Crescendo of the Virtuoso

Crescendo of the Virtuoso : Spectacle, Skill, and Self-Promotion in Paris During the Age of Revolution

By (author) Paul Metzner

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During the Age of Revolution, Paris came alive with wildly popular virtuoso performances. Whether the performers were musicians or chefs, chess players or detectives, these virtuosos tranformed their technical skills into dramatic spectacles, presenting the marvellous and the outre for spellbound audiences. Who these characters were, how they attained their fame, and why Paris became the focal point of their activities is the subject of this study. Covering the years 1775 to 1850, Metzner describes the careers of a handful of virtuosos: chess masters who played several games at once; a chef who sculpted hundreds of four-foot-tall architectural fantasies in sugar; the first police detective, whose memoirs inspired the invention of the detective story; a violinist who played whole pieces on a single string. He examines these virtuosos as a group in the context of the society that was then the capital of Western civilization.

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  • Hardback | 371 pages
  • 162.1 x 236.7 x 36.8mm | 834.62g
  • 01 Dec 1998
  • University of California Press
  • Berkerley
  • English
  • 13 b&w illustrations, 1 map
  • 0520206843
  • 9780520206847

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Author Information

Paul Metzner is an independent scholar with a Ph.D. in History.

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Review quote

"Metzner's book is that rare thing, a genuinely intelligent and innovative text which is also a pleasure to read." --Times Literary Supplement

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