Image of Henry Krehbiel


Lifetime: 1854 - 1923 Passed: ≈ 101 years ago


Music Critic, Musicologist


United States

Henry Krehbiel

Henry Edward Krehbiel was an American music critic and musicologist who was the chief music critic of The New York Tribune for more than forty years. Along with his contemporaries Richard Aldrich, Henry Theophilus Finck, W.J. Henderson and James Huneker, Krehbiel is considered part of the 'Old Guard', a group of leading New York-based music critics who first established a uniquely American school of criticism. A critic with a strong bend towards empiricism, he frequently sought out first hand experiences, accounts and primary sources when writing; drawing his own conclusions rather than looking to what other writers had already written. A meliorist, Krehbiel believed that the role of criticism was largely to support music that uplifted the human spirit and intellect, and that criticism should serve not only as a means of taste making but also as a mode to educate the public. His book How to Listen to Music (in print from 1896 to 1924) was widely used as an instructional guide by the music consuming public in the United States during the last years of the 19th century and first several decades of the 20th century.

Krehbiel was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan in 1854, the son of a German clergyman of the Methodist Episcopal Church. A first generation American, he was educated by his father, and grew up in a bilingual household speaking, reading, and writing in both German and English. He later mastered the French, Italian, Russian, and Latin languages. In 1864 his family moved to Cincinnati where his father took up the post of clergyman at a Methodist Church. There, Henry became the conductor of the church's choir while just a youth. In 1872 he began the study of law in Cincinnati, Ohio. In June 1874, he was attached to the staff of the Cincinnati Gazette where he began his career as a writer on sports and crime, reporting mainly on baseball games and murders. He quickly progressed to reporting on music events, and remained with the paper in that post until November 1880.

When Krehbiel died in March 1923, still in post as critic of The New York Tribune, Aldrich wrote in a tribute that Krehbiel had been "the leading musical critic of America" who raised musical criticism to an eminence it had never previously enjoyed in the US.

Books by Henry Krehbiel

How to Listen to Music  Cover image

How to Listen to Music

Fantasy Non-Fiction
Love Self Help Art Music Criticism

This book is "not written for professional musicians, but for untaught lovers of the art". It gives broad instruction on composers, styles, instruments, venues - and when to believe the critics.