I like to thumb through my old copies of the collected reviews of Virgil Thomson, reading here and there (or, re-reading) and, especially, checking out his lead paragraphs. He wrote great leads. I’m not sure I can explain exactly why they’re great leads — something about their casual, conversational tone mixed with a certain elegance. They are never tortured either; Thomson never sounded like he was trying hard.
Anyway, I came upon the following lead paragraph the other day. It seems a little atypical of Thomson (especially with its use of exclamation points), but it made me smile. The review, from Nov. 22, 1942, is headlined “Smetana’s Heir”:
“What a pleasure! What a pleasure to hear the Boston Symphony again! Yesterday afternoon’s concert in Carnegie Hall was substantial and delicious, with two symphonies for fare, an old and a new — the Beethoven ‘Eroica’ and a First by the brilliant Czechish composer Bohuslav Martinu. The music was interesting, and the renditions couldn’t have been more elegant. Just think of it! An ensemble that sounds like an ensemble playing music that sounds like music! It restores one’s faith; it really does.”
I would be delighted to pick up my morning newspaper and read something like that.