One of America's most beloved and accomplished composers, Aaron Copland played a crucial role in the coming of age of American music. This substantial biography is the first full-length scholarly study of Copland's life and work.
A conductor, music critic, and teacher who wrote clearly and accessibly about music, Copland composed some of the twentieth century's most familiar works--Billy the Kid, Rodeo, Appalachian Spring, Fanfare for the Common Man--in addition to a wealth of music for opera, ballet, chorus, orchestra, chamber ensemble, band, radio, and film. Howard Pollack's expansive and detailed biography examines Copland's musical development, his political sympathies, his personal life, and his tireless encouragement of younger composers, presenting a balanced and skillfully wrought portrait of an American original.
Aaron Jay Kernis
Leta E. Miller University of Illinois Press, 2014 Library of Congress ML410.K386M55 2014 | Dewey Decimal 780.92
Winner of both the Pulitzer Prize and the Grawemeyer Award, Aaron Jay Kernis achieved recognition as one of the leading composers of his generation while still in his thirties. Since then his eloquent yet accessible style, emphasis on melody, and willingness to engage popular as well as classical forms has brought him widespread acclaim and admiring audiences.
Leta Miller's biography offers the first survey of the composer's life and work. Immersed in music by middle school, and later training under Theodore Antoniou, John Adams, Jacob Druckman, and others, Kernis rejected the idea of distancing his work from worldly concerns and dared to compose on political themes. His Second Symphony, from 1991, engaged with the first Gulf War; 1993's Still Moment with Hymn was a reaction to the Bosnian Genocide; and the next year's Colored Field and 1995's Lament and Prayer dealt with the Holocaust. Yet Kernis also used sources as disparate as futurist agitprop and children's games to display humor in his work. Miller's analysis addresses not only Kernis's wide range of subjects but also the eclecticism that has baffled critics, analyzing his dedication to synthesis and the themes consistent in his work.
Informed and engaging, Aaron Jay Kernis gives a rare mid-career portrait of a major American cultural figure.
African Rhythms is the autobiography of the important jazz pianist, composer and band leader Randy Weston. He tells of his childhood in Brooklyn, his six decades long musical career, his time living in Morocco, and his lifelong quest to learn about the musical and cultural traditions of Africa.
Philip Lambert University of Illinois Press, 2013 Library of Congress ML410.W6975L36 2013 | Dewey Decimal 780.92
The music of Alec Wilder (1907-1980) blends several American musical traditions, such as jazz and the American popular song, with classical European forms and techniques. Stylish and accessible, Wilder's musical oeuvre ranged from sonatas, suites, concertos, operas, ballets, and art songs to woodwind quintets, brass quintets, jazz suites, and hundreds of popular songs. In this biography and critical investigation of Wilder's music, Philip Lambert chronicles Wilder's early work as a part-time student at the Eastman School of Music, his ascent through the ranks of the commercial recording industry in New York City in the 1930s and 1940s, his turn toward concert music from the 1950s onward, and his devotion late in his life to the study of American popular songs of the first half of the twentieth century. The book discusses some of his best-known music, such as the revolutionary octets and songs such as "I'll Be Around," "While We're Young," and "Blackberry Winter," and explains the unique blend of cultivated and vernacular traditions in his singular musical language.
Musical theater has captivated American audiences from its early roots in burlesque stage productions and minstrel shows to the million-dollar industry it has become on Broadway today. What is it about this truly indigenous American art form that has made it so enduringly popular? How has it survived, even thrived, alongside the technology of film and the glitz and glamour of Hollywood? Will it continue to evolve and leave its mark on the twenty-first century?
Bringing together exclusive and previously unpublished interviews with nineteen leading composers, lyricists, librettists, directors, choreographers, and producers from the mid-1900s to the present, this book details the careers of the individuals who shaped this popular performance art during its most prolific period. The interviewees discuss their roles in productions ranging from On the Town (1944) and Finian's Rainbow (1947) to The Producers (2001) and Bounce (2003).
Readers are taken onto the stage, into the rehearsals, and behind the scenes. The nuts and bolts, the alchemy, and the occasional agonies of the collaborative process are all explored. In their discussions, the artists detail their engagements with other creative forces, including such major talents as Leonard Bernstein, Jerome Robbins, Bob Fosse, Liza Minnelli, Judy Garland, Barbra Streisand, Jule Styne, Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein, Alan Jay Lerner, Zero Mostel, and Gwen Verdon. They speak candidly about their own work and that of their peers, their successes and failures, the creative process, and how a show progresses from its conception through rehearsals and tryouts to opening night.
Taken together, these interviews give fresh insight into what Oscar Hammerstein called "a nightly miracle"—the creation of the American musical.
In these eloquent and intensely personal writings, Franz Liszt sketches the cities, people, and scenes of his travels in the 1830s and explores ideas about art and its ideal place in the world. During six years of wandering through Switzerland, France, Italy, Austria, and Germany (four of them together with Countess Marie d'Agoult), the composer saw the greatest art and most fabulous landscapes of Europe and crossed paths with celebrated singers and artists, renowned intellectuals, infamous socialites, and both reigning and deposed aristocracy. The article/essays that emerged from this period are both public and private: though written for the Paris press, they are the closest that Liszt came to autobiography. Some of these writings are travel articles; some are essentially reports of a music correspondent; still others are personal and confessional; and some are really essays on the nature of art. All offer precious insight into the musical, social, and intellectual life in the major European capitals seen through the eyes of one of the most well-read and influential musical personalities of the period.
A man of extraordinary and seemingly limitless talents—musician, inventor, composer, poet, and even amateur mycologist—John Cage became a central figure of the avant-garde early in his life and remained at that pinnacle until his death in 1992 at the age of eighty. Award-winning biographer Kenneth Silverman gives us the first comprehensive life of this remarkable artist. Silverman begins with Cage’s childhood in interwar Los Angeles and his stay in Paris from 1930 to 1931, where immersion in the burgeoning new musical and artistic movements triggered an explosion of his creativity. Cage continued his studies in the United States with the seminal modern composer Arnold Schoenberg, and he soon began the experiments with sound and percussion instruments that would develop into his signature work with prepared piano, radio static, random noise, and silence. Cage’s unorthodox methods still influence artists in a wide range of genres and media. Silverman concurrently follows Cage’s rich personal life, from his early marriage to his lifelong personal and professional partnership with choreographer Merce Cunningham, as well as his friendships over the years with other composers, artists, philosophers, and writers.
