Martin Bernheimer, Tartly Eloquent Music Critic, Dies at 83


Mr. Bernheimer’s reputation tended to hide the praise he voiced when he felt it was deserved. “We won’t have Zubin Mehta to kick around any more,” he lamented when the conductor announced he was leaving for the New York Philharmonic; “in spite of everything, we will miss him.”

Even Mr. Fleischmann found that bombs sometimes came wrapped in ribbons. “He is aggressive, demanding, autocratic, egocentric and, under the right circumstances, very good at his job,” Mr. Bernheimer allowed in 1989.

Charles Champlin, a fellow critic at The Times, wrote in a 1982 appreciation that despite his reputation, “caring is in fact at the heart of Bernheimer’s reviewing,” for his “love of music is one of the most passionate romances of our time.”

Martin Bernheimer was born on Sept. 28, 1936, into a Jewish family in Munich. His mother, Louise (Nassauer) Bernheimer, was an artist; his father, Paul, was a partner at Haus Bernheimer, a prominent antiques business in Munich. After the family business was damaged on Kristallnacht, when synagogues and Jewish businesses, homes and schools were attacked, Paul and his brothers were sent to Dachau, but they later managed to go free.

As war broke out in Europe, Mr. Bernheimer and his parents left for the United States and settled in Norton, Mass., within driving distance of Boston. There he saw his first opera, “Carmen.” “In retrospect, it was probably a pretty lackluster performance,” he told Brown Alumni Magazine in an interview in 2012, “but I was struck by the fusion of drama and music.”

Naturalized in 1946, Mr. Bernheimer graduated from Brown University in 1958 with an honors degree in music before further studies at the Hochschule für Musik in Munich and at New York University, where he earned an M.A. in 1961. By then he was already on the staff of The New York Herald Tribune.

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