Stephen Walsh writes:
Macdonald is the author of books that palpably enrich and illuminate. He has been a brilliant editor of several of Berlioz’s biggest and most textually challenging works, and his English edition of the Traité d’instrumentation, one of the most instructive of 19th-century composers’ texts (at least as much so as anything by Wagner), is indispensable. He has written widely on 19th-century music in general, and his short monograph on Scriabin, now more than thirty years old, remains the only decent introduction to that underrated composer in English, or perhaps in any language. In all these writings, Macdonald brings to bear that rarest skill of any serious writer on music: the ability to talk about it not as some arcane technical discipline but as a direct articulation of thought and feeling, and the defining activity of those who practise it.