Drawing on interviews with Cage’s contemporaries and friends and on the enormous archive of his letters and writings, and including photographs, facsimiles of musical scores, and Web links to illustrative sections of his compositions, Silverman gives us a biography of major significance: a revelatory portrait of one of the most important cultural figures of the twentieth century.
In this abridgment of his monumental study, Berlioz and the Romantic Century, Jacques Barzun recounts the events and extraordinary achievements of the great composer's life against the background of the romantic era. As the author eloquently demonstrates, Berloiz was an archetype whose destiny was the story of an age, the incarnation of an artistic style and a historical spirit. "In order to understand the nineteenth century, it is essential to understand Berlioz," notes W. H. Auden, "and in order to understand Berlioz, it is essential to read Professor Barzun."
Now in paper for the first time, Bitter Music is a generous volume of writings by one of the twentieth century's great musical iconoclasts. Rejecting the equal temperament and concert traditions that have dominated western music, Harry Partch adopted the pure intervals of just intonation and devised a 43-tone-to-the-octave scale, which in turn forced him into inventing numerous musical instruments. His compositions realize his ideal of a corporeal music that unites music, dance, and theater.
Winner of the ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award, Bitter Music includes two journals kept by Partch, one while wandering the West Coast during the Depression and the other while hiking the rugged northern California coastline. It also includes essays and discussions by Partch of his own compositions, as well as librettos and scenarios for six major narrative/dramatic compositions.
Nicholas Temperley documents the lives, careers, and music of three British composers who emigrated from England in mid-career and became leaders in the musical life of Federal-era America. William Selby of London and Boston (1738-98), Rayner Taylor of London and Philadelphia (1745-1825), and George K. Jackson of London, New York, and Boston (1757-1822) were among the first trained professional composers to make their homes in America and to pioneer the building of an art-music tradition in the New World akin to the esteemed European "classical" music. Temperley compares their lives, careers, and compositional styles in the two countries and reflects on American musical nationalism and the changing emphasis in American musical historiography.
Amy C. Beal University of Illinois Press, 2011 Library of Congress ML410.B643B43 2011 | Dewey Decimal 781.65092
This is the first comprehensive treatment of the remarkable music and influence of Carla Bley, a highly innovative American jazz composer, pianist, organist, band leader, and activist. With fastidious attention to Bley's diverse compositions over the last fifty years spanning critical moments in jazz and experimental music history, Amy C. Beal tenders a long-overdue representation of a major figure in American music.
Best known for her jazz opera "Escalator over the Hill," her role in the Free Jazz movement of the 1960s, and her collaborations with artists such as Jack Bruce, Don Cherry, Robert Wyatt, and Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason, Bley has successfully maneuvered the field of jazz from highly accessible, tradition-based contexts to commercially unviable, avant-garde works. Beal details the staggering variety in Bley's work as well as her use of parody, quotations, and contradictions, examining the vocabulary Bley has developed throughout her career and highlighting the compositional and cultural significance of her experimentalism.
Beal also points to Bley's professional and managerial work as a pioneer in the development of artist-owned record labels, the cofounder and manager of WATT Records, and the cofounder of New Music Distribution Service. Showing her to be not just an artist but an activist who has maintained musical independence and professional control amid the profit-driven, corporation-dominated world of commercial jazz, Beal's straightforward discussion of Bley's life and career will stimulate deeper examinations of her work.
Michael Hicks and Christian Asplund University of Illinois Press, 2012 Library of Congress ML410.W814H53 2012 | Dewey Decimal 780.92
In this first interpretive narrative of the life and work of Christian Wolff, Michael Hicks and Christian Asplund trace the influences and sensibilities of a contemporary composer's atypical career path and restless imagination. Written in full cooperation with Wolff, including access to his papers, this volume is a much-needed introduction to a leading avant-garde composer still living, writing music, and speaking about his own work.
Wolff has pioneered various compositional and notational idioms, including overtly political music, indeterminacy, graphic scores, and extreme virtuosity. Trained as a classicist rather than a musician, Wolff has never quite had both feet in the rarefied world of contemporary composition. Yet he's considered a "composer's composer," with a mind ensconced equally in ancient Greek tragedy and experimental music and an eccentric and impulsive compositional approach that eludes a fixed stylistic fingerprint.
Hicks and Asplund cover Wolff's family life and formative years, his role as a founder of the New York School of composers, and the context of his life and work as part of the John Cage circle, as well as his departures from it. Critically assessing Wolff's place within the experimental musical field, this volume captures both his eloquence and reticence and provides insights into his broad interests and activities within music and beyond.
When we think of composers, we usually envision an isolated artist separate from the orchestra—someone alone in a study, surround by staff paper—and in Europe and America this image generally has been accurate. For most of Japan’s musical history, however, no such role existed—composition and performance were deeply intertwined. Only when Japan began to embrace Western culture in the late nineteenth century did the role of the composer emerge. In Composing Japanese Musical Modernity, Bonnie Wade uses an investigation of this new musical role to offer new insights not just into Japanese music but Japanese modernity at large and global cosmopolitan culture.
Wade examines the short history of the composer in Japanese society, looking at the creative and economic opportunities that have sprung up around them—or that they forged—during Japan’s astonishingly fast modernization. She shows that modernist Japanese composers have not bought into the high modernist concept of the autonomous artist, instead remaining connected to the people. Articulating Japanese modernism in this way, Wade tells a larger story of international musical life, of the spaces in which tradition and modernity are able to meet and, ultimately, where modernity itself has been made.
Dameronia is the first authoritative biography of Tadd Dameron, an important and widely influential figure in jazz history as one of the most significant composers and arrangers of jazz, swing, bebop, and big band. He arranged for names like Count Basie, Artie Shaw, Jimmie Lunceford, and Dizzy Gillespie and played with Bull Moose Jackson and Benny Golson. This book sets out to clarify Dameron's place in the development of jazz in the post–World War II era. It also attempts to shed light on the tragedy of his retreat from the center of jazz activity in the 1950s. By tracing Dameron's career, one finds that until 1958, when he was incarcerated for drug related offenses, he was at the forefront of developments in jazz, sometimes anticipating trends that would not develop fully for several years. Dameron was also an important influence on several high-profile musicians, including Miles Davis, Benny Golson, and Frank Foster. Dameron was a very private man, and while in some aspects of his life he will probably remain an enigma, this book manages to give an intimate portrait of his life at a couple of key stages: the height of his career in 1949 and the brief but productive period between his release from prison and his death.
By using Scott Joplin's life as a window onto American social and cultural development at the turn of the century, this biography dramatizes the role of one brilliant African American musician in defining the culture of a still-young nation.
