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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Music 313: The History of Music I

How to Find Performance Reviews

The best source for finding reviews of concerts, dance performances, or plays is newspapers.

Before starting your search, it's important to consider the context of the review you're looking for: Do you need a review from a particular city's newspaper? Do you need reviews for a contemporary performance or a historical one?

The specific context of the review you're trying to find informs where you should look.

  • If you don't know what city the performance was in or would like to look at a wide mix of reviews, start with one of the general periodical or performance periodical databases listed below to find reviews from many newspapers.
  • If you know the particular newspaper you need, use the Library Catalog Journal Search for individual newspaper titles, like the New York Times.
  • If you are specifically looking for historical reviews, ProQuest Historical Newspapers is a great database to start with.

2. If you know the particular newspaper you need, use the Library Catalog Journal Search for individual newspaper titles, like the New York Times (see the slideshow below for how to do this).

3. If you need historic reviews, start with ProQuest Historical Newspapers

Some tips that work in most, if not all, of the online search tools

  • Use whatever information you already know in your search. Include elements like
    • Piece/work title
    • Composer/playwright/choreographer, or performer
    • Critic's name
  • Use quotation marks and use AND between each element, such as: "The Children's Hour" AND "Lillian Hellman"

    The quotation marks let the database know that you need those words to appear together and in that order and the AND limits the results to articles containing both phrases.

  • Look for options in whatever tool you are searching to limit your search (often in the advanced search, if there is one) to:
    • a particular time period if you need reviews of a premiere, for example
    • particular newspaper/publication
    • to just "Reviews" as an item type

How to Search Newspaper-Specific Tools for Reviews (ProQuest and Lexis Nexis)

Newspapers are a really good source for reviews and criticism. Check the Library Catalog Journal Search for individual paper titles, like the New York Times, or use the "News" tab of Lexis Nexis to search several papers at once.

You may also find that you need older papers than are available in the above tools. One of the best resources to use when looking for historical newspapers is ProQuest Historical Newspapers. This will allow you to search newspapers from New York, Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, and Washington D.C. 

Some ProQuest tips:

  • When you search, you can select the newspaper or newspapers that are the most relevant for your needs.  The database will let you search more than one at a time but you can't search current and historical newspapers concurrently.
  • To limit your search to reviews, click on More Search Options, then select Review from the drop down menu labeled Document Type.

Finding Reviews in Major Newspapers--An Example

Finding Contemporary Concert Reviews

These tools are more useful when looking for contemporary reviews. Most databases allow you to limit results by time period, which can be helpful if you know the date range of the review you're looking for.

Finding Historical Concert Reviews

These resources are especially useful if you're looking for reviews written at the time of a historical performance. Use the options in each resource to set the date range of reviews to get the time period you're looking for.