Martin Bookspan, 94, classical music broadcaster, author, critic, and lecturer died peacefully at his home in Florida on April 29, 2021.
As broadcaster, Mr. Bookspan’s storied career spanned eight decades and included serving as: commentator for the PBS series Live From Lincoln Center for its first 30 years; The Voice of the New York Philharmonic; host and commentator for the radio broadcasts of the Boston Symphony Orchestra on WQXR and the QXR Network; and a charter member of the reviewing panel for the nationally syndicated radio series First Hearing. Mr. Bookspan was commentator for the broadcasts of the Spoleto Festival USA in Charleston, South Carolina and the Chamber Music Concerts at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Additionally, he served as host and commentator for the broadcast concerts of the American Symphony Orchestra under its founder Leopold Stokowski.
Mr. Bookspan served as music and dance critic for WABC-TV, Channel 7; theater critic for WPIX, Channel 11, in New York; and critic-at-large for WNAC-TV in Boston. He also was a host for the NBC television series “The Eternal Light” and served for five years as announcer for the CBS-TV soap opera “Guiding Light.”
In a lifetime dedicated to advancing the role of classical music in society, he served as coordinator of symphonic and concert activities for ASCAP, vice president and director of artists and repertory of the Moss Music Group, and on the boards of the American Music Center, the League of American Symphony Orchestras, and the Association for Classical Music, among others. He was a consultant to the National Endowment for the Arts, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Milken Family Foundation, Madison Square Garden, and the Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation. He also was an adjunct professor of music at NYU, and hosted the roundtable discussion series This Week at Tanglewood at the Berkshire Museum and from the stage at Tanglewood.
As author, Mr. Bookspan wrote more than 500 reviews of newly released LP recordings in his monthly column The Basic Repertoire in Stereo Review. He was tape critic and columnist for The New York Times and record reviewer for Consumer Reports. His books include: “101 Masterpieces of Music and Their Composers,” “Consumer Reports Reviews Classical Music,” and, written in collaboration with Ross Yockey, biographies of Andre Previn and Zubin Mehta.
During the course of his 60-year broadcasting career Mr. Bookspan interviewed hundreds of present and past luminaries in the world of classical music, among them Maurice Abravanel, Marian Anderson, Ernest Ansermet, Claudio Arrau, Emanuel Ax, Sir John Barbirolli, Daniel Barenboim, Sir Thomas Beecham, Joshua Bell, Leonard Bernstein, William Bolcom, Pierre Boulez, Yefim Bronfman, Pablo Casals, Van Cliburn, Aaron Copland, John Corigliano, Stephane Deneve, Antal Dorati, Arthur Fiedler, Gordon Getty, Glenn Gould, Giancarlo Guerrero, Marilyn Horne, Vladimir Horowitz, James Judd, Serge Koussevitzky, Erich Leinsdorf, Keith Lockhart, Yo-Yo Ma, Lorin Maazel, Israela Margalit, Ken-David Masur, Kurt Masur, Zubin Mehta, Robert Merrill, Nathan Milstein, Dimitri Mitropoulos, Pierre Monteux, Charles Munch, David Oistrakh, Eugene Ormandy, Seiji Ozawa, Jan Peerce, Itzhak Perlman, Andre Previn, Leontyne Price, Tony Randall, Arthur Rubinstein, William Schuman, Beverly Sills, Leonard Slatkin, Sir George Solti, William Steinberg, Isaac Stern, Leopold Stokowski, George Szell, Josef Szigeti, Michael Tilson Thomas, Richard Tucker, John Williams, Pinchas Zukerman, Jaap Van Zweden, and Ellen Taafe Zwillich, and was privileged to become close friends with many.
A cum laude graduate of Harvard College, class of 1947, Martin Bookspan appeared frequently with symphony orchestras as narrator, bringing his mellifluous voice to classic works for speaker and orchestra including Copland’s “A Lincoln Portrait,” which he performed with the National Symphony Orchestra under the composer’s direction; with the Boston Pops under the direction of both Arthur Fiedler and Keith Lockhart; and his own text for Saint Saëns’ “Carnival of the Animals,” which he performed with John Williams and the Boston Pops.
Martin Bookspan was awarded the honorary degrees Doctor of Music by the Mannes College of Music of The New School University and Doctor of Humane Letters by Suffolk University. Other honors include Letter of Merit from the American Music Center, Medal of Honor from the National Arts Club, Special Award from The Concert Artists Guild, Lifetime Achievement Award from Fine Arts Radio International, and induction into the Classical Music Hall of Fame.
Born in Boston in 1926, Martin Bookspan’s other passions were his family, chocolate ice cream, and the Boston Red Sox.
Mr. Bookspan’s wife of 54 years, opera director and drama coach Janet Bookspan, died in 2008. He is survived by their three children: Rachel Sobel (Richard), David Bookspan, Deborah Margol (Scott), 6 grandchildren, 1 great-grandchild, and a world full of music.
Funeral arrangements are private. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to:
Tanglewood Annual Fund, Friends of The Boston Symphony, Memorial Contributions, 301 Massachusetts Ave., Boston, MA 02115. Phone: 617-638-9267.
American-Israel Cultural Foundation, 178 Columbus Ave., P.O. Box 237133, New York, NY 10023. Phone: 212-557-1600, Ext, 4.