973: Stephen Sondheim















March 14, 1976 Luciano Pavarotti















1978: Zubin Mehta













April 14, 1980: Itzhak Perlman















1982: Placido Domingo









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Comments [3]

Jeep Gerhard from New York NY

the great arts editor at Newsweek back in the good old days was JACK KROLL, not COLE. Otherwise a nice little story, and it's good to see those fine covers once again! I guess like all print (not to mention pixels), they are evanescent. I think I saved a couple of them! Thanks.

Oct. 20 2012 03:53 PM
Mat Dirjish from NYC

The great thing about going to a Sondheim offering on Broadway is even if the play and production are terrible, you can always just close your eyes and hear fantastic music, orchestrated brilliantly, with equally brillant lyrics. Having seen Sweeney Todd presented at Lincoln Center and being more than just acquainted with the harmonic, contrupuntal, and melodic complexities of Maestro Sondheim's compositions in total, yes, he can be considered a "classical" composer and a classic: BBBS (Bach, Beethoven, Bartok, and Sondheim)

Oct. 19 2012 10:42 AM

Sondheim is a classical musician? He may have a college degree in music, but he is a popular composer who writes for the Broadway stage.

The continuing pandering of WQXR ever since it went public marches on.

Oct. 18 2012 04:45 PM

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