I had never heard of John Kraglund until I moved to Toronto. The Globe and Mail’s staff music critic had retired in 1987, but anyone older than me spoke — and still speaks — respectfully of his work.
I met him for the first time in earnest last summer, not physically but in spirit, while doing research for a book project. My reading involved crossing paths with his articles and reviews from the 1960s and 1970s, and I was immediately struck by his clear, concise prose and balanced point of view.
I heard earlier this afternoon that Kraglund had died last Thursday after a long battle with dementia.
It’s a great excuse to remember this respected figure.
Here is his entry in the Encyclopedia of Music in Canada, last updated by the late Ken Winters, followed by the obituary published by the Hannah Funeral Home in Napanee:
His parents emigrated to Canada in 1929, settling on a farm in Prince Edward County, Ont. After university he studied theory and criticism with Leo Smith and in 1952 succeeded Smith as music critic for the Toronto Globe and Mail. His drily sardonic, usually brief reviews, pragmatic in the face of a midnight deadline, became a hallmark of Toronto scepticism, and it has been said that a measured enthusiasm from Kraglund was the equivalent of a panegyric from a colleague. Among Toronto critics of the second half of the century Kraglund was the most attentive to local and provincial endeavours, often sending a deputy to visiting attractions in order to review himself recitals by local musicians, programs of new works by young composers, concert ventures by Toronto organizations, and musical events at the Stratford, Guelph, and Shaw (Niagara-on-the-Lake) festivals. In addition to his daily reviews, he wrote for the Canadian Music Journal, Opera Canada, Musicanada, the Canada Music Book, International Musician, Musical America, Musical Courier, Mayfair, and other publications. Kraglund retired from the Globe and Mail in April 1987, but continued to contribute book and record reviews and occasional articles to publications such as Music Magazine and Opera Canada. His extensive collection of programs, gleaned from 35 years of concerts, was deposited at the National Library of Canada.
Peacefully, at the Village Green Nursing Home in Selby, Ontario on Thursday, January 24, 2013. John Kraglund, born April 27, 1922 in Hjorring, Denmark. WWII veteran, R.C.A.F., retired emeritus music critic, Globe and Mail. He is survived by his sister-in-law Irene (late Kaj) of Kingston, his sister Anne Lise Rotberg (Robert) of Portland, Oregon, nephew Carl Kraglund (Gean) of Kingston and niece Suze Kraglund of Clayton, Illinois. John leaves behind many friends, nieces and nephews throughout Canada, U.S.A., Germany and Denmark. Sadly missed by his partner Walter Sawron and caregivers Tabarro and Skye (St. John Ambulance Therapy Dogs) Newburgh, Ontario. Cremation has taken place with inurnment in the spring at Hicks Site Cemetery in Bloomfield, Ontario (Prince Edward County). For those desiring, memorial donations by cheque to the Toronto Symphony, Canadian Opera Company, Dance Collection Canada or the Kingston Symphony would be appreciated. In the care of HANNAH FUNERAL HOME in Napanee, Ontario (613-354-3341).