Lives of the Great Composers

Lives of the Great Composers

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A single-volume guide to composers. Extensively revised and updated for the more

Product details

  • Paperback | 560 pages
  • Little, Brown Book Group
  • Abacus
  • London, United Kingdom
  • New edition
  • New edition
  • 0747409773
  • 9780747409779

Review Text

Exercising authoritative prerogatives in addressing "the intelligent layman," N.Y. Times critic Schonberg projects an evolutionary perspective integrating each man's life and work on a continuum from Bach through Schonberg (i.e., up to "the hiatus in the mighty line of powerful, individualistic composers"). These are not biographies in a vacuum, but they are biographies - personal, anecdotal, supportive, respectful, and elegantly written in untired prose; as nearly as possible, the ineffable thing that is genius is conveyed in its many manifestations among makers, stabilizers, and breakers of tradition. Music could never be incidental, yet it never overpowers here: properly and accessibly in most every case, it emerges as very much "a function of the man himself, a reflection of his mind, a reaction to his world." As per not only the internal balance, but also the chapter headings - "Freedom and a New Language: Weber and the Romantics"; "Russian Nationalism and the Mighty Five: From Glinka to Rimsky-Korsakov"; "Classicism Par Excellence: Franz Joseph Haydn." If one section may appear reductive, e.g., the stress on Stravinsky's logic above all, another will be appreciatively extravagant (on Berlioz, for instance); and the majority are uncommonly revealing - even to the mention of Bach's miserliness in a not infrequent interjection of humor. (Kirkus Reviews)show more