McGill University Library Library
Sixty Years of Montreal Music Criticism:
The English Press



The Eric McLean Collection

In April 2003, the personal papers and collections of the late Eric McLean, Music Critic Emeritus of the Montreal Gazette were donated to the Marvin Duchow Music Library, McGill University.

Multi-media in scope and content, the Eric McLean fonds consists of close to 3.3 meters of textual records, approximately fifty photographs of various sizes, several oversized documents, one hundred and sixty-four reel-to-reel recordings, ninety-eight cassette recordings and a personal portrait ("Eric McLean at the piano") by the Canadian artist John Fox. In addition to the aforementioned items, the fonds also comprises a substantial collection of musical scores (including copies of both the Neue Mozart and Neue Bach Ausgaben), musicological monographs and an extensive LP record collection of over seven thousand items, complimented by an intricately indexed card catalogue compiled by McLean over the course of his life.

The majority of the textual records relate to Eric McLean's career as a prominent English press music critic. The textual materials consist primarily of copies of reviews written by McLean for both The Star and The Gazette from 1949-1988 and research materials used by McLean for the compilation of articles authored for The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians and The Encyclopedia of Music in Canada. 1

A prominent member of Montreal's social and cultural elite, McLean had close personal ties with many prominent 20th century musical personalities such as the Canadian soprano Pauline Donalda, the Montreal impresario Pierre Béique, the English contralto Kathleen Ferrier and the composer Alma Mahler. These ties are reflected in McLean's personal materials.

Of particular significance within the textual portion of the fonds, however, is the concert diary inherited by McLean from Hugh Poynter Bell upon the latter's retirement as music and art critic of the Montreal Star in 1949. Handwritten and consisting of more that fifty pages, Bell's diary constitutes a unique record of Montreal concert life during the period 1923 to 1949. Entries in Bell's diary correspond directly to his concert reviews. With entries relating to such notable musical figures as Maurice Ravel and Sergei Rachmaninov, the diary underscores the importance of Montreal as a major North American musical centre throughout the first half of the 20th century.

Ilene McKenna