Music: The Parasitic Profession

Virtually every night during New York City's nine-month music season, Winthrop Sargeant takes his aisle seat at the opera or a concert hall. On Saturday he writes the music column for The New Yorker—a column with considerable bite if he finds the performers indifferent, the conductor lackluster or the composers too avant-garde for his conservative taste.

Few critics ever earned their bite as honestly as Sargeant. A child prodigy, he conducted a symphony orchestra at age ten, later spent six years as a violinist and horn player with several orchestras under a succession...

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