Schubert's Winterreise is at the same time one of the most powerful and one of the most enigmatic masterpieces in Western culture. In his new book, Schubert's Winter Journey: Anatomy of an Obsession, Ian Bostridge - one of the work's finest interpreters - focusses on the context, resonance and personal significance of a work which is possibly the greatest landmark in the history of Lieder. Using each of the 24 songs as a starting point, the book brings the work and its world alive for connoisseurs and new listeners alike.
How are conductors' silent gestures magicked into sound by a group of more than a hundred brilliant but belligerent musicians? The mute choreography of great conductors has fascinated and frustrated musicians and music-lovers for centuries. Orchestras can be inspired to the heights of musical and expressive possibility by their maestros, or flabbergasted that someone who doesn't even make a sound should be elevated to demigod-like status by the public.
This is the first book to go inside the rehearsal rooms of some of the most inspirational orchestral partnerships in the world - how Simon Rattle works at the Berlin Philharmonic, how Mariss Jansons deals with the Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam, and how Claudio Abbado creates the world's most luxurious pick-up band every year with the Lucerne Festival Orchestra. From London to Budapest, Bamberg to Vienna, great orchestral concerts are recreated as a collection of countless human and musical stories.
Jan Swafford's biographies of Charles Ives and Johannes Brahms have established him as a revered music historian, capable of bringing his subjects vibrantly to life. His magnificent new biography of Ludwig van Beethoven peels away layers of legend to get to the living, breathing human being who composed some of the world's most iconic music. Swafford mines sources never before used in English-language biographies to reanimate the revolutionary ferment of Enlightenment-era Bonn, where Beethoven grew up and imbibed the ideas that would shape all of his future work. Swafford then tracks his subject to Vienna, capital of European music, where Beethoven built his career in the face of critical incomprehension, crippling ill health, romantic rejection, and 'fate's hammer', his ever-encroaching deafness. At the time of his death he was so widely celebrated that over ten thousand people attended his funeral.
This book is a biography of Beethoven the man and musician, not the myth, and throughout, Swafford - himself a composer - offers insightful readings of Beethoven's key works. More than a decade in the making, this will be the standard Beethoven biography for years to come.
A tweedy purveyor of folklore; too many larks ascending and too much Linden Lea: no composer's work has ever been more cruelly stereotyped than that of Ralph Vaughan Williams. The truth could hardly have been more different: that folksy feel masked the highest sophistication, that countrified air the most audacious experimentation. If, unlike his Germanizing contemporary Elgar, Vaughan Williams did indeed open the way to a distinctively English Music, his was an Englishness which owed nothing to narrow-mindedness or lack of artistic enterprise.
Fifty years after his death in 1958, Vaughan Williams' reputation is greater than ever before and there is a resurgence of interest in his music. Re-issued to coincide with this anniversary, Simon Heffer's perceptive book lends weight to the increasingly compelling case for Vaughan Williams' recognition as the most important English composer of the twentieth century.
'A vivid and appealing picture of an irresistibly likeable figure ... I enjoyed this little book enormously.'Spectator
'An affectionate, accurate and shrewd account of Vaughan Williams' life ... the author's astute commentary on it betokens close and knowledgeable acquaintance.' Sunday Telegraph
'Anyone with the smallest interest in composition - not just concertos but novels, buildings, lives, you name it, should read this absorbing, spiky, dazzling book.' Adam Thirwell, TLS Books of the Year
Harrison Birtwistle is recognised worldwide as one of the greatest of living composers, behind such works of trail-blazingly modern classical music as The Shadow of Night and The Mask of Orpheus, famously staged at the English National Opera in 1986, and winner of the Grawemeyer Award. His music is both deeply original and highly personal, yet he has always been notoriously reticent about explaining either his music or himself. In this 'conversation diary', spanning six months, he talks openly to the distinguished writer and critic Fiona Maddocks (author of the acclaimed Hildegard of Bingen: The Woman of her Age), offering rare insights into the challenges, uncertainties and rewards which have shaped his life and work since childhood, and which remain with him today as he enters his ninth decade.
We see the composer in the privacy of his Wiltshire studio and garden, and in the public glare of the elite Salzburg and Aldeburgh Festivals. But mostly he is at his kitchen table, talking about the essential aspects of his life - family, cooking, cricket, landscape, pruning trees - and reflecting on the never easy-process of composition. What distinguishes him and his remarkable music is an ability to see the extraordinary in the everyday, giving rise to work that is both elemental and profound. For anyone concerned with the future of music this book is essential reading.
The extraordinary group of Russian composers who came together in St Petersburg in the 1860s - long known as 'The Mighty Handful', but, as the moguchaya kuchka, better translated as 'the great little heap' - gave rise to one of the most fascinating and colourful stories in all musical history.
Stephen Walsh, author of a major biography of their direct successor, Stravinsky, has written an absorbing account of Musorgsky and his circle - Borodin, Cui, Balakirev and Rimsky-Korsakov. With little or no musical education they created works of lasting significance - Musorgsky's Boris Godunov, Borodin's Prince Igor and Rimsky-Korsakov's Sheherazade. Written with deep understanding and panache, The Kuchka, is highly engaging and a significant contribution to cultural history.
Brigid Brophy first published her passionate, profoundly original Mozart the Dramatist in 1964, revisiting it subsequently in 1988. Organised by theme, the text offers brilliant readings of Mozart's five most famous operas - Die Entführung aus dem Serail, Le Nozze di Figaro, Don Giovanni, Così fan tutte, and Die Zauberflöte - while a 1988 preface reconsiders Idomeneo and La Clemenza di Tito. Brophy's analysis is richly informed by her readings and interests in psychoanalysis, myth, and relations between the sexes, but her stress above all is on Mozart's 'unique excellence', his 'double supremacy' both as a 'classical' and 'psychological