For some, Richard Wagner is infamous as the favorite composer of Hitler, who seems to have admired Wagner as an early exponent of his own racist ideology and worldview. Impressed by this assumption victims of Hitler have also associated Wagner and his music with Nazism to such an extent that in Israel a ban on public performance of that music is upheld to this day. Jacob Katz, a scholar of international repute, approaches the highly charged issue of Richard Wagner’s anti-Semitism with the tools of a critical historian, asking two central questions: What role did anti-Semitism play in the life and work of Richard Wagner? And how did his anti-Jewish thoughts and sentiments contribute to the development of political anti-Semitism and Nazism? In this first comprehensive and judicious treatment of Wagner’s anti-Semitism, Katz analyzes the composer’s attitudes in their own time and place and in the context of Wagner’s life and aspirations. He traces Wagner’s feelings toward Jews chronologically, showing that the composer was ultimately obsessed by a deep-seated Judeophobia generated by conflict with his Jewish mentors and competitors. But he argues against reading the later emergence of Nazism back into Wagner’s life and work. While not absolving Wagner from responsibility for his views, Katz contends that contemporary Jews have paradoxically and uncritically adopted the Nazis’ assumptions about Wagner. Katz argues that Wagner’s music is untainted by his anti-Semitism, that there is, in fact, very little in Wagner’s art that, without forced speculation, can be related to his racist views.
James Wierzbicki University of Illinois Press, 2011 Library of Congress ML410.C3293W54 2011 | Dewey Decimal 780.92
This compact introduction to the life and works of composer Elliott Carter provides a fresh perspective on one of the most significant American composers of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. A leading voice of the American classical music tradition and a two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Music, Carter was initially encouraged to become a composer by Charles Ives, and he went on to learn from Walter Piston at Harvard University and Nadia Boulanger in Paris. Drawing on Carter's voluminous writings and compositions, James Wierzbicki provides a clear discussion of Carter's evolving understanding of musical time and the influence of film on his work. Celebrating his 100th birthday in 2008 by premiering a number of new compositions, Carter has been a powerful presence on the American new music scene, an important connection to American music's foundational figures, and a dynamic force in its continuing evolution.
A composer who dabbled in the Dada movement, a Bohemian “gymnopédiste” of fin-de-siècle Montmartre, and a legendary dresser known as “The Velvet Gentleman,” Erik Satie cut a unique figure among early twentieth-century European composers. Yet his legacy has largely languished in the shadows of Stravinsky, Debussy, and Ravel. Mary E. Davis now brings Satie to life in this fascinating new biography.
Satie redefined the composer’s art, devising new methods of artistic expression that melded ordinary and rarified elements of words, visual art, and music. Davis argues that Satie’s modernist aesthetic was grounded in the contradictions of his life—such as enrolling in the conservative Schola Cantorum after working as a cabaret performer—and is reflected in his irreverent essays, drawn art, and music. Erik Satie explores how the composer was embraced by avant-garde artists and fashionable Parisian elite, and how his experiences inspired him to create the musical style of Neoclassicism. Satie also employed the power of the image through his infamous fashion statements, Davis contends, and became part of a nascent celebrity culture.
A cogent and informative portrait, Erik Satie upends the accepted history of modernist music and restores the composer to his rightful pioneering status.
Representing a historical cross-section of performance and training in Western music since the seventeenth century, Five Lives in Music brings to light the private and performance lives of five remarkable women musicians and composers. Elegantly guiding readers through the Thirty Years War in central Europe, elite courts in Germany, urban salons in Paris, Nazi control of Germany and Austria, and American musical life today, as well as personal experiences of marriage, motherhood, and widowhood, Cecelia Hopkins Porter provides valuable insights into the culture in which each woman was active.
Porter begins with the Duchess Sophie-Elisabeth of Braunschweig-Lueneberg, a harpsichordist who also presided over seventeenth-century North German court music as an impresario. At the forefront of French Baroque composition, composer Elisabeth-Claude Jacquet de La Guerre bridged a widening cultural gap between the Versailles nobility and the urban bourgeoisie of Paris. A century later, Josephine Lang, a prodigiously talented pianist and dedicated composer, participated at various times in the German Romantic world of lieder through her important arts salon. Lastly, the twentieth century brought forth two exceptional women: Baroness Maria Bach, a composer and pianist of twentieth-century Vienna's upper bourgeoisie and its brilliant musical milieu in the era of Gustav Mahler, Richard Strauss, Arnold Schoenberg, and Erich Korngold; and Ann Schein, a brilliant and dauntless American piano prodigy whose career, ongoing today though only partially recognized, led her to study with the legendary virtuosos Arthur Rubinstein and Myra Hess.
Mining musical autographs, unpublished letters and press reviews, interviews, and music archives in the United States and Europe, Porter probes each musician's social and economic status, her education and musical training, the cultural expectations within the traditions and restrictions of each woman's society, and other factors. Throughout the lively and focused portraits of these five women, Porter finds common threads, both personal and contextual, that extend to a larger discussion of the lives and careers of female composers and performers throughout centuries of music history.
Forgetfulness: A Novel
Michael Mejia University of Alabama Press, 2005 Library of Congress PS3613.E444F67 2005 | Dewey Decimal 813.6
The first part of Forgetfulness is a fictional monograph on the life of the Austrian modernist composer Anton von Webern (1883-1945).The collage-work monograph unfolds in a Webernian sequence of events and silences combining quotes from Webern, his friends and associates, and various historical and literary figures with short scenes, monologues, dialogues, newspaper articles, and theater and film scripts. The result is a lyrical panorama of early twentieth century Vienna.
The second part of the book takes place in Vienna on May 1st, 1986, shortly before the election of Kurt Waldheim as President of the Austrian Republic and shortly after the Chernobyl disaster. The three simultaneous, intertwining monologues of an archivist, a retired opera singer, and the author of the monograph, revisit the themes and events of the first part, commenting on postwar conceptions, analyses, and revisions of the period during which Webern lived, while continuously haunted by the specters of Waldheim and Chernobyl, the persistence of crimes that are immanent, unpaid for, or only dimly, disingenuously recalled.
Aging and creativity can seem a particularly fraught relationship for artists, who often face age-related difficulties as their audience’s expectations are at a peak. In Four Last Songs, Linda and Michael Hutcheon explore this issue via the late works of some of the world’s greatest composers.
Giuseppe Verdi (1813–1901), Richard Strauss (1864–1949), Olivier Messiaen (1908–92), and Benjamin Britten (1913–76) all wrote operas late in life, pieces that reveal unique responses to the challenges of growing older. Verdi’s Falstaff, his only comedic success, combated Richard Wagner’s influence by introducing young Italian composers to a new model of national music. Strauss, on the other hand, struggling with personal and political problems in Nazi Germany, composed the self-reflexive Capriccio, a “life review” of opera and his own legacy. Though it exhausted him physically and emotionally, Messiaen at the age of seventy-five finished his only opera, Saint François d’Assise, which marked the pinnacle of his career. Britten, meanwhile, suffering from heart problems, refused surgery until he had completed his masterpiece, Death in Venice. For all four composers, age, far from sapping their creative power, provided impetus for some of their best accomplishments.
With its deft treatment of these composers’ final years and works, Four Last Songs provides a valuable look at the challenges—and opportunities—that present themselves as artists grow older.
Exploding the assumption that black women's only important musical contributions have been in folk, jazz, and pop
Helen Walker-Hill's unique study provides a carefully researched examination of the history and scope of musical composition by African American women composers from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Focusing on the effect of race, gender, and class, From Spirituals to Symphonies notes the important role played by individual personalities and circumstances in shaping this underappreciated category of American art. The study also provides in-depth exploration of the backgrounds, experiences, and musical compositions of eight African American women including Margaret Bonds, Undine Smith Moore, and Julia Perry, who combined the techniques of Western art music with their own cultural traditions and individual gifts. Despite having gained national and international recognition during their lifetimes, the contributions of many of these women are today forgotten.
George Gershwin lived with purpose and gusto, but with melancholy as well, for he was unable to make a place for himself--no family of his own and no real home in music.
He and his siblings received little love from their mother and no direction from their father. Older brother and lyricist Ira managed to create a home when he married Leonore Strunsky, a hard-edged woman who lived for wealth and status. The closest George came to domesticity was through his longtime relationship with Kay Swift. She was his lover, musical confidante, and fellow composer. But she remained married to another man while he went endlessly from woman to woman. Only in the final hours of his life, when they were separated by a continent, did he realize how much he needed her. Fatally ill, unprotected by (and perhaps estranged from) Ira, he was exiled by Leonore from the house she and the brothers shared, and he died horribly and alone at the age of thirty-eight.
Nor was Gershwin able to find a satisfying musical harbor. For years his songwriting genius could be expressed only in the ephemeral world of show business, as his brilliance as a composer of large-scale works went unrecognized by highbrow music critics. When he resolved this quandary with his opera Porgy and Bess, the critics were unable to understand or validate it. Decades would pass before this, his most ambitious composition, was universally regarded as one of music’s lasting treasures and before his stature as a great composer became secure.
In George Gershwin: An Intimate Portrait, Walter Rimler makes use of fresh sources, including newly discovered letters by Kay Swift as well as correspondence between and interviews with intimates of Ira and Leonore Gershwin. It is written with spirited prose and contains more than two dozen photographs.
Gustav Mahler and Richard Strauss came to know one another as young conductors in Leipzig in 1887. From then until Mahler's death in 1911—the year of the first performance of Der Rosenkavalier—they kept in touch. Mahler himself described their relationship as that of two miners tunneling from opposite directions with the hope of eventually meeting.
This first publication of their correspondence, which includes twenty-five previously unknown Strauss letters, offers a portrait of two men who were as antithetical in their musical means and goals as in their temperaments and personalities, but who exercised a strong fascination for one another. These sixty-three letters show both composers advancing in their careers as they battled against adverse conditions in the musical world at the turn of the century. They present Mahler's energetic support of Strauss's Symphonia Domestica, which Mahler conducted in 1904 and, in turn, Strauss's championing of Mahler's music, especially the Second and Third Symphonies.
The correspondence is fully annotated and is supplemented with a major essay by Herta Blaukopf.
"Unfailingly absorbing. . . . An indispensable addition to the literature on these composers."—Norman Del Mar, Times Literary Supplement
Harry T. Burleigh (1866-1949) played a leading role in American music and culture in the twentieth century. Celebrated for his arrangements of spirituals, Burleigh was also the first African American composer to create a significant body of art song. An international roster of opera and recital singers performed his works and praised them as among the best of their time. Jean E. Snyder traces Burleigh's life from his Pennsylvania childhood through his fifty-year tenure as soloist at St. George's Episcopal Church in Manhattan. As a composer, Burleigh's pioneering work preserved and transformed the African American spiritual; as a music editor, he facilitated the work of other black composers; as a role model, vocal coach, and mentor, he profoundly influenced American song; and in private life he was friends with AntonÃn DvoÅ™Ã¡k, Marian Anderson, Will Marion Cook, and other America luminaries. Snyder provides rich historical, social, and political contexts that explore Burleigh's professional and personal life within an era complicated by changes in race relations, class expectations, and musical tastes.
The higher jazz
Edmund Wilson University of Iowa Press, 1998 Library of Congress PS3545.I6245H54 1998 | Dewey Decimal 813.52
Hildegard of Bingen
Honey Meconi University of Illinois Press, 2018 Library of Congress ML410.H618M43 2018 | Dewey Decimal 782.25092
A Renaissance woman long before the Renaissance, the visionary Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179) corresponded with Europe's elite, founded and led a noted women's religious community, and wrote on topics ranging from theology to natural history. Yet we know her best as Western music's most accomplished early composer, responsible for a wealth of musical creations for her fellow monastics. Honey Meconi draws on her own experience as a scholar and performer of Hildegard's music to explore the life and work of this foundational figure. Combining historical detail with musical analysis, Meconi delves into Hildegard's mastery of plainchant, her innovative musical drama, and her voluminous writings. Hildegard's distinctive musical style still excites modern listeners through wide-ranging, sinuous melodies set to her own evocative poetry. Together with her passionate religious texts, her music reveals a holistic understanding of the medieval world still relevant to today's readers.
Hold On to Your Dreams is the first biography of the musician and composer Arthur Russell, one of the most important but least known contributors to New York’s downtown music scene during the 1970s and 1980s. With the exception of a few dance recordings, including “Is It All Over My Face?” and “Go Bang! #5,” Russell’s pioneering music was largely forgotten until 2004, when the posthumous release of two albums brought new attention to the artist. This revival of interest gained momentum with the issue of additional albums and the documentary film Wild Combination. Based on interviews with more than seventy of his collaborators, family members, and friends, Hold On to Your Dreams provides vital new information about this singular, eccentric musician and his role in the boundary-breaking downtown music scene.
Tim Lawrence traces Russell’s odyssey from his hometown of Oskaloosa, Iowa, to countercultural San Francisco, and eventually to New York, where he lived from 1973 until his death from AIDS-related complications in 1992. Resisting definition while dreaming of commercial success, Russell wrote and performed new wave and disco as well as quirky rock, twisted folk, voice-cello dub, and hip-hop-inflected pop. “He was way ahead of other people in understanding that the walls between concert music and popular music and avant-garde music were illusory,” comments the composer Philip Glass. “He lived in a world in which those walls weren’t there.” Lawrence follows Russell across musical genres and through such vital downtown music spaces as the Kitchen, the Loft, the Gallery, the Paradise Garage, and the Experimental Intermedia Foundation. Along the way, he captures Russell’s openness to sound, his commitment to collaboration, and his uncompromising idealism.
This is a love story. It tells of an extraordinary epistolary relationship between Hugo Wolf, one of the greatest masters of the German art song, whose dedication to the poetic spirit of his music was equaled only by Franz Schubert and Robert Schumann, and Melanie Köchert, the wife of a prominent Viennese jeweler with whom Wolf shared a lifelong emotional, spiritual, and artistic bond.
Wolf’s letters to Köchert—he wrote 245 between 1887 and 1899—were composed during a period of almost unprecedented cultural upheaval in Europe, in the shadow of Vienna during the era of Freud, Mahler, and Klimt. They reveal Wolf at his most optimistic, celebrating his concert successes and the solitude he believed was so precious to his ability to compose. They follow Wolf through times of overwhelming despair, when his musical failures left him profoundly alienated, overcome, as he revealed to Köchert, "by a feeling of unspeakable emptiness and desolation." And they follow Wolf as he struggled to compose the 250 astounding art songs that are his creative legacy, and his almost simultaneous descent into madness.
Hugo Wolf: Letters to Melanie Köchert, sensitively translated by Wolf scholar and interpreter Louise McClelland Urban, is a literary and musical even of the highest order
This collection of new interviews with twenty-five accomplished female composers substantially advances our knowledge of the work, experiences, compositional approaches, and musical intentions of a diverse group of creative individuals. With personal anecdotes and sometimes surprising intimacy and humor, these wide-ranging conversations represent the diversity of women composing music in the United States from the mid-twentieth century into the twenty-first. The composers work in a variety of genres including classical, jazz, multimedia, or collaborative forms for the stage, film, and video games. Their interviews illuminate questions about the status of women composers in America, the role of women in musical performance and education, the creative process and inspiration, the experiences and qualities that contemporary composers bring to their craft, and balancing creative and personal lives. Candidly sharing their experiences, advice, and views, these vibrant, thoughtful, and creative women open new perspectives on the prospects and possibilities of making music in a changing world.
Amy C. Beal University of Illinois Press, 2015 Library of Congress ML410.B58562B43 2015 | Dewey Decimal 780.92
Composer Johanna Beyer's fascinating body of music and enigmatic life story constitute an important chapter in American music history. As a hard-working German émigré piano teacher and accompanist living in and around New York City during the New Deal era, she composed plentiful music for piano, percussion ensemble, chamber groups, choir, band, and orchestra. A one-time student of Ruth Crawford, Charles Seeger, and Henry Cowell, Beyer was an ultramodernist, and an active member of a community that included now-better-known composers and musicians. Only one of her works was published and only one recorded during her lifetime. But contemporary musicians who play Beyer's compositions are intrigued by her originality.
Amy C. Beal chronicles Beyer's life from her early participation in New York's contemporary music scene through her performances at the Federal Music Project's Composers' Forum-Laboratory concerts to her unfortunate early death in 1944. This book is a portrait of a passionate and creative woman underestimated by her music community even as she tirelessly applied her gifts with compositional rigor.
The first book-length study of the composer's life and music, Johanna Beyer reclaims a uniquely innovative artist and body of work for a new generation.
Rob Haskins Reaktion Books, 2012 Library of Congress ML410.C24H37 2012 | Dewey Decimal 780.92
American writer, composer, artist, and philosopher John Cage (1912–92) is best known for his experimental composition 4’33,” a musical score in which the performer does not play an instrument during the duration of the piece. The purpose, Cage said, was for the audience to listen to the sounds of the environment around them while the piece was performed. Groundbreaking pieces such as 4’33”, as well as Sonatas and Interludes not only established Cage as a leading figure in the postwar avant-garde movement, but also cemented the enduring controversy surrounding his work.
In this new biography, Rob Haskins explores Cage’s radical approach to art and aesthetics and his belief that everyday life and art are one and the same. Scrutinizing Cage’s emphasis on chance over intention, which rejected traditional artistic methods and caused an uproar among his peers, Haskins elucidates the ideas that lay behind these pillars of Cage’s work. Haskins also demystifies the influence of Eastern cultures, particularly Zen Buddhism, on Cage, including his use of the Chinese text I Ching as his standard composition tool in all his work after 1951. Adding to our understanding of the art, music, and ideas of the twentieth century, this book provides an engaging look at a man who continues to challenge and inspire artists worldwide.
Libby Larsen has composed award-winning music performed around the world. Her works range from chamber pieces and song cycles to operas to large-scale works for orchestra and chorus. At the same time, she has advocated for living composers and new music since cofounding the American Composers Forum in 1973. Denise Von Glahn 's in-depth examination of Larsen merges traditional biography with a daring scholarly foray: an ethnography of one active artist. Drawing on musical analysis, the composer 's personal archive, and seven years of interviews with Larsen and those in her orbit, Von Glahn illuminates the polyphony of achievements that make up Larsen 's public and private lives. In considering Larsen 's musical impact, Von Glahn delves into how elements of the personal ”a 1950s childhood, spiritual seeking, love of nature, and status as an important woman artist ”inform her work. The result is a portrait of a musical pathfinder who continues to defy expectations and reject labels.
Leta E. Miller and Fredric Lieberman University of Illinois Press, 2010 Library of Congress ML410.H2066M54 2006 | Dewey Decimal 780.92
Music's inclusivity--its potential to unite cultures, disciplines, and individuals--defined the life and career of Lou Harrison (1917-2003). Beyond studying with leading composers of the avant-garde such as Henry Cowell and Arnold Schoenberg, conducting Charles Ives's Pulitzer Prize-winning Third Symphony, and staging high-profile percussion concerts with John Cage, Harrison has achieved fame for his distinctive blending of cultures--from the Chinese opera, Indonesian gamelan, and the music of Native Americans to modernist dissonant counterpoint. Miller and Lieberman also pull readers into Harrison's rich world of cross-fertilization through an exploration of his outspoken stance on pacifism, gay rights, ecology, and respect for minorities--all of which directly impacted his musical works. Though Harrison was sometimes accused by contemporaries of "cultural appropriation," Miller and Lieberman's brisk study makes it clear why he is now lauded as an imaginative pioneer for his integration of Asian and Western musics, as well as for his work in the development of the percussion ensemble, his use of found and invented instruments, and his explorations of alternative tuning systems. Harrison's compositions are examined in detail through reference to an accompanying CD of representative recordings.
Mad Music is the story of Charles Edward Ives (1874–1954), the innovative American composer who achieved international recognition, but only after he’d stopped making music. While many of his best works received little attention in his lifetime, Ives is now appreciated as perhaps the most important American composer of the twentieth century and father of the diverse lines of Aaron Copland and John Cage. Ives was also a famously wealthy crank who made millions in the insurance business and tried hard to establish a reputation as a crusty New Englander. To Stephen Budiansky, Ives’s life story is a personification of America emerging as a world power: confident and successful, yet unsure of the role of art and culture in a modernizing nation. Though Ives steadfastly remained an outsider in many ways, his life and times inform us of subjects beyond music, including the mystic movement, progressive anticapitalism, and the initial hesitancy of turn-of-the-century-America modernist intellectuals. Deeply researched and elegantly written, this accessible biography tells a uniquely American story of a hidden genius, disparaged as a dilettante, who would shape the history of music in a profound way. Making use of newly published letters—and previously undiscovered archival sources bearing on the longstanding mystery of Ives’s health and creative decline—this absorbing volume provides a definitive look at the life and times of a true American original.
John Philip Sousa's mature career as the indomitable leader of the United States Marine Band and his own touring Sousa Band is well known, but the years leading up to his emergence as a celebrity have escaped serious attention. In this revealing biography, Patrick Warfield explains the making of the March King by documenting Sousa's early life and career. Covering the period 1854 to 1893, this study focuses on the community and training that created Sousa, exploring the musical life of late nineteenth-century Washington D.C. and Philadelphia as a context for Sousa's development.
Warfield examines Sousa's wide-ranging experience composing, conducting, and performing in the theater, opera house, concert hall, and salons, as well as his leadership of the United States Marine Band and the later Sousa Band, early twentieth-century America's most famous and successful ensemble. Sousa composed not only marches during this period but also parlor, minstrel, and art songs; parade, concert, and medley marches; schottisches, waltzes, and polkas; and incidental music, operettas, and descriptive pieces. Warfield's examination of Sousa's output reveals a versatile composer much broader in stylistic range than the bandmaster extraordinaire remembered as the March King. Warfield presents the story of Sousa as a self-made business success, a gifted performer and composer who deftly capitalized on his talents to create one of the most entertaining, enduring figures in American music.
Over the Rainbow, "Stormy Weather," and "One for My Baby" are just a few of Harold Arlen's well-loved compositions. Yet his name is hardly known--except to the musicians who venerate him. At a gathering of songwriters George Gershwin called him "the best of us." Irving Berlin agreed. Paul McCartney sent him a fan letter and became his publisher. Bob Dylan wrote of his fascination with Arlen's "bittersweet, lonely world." A cantor's son, Arlen believed his music was from a place outside himself, a place that also sent tragedy. When his wife became mentally ill and was institutionalized he turned to alcohol. It nearly killed him. But the beautiful songs kept coming: "Blues in the Night," "My Shining Hour," "Come Rain or Come Shine," and "The Man That Got Away." Walter Rimler drew on interviews with friends and associates of Arlen and on newly available archives to write this intimate portrait of a genius whose work is a pillar of the Great American Songbook.
The Man Verdi
Frank Walker University of Chicago Press, 1982 Library of Congress ML410.V4W3 1982 | Dewey Decimal 782.1092
In this classic biography of composer Giuseppe Verdi, Frank Walker reveals Verdi the man through his connections with the individuals who knew him best.
“Walker focuses on some of the more significant people in Verdi’s life and carefully scrutinizes his relationships with them. His wife, Giuseppina Strepponi; his student and amanuensis, Emanuele Muzio; the conductor who first fully understood Verdi’s mature art, Angelo Mariani; the great prima donna, Teresa Stolz; the incomparable librettist and friend of his old age, Arrigo Boito—each passes before our eyes in Walker’s meticulous reconstruction. As we learn more about them, we learn more about Verdi. We see him through the eyes of his closest friends, we watch his daily activities, his daily thoughts, his habits, his warmth, his domestic tyranny. The myth dissolves and a human being stands before us.”—Philip Gossett, from the introduction
Sharon Mirchandani University of Illinois Press, 2012 Library of Congress ML410.R49235M37 2012 | Dewey Decimal 780.92
This is the first full-length introduction to the life and works of significant American composer Marga Richter (born 1926), who has written more than one hundred works for orchestra, chamber ensemble, dance, opera, voice, chorus, piano, organ, and harpsichord. Still actively composing in her eighties, Richter is particularly known for her large-scale works performed by ensembles such as the London Philharmonic Orchestra and the Civic Orchestra of Chicago and for other pieces performed by prominent artists including pianist Menahem Pressler, conductor Izler Solomon, and violinist Daniel Heifetz.
Interspersing consideration of Richter's musical works with discussion of her life, her musical style, and the origins and performances of her works, Sharon Mirchandani documents a successful composer's professional and private life throughout the twentieth century. Covering Richter's formative years, her influences, and the phases of her career from the 1950s to the present, Mirchandani closely examines Richter's many interesting, attractive musical works that draw inspiration from distinctly American, Irish/English, and Asian sources. Drawing extensively on interviews with the composer, Mirchandani also provides detailed descriptions of Richter's scores and uses reviews and other secondary sources to provide contexts for her work, including their relationship to modern dance, to other musical styles, and to 1970s feminism.
Music of Another World
Szymon Laks Northwestern University Press, 2000 Library of Congress D805.P7L34313 2000 | Dewey Decimal 940.5318
Compassionate yet detached, ironic yet pitilessly honest, Szymon Laks, the kapellmeister of the Auschwitz orchestra, presents a disturbing description of a phenomenon seldom mentioned in the literature of the Holocaust: the presence of music among the crematoria. His story is a testament to the human spirit and to music itself, the beauty of which Laks and others honored even as the lives of so many were destroyed.
Orpheus in the Marketplace
Tim Carter Harvard University Press, 2013 Library of Congress ML410.P292C43 2013 | Dewey Decimal 782.1092
The Florentine musician Jacopo Peri (1561-1633) is known as the composer of the first operas--they include the earliest to survive complete, Euridice (1600), in which Peri sang the role of Orpheus. The recent discovery of a large number of private account books belonging to him and his family allows for a greater exploration of Peri's professional and personal life. Richard Goldthwaite, an economic historian, and Tim Carter, a musicologist, have done more, however, than write a biography: their investigation exposes the value of such financial documents as a primary source for an entire period.
This record of Peri's wide-ranging investments and activities in the marketplace enables the first detailed account of the Florentine economy in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, and opens a new perspective on one of Europe's principal centers of capitalism. His economic circumstances reflect continuities and transformations in Florentine society, and the strategies for negotiating them, under the Medici grand dukes. They also allow a reevaluation of Peri the singer and composer that elucidates the cultural life of a major artistic center even in changing times, providing a quite different view of what it meant to be a musician in late Renaissance Italy.
Paul Bowles: A Life
Virginia Spencer Carr Northwestern University Press, 2008 Library of Congress PS3552.O874Z625 2009 | Dewey Decimal 813.54
Paul Bowles, best known for his classic 1949 novel, The Sheltering Sky, is one of the most compelling yet elusive figures of twentieth-century American counterculture. In this definitive biography, Virginia Spencer Carr has captured Bowles in his many guises: gifted composer, expatriate novelist, and gay icon, to name only a few.
Born in New York in 1910, Bowles' brilliance was evident from early childhood. His first artistic interest was music, which he studied with the composer Aaron Copland. Bowles wrote scores for films and countless plays, including pieces by Tennessee Williams and Orson Welles. Over the course of his life, his intellectual pursuits led him around the world. He cultivated a circle of artistic friends that included Gertrude Stein, W.H. Auden, Gore Vidal, Truman Capote, Allen Ginsburg, William Burroughs, Stephen Spender, and Carson McCullers.
Just as fascinating for his flamboyant personality as for his literary success, Bowles' leftist politics and experimentation with drugs make him an ever-controversial character. Carr delves into Bowles' unconventional marriage to Jane Auer and his self-exile in Morocco. Close friends with him before his death in 1999, Carr's first-hand knowledge of Bowles is undeniable. This book encompasses her personal experiences plus ten years of research and interviews with some two hundred of Bowles' acquaintances.
Virginia Spencer Carr has written a riveting biography that tells not only the story of Paul Bowles' literary genius, but also of a crucial period of redefinition in American culture. Carr is simultaneously entertaining and precise, delivering a wealth of information on one of the most mythologized figures of mid-century literature.
The celebrated composer Paul Hindemith (1895-1963) was one of the most influential musicians of the twentieth century. Noss traces Hindemith's musical career in America, concentrating upon his first three U.S. concert tours and his thirteen-year tenure as a professor, teacher, and performer at Yale University.
As both composer and critic, Peggy Glanville-Hicks contributed to the astonishing cultural ferment of the mid-twentieth century. Her forceful voice as a writer and commentator helped shape professional and public opinion on the state of American composing. The seventy musical works she composed ranged from celebrated operas like Nausicaa to intimate, jewel-like compositions created for friends. Her circle included figures like Virgil Thomson, Paul Bowles, John Cage, and Yehudi Menuhin. Drawing on interviews, archival research, and fifty-four years of extraordinary pocket diaries, Suzanne Robinson places Glanville-Hicks within the history of American music and composers. "P.G.H."--affectionately described as "Australian and pushy"--forged alliances with power brokers and artists that gained her entrance to core American cultural entities such as the League of Composers, New York Herald Tribune, and the Harkness Ballet. Yet her impeccably cultivated public image concealed a private life marked by unhappy love affairs, stubborn poverty, and the painstaking creation of her artistic works. Evocative and intricate, Peggy Glanville-Hicks clears away decades of myth and storytelling to provide a portrait of a remarkable figure and her times.
Best known for the challenging four-opera cycle The Ring of the Nibelung, Richard Wagner (1813–83) was a conductor, librettist, theater director, and essayist, in addition to being the composer of some of the most enduring operatic works in history, such as The Flying Dutchman, Tannhäuser, and Tristan and Isolde. Though his influence on the development of European music is indisputable, Wagner was also quite outspoken on the politics and culture of his time. His ideas traveled beyond musical circles into philosophy, literature, theater staging, and the visual arts. To befit such a dynamic figure, acclaimed biographer Martin Geck offers here a Wagner biography unlike any other, one that strikes a unique balance between the technical musical aspects of Wagner’s compositions and his overarching understanding of aesthetics.
Wagner has always inspired passionate admirers as well as numerous detractors, with the result that he has achieved a mythical stature nearly equal to that of the Valkyries and Viking heroes he popularized. There are few, if any, scholars today who know more about Wagner and his legacy than Geck, who builds upon his extensive research and considerable knowledge as one of the editors of the Complete Works to offer a distinctive appraisal of the composer and the operas. Using a wide range of sources, from contemporary scholars to the composer’s own words, Geck explores key ideas in Wagner’s life and works, while always keeping the music in the foreground. Geck discusses not only all the major operas, but also several unfinished operas and even the composer’s early attempts at quasi-Shakespearean drama.
Richard Wagner: A Life in Music is a landmark study of one of music’s most important figures, offering something new to opera enthusiasts, Wagnerians, and anti-Wagnerians alike.
Kyle Gann University of Illinois Press, 2012 Library of Congress ML410.A798G36 2012 | Dewey Decimal 780.92
This book explores the life and works of the pioneering opera composer Robert Ashley, one of the leading American composers of the post-Cage generation. Ashley's innovations began in the 1960s when he, along with Alvin Lucier, Gordon Mumma, and David Behrman, formed the Sonic Arts Union, a group that turned conceptualism toward electronics. He was also instrumental in the influential ONCE Group, a theatrical ensemble that toured extensively in the 1960s.During his tenure as its director, the ONCE Festival in Ann Arbor presented most of the decade's pioneers of the performing arts. Particularly known for his development of television operas beginning with Perfect Lives, Ashley spun a long series of similar text/music works, sometimes termed "performance novels." These massive pieces have been compared with Wagner's Ring Cycle for the vastness of their vision, though the materials are completely different, often incorporating noise backgrounds, vernacular music, and highly structured, even serialized, musical structures.
Drawing on extensive research into Ashley's early years in Ann Arbor and interviews with Ashley and his collaborators, Kyle Gann chronicles the life and work of this musical innovator and provides an overview of the avant-garde milieu of the 1960s and 1970s to which he was so central. Gann examines all nine of Ashley's major operas to date in detail, along with many minor works, revealing the fanatical structures that underlie Ashley's music as well as private references hidden in his opera librettos.
Robert Schumann (1810–56) is one of the most important and representative composers of the Romantic era. Born in Zwickau, Germany, Schumann began piano instruction at age seven and immediately developed a passion for music. When a permanent injury to his hand prevented him from pursuing a career as a touring concert pianist, he turned his energies and talents to composing, writing hundreds of works for piano and voice, as well as four symphonies and an opera. Here acclaimed biographer Martin Geck tells the fascinating story of this multifaceted genius, set in the context of the political and social revolutions of his time.
The image of Schumann the man and the artist that emerges in Geck’s book is complex. Geck shows Schumann to be not only a major composer and music critic—he cofounded and wrote articles for the controversial Neue Zeitschrift für Musik—but also a political activist, the father of eight children, and an addict of mind-altering drugs. Through hard work and determination bordering on the obsessive, Schumann was able to control his demons and channel the tensions that seethed within him into music that mixes the popular and esoteric, resulting in compositions that require the creative engagement of reader and listener.
The more we know about a composer, the more we hear his personality in his music, even if it is above all on the strength of his work that we love and admire him. Martin Geck’s book on Schumann is not just another rehashing of Schumann’s life and works, but an intelligent, personal interpretation of the composer as a musical, literary, and cultural personality.
Marie Sumner Lott examines the music available to musical consumers in the nineteenth century, and what that music tells us about their tastes, priorities, and activities. Her social history of chamber music performance places the works of canonic composers such as Schubert, Brahms, and Dvorák in relation to lesser-known but influential peers. The book explores the dynamic relationships among the active agents involved in the creation of Romantic music and shows how each influenced the others' choices in a rich, collaborative environment. In addition to documenting the ways companies acquired and marketed sheet music, Sumner Lott reveals how the publication and performance of chamber music differed from that of ephemeral piano and song genres or more monumental orchestral and operatic works. Several distinct niche markets existed within the audience for chamber music, and composers created new musical works for their use and enjoyment. Insightful and groundbreaking, The Social Worlds of Nineteenth-Century Chamber Music revises prevailing views of middle-class influence on nineteenth-century musical style and presents new methods for interpreting the meanings of musical works for musicians both past and present.
The Verdi-Boito Correspondence
Giuseppe Verdi and Arrigo Boito University of Chicago Press, 1994 Library of Congress ML410.V4A4 1994 | Dewey Decimal 782.10922
These 301 letters between Giuseppe Verdi and his last, most gifted librettist, Arrigo Boito, document an extraordinary chapter in musical history. Now available for the first time in English, this correspondence records both a unique friendship and its creative legacy.
This new edition of the landmark Carteggio Verdi/Boito is at once a valuable resource for all students, teachers, and scholars of opera and a fascinating glimpse of the daily life of European art and artists during the fertile last decades of the 19th century.
Embarking on a 20-year collaboration, Verdi and Boito produced a successful revision of Simon Boccanegra, and two new operas, Otello and Falstaff. They created what many consider to be Verdi's greatest operas, thanks both to Boito's poetry and to his handling of the composer. Here are the day-to-day tasks of creation: poet and composer debating problems of dramatic structure, words, phrases, and meters; altering dialogue as, at the same time, they converse about the wider worlds of art and music. The give and take of artistic creation is rendered fascinatingly.
This edition features a new introduction by Marcello Conati, improvements and updatings to the original edition, and an appendix of undated correspondence. William Weaver's translation is characteristically pitch-perfect; he also provides a short closing sketch of Boito's life after the death of his beloved maestro. Explanatory "linking texts" between the letters create a narrative.
Vivaldi boasted that he could compose a concerto faster than a scribe could copy one. Despite his prolificacy, The Four Seasons, and the majority of his already published work had fallen into obscurity by the time of his death in poverty in 1741. Most of his music-concertos, sonatas, operas, and sacral music-has been published only recently.
Very little has been written on Vivaldi for the nonspecialist, especially in English. Landon rediscovers the composer in this accessible and musically informed biography while presenting documentation of the musician's life discovered after the Baroque revival in the 1930s. This book includes illustrations of eighteenth-century Venice and several newly translated letters, thoroughly evoking the style of the time and revealing some of the more personal aspects of Vivaldi's life.
"Belongs on the shelf of every serious music student."—Kirkus
"Gives a good feel for Vivaldi's life and times . . . and describes particularly well how Vivaldi has been revived."—Booklist
"Robbins Landon is marvelously entertaining, extravagantly learned."—The Independent
David Robertson charts W. C. Handy’s rise from a rural-Alabama childhood in the last decades of the nineteenth century to his emergence as one of the most celebrated songwriters of the twentieth century. The child of former slaves, Handy was first inspired by spirituals and folk songs, and his passion for music pushed him to leave home as a teenager, despite opposition from his preacher father. Handy soon found his way to St. Louis, where he spent a winter sleeping on cobblestone docks before lucking into a job with an Indiana brass band. It was in a minstrel show, playing to racially mixed audiences across the country, that he got his first real exposure as a professional musician, but it was in Memphis, where he settled in 1905, that he hit his full stride as a composer. At once a testament to the power of song and a chronicle of race and black music in America, W. C. Handy’s life story is in many ways the story of the birth of our country’s indigenous culture—and a riveting must read for anyone interested in the history of American music.
This year marks the 250th anniversary of the birth of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, one of the most enduringly popular and celebrated composers to have ever lived. His substantial oeuvre contains works that are considered to be among the most exquisite pieces of symphonic, chamber, and choral music ever written. His operas too cast a long shadow over those staged in their wake. And since his untimely death in 1791, he remains an enigmatic figure—the subject of fascination for aficionados and novices alike.
Piero Melograni here offers a wholly readable account of Mozart’s remarkable life and times. This masterful biography proceeds from the young Mozart’s earliest years as a Wunderkind—the child prodigy who traveled with his family to perform concerts throughout Europe—to his formative years in Vienna, where he fully absorbed the artistic and intellectual spirit of the Enlightenment, to his deathbed, his unfinished Requiem, and the mystery that still surrounds his burial. Melograni’s deft use of Mozart’s letters throughout confers authority and vitality to his recounting, and his expertise brings Mozart’s eighteenth-century milieu evocatively to life. Written with a gifted historian’s flair for narrative and unencumbered by specialized analyses of Mozart’s music, Melograni’s is the most vivid and enjoyable biography available.
At a time when music lovers around the world are paying honor to Mozart and his legacy, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart will be welcomed by his enthusiasts—or anyone wishing to peer into the mind of one of the greatest composers ever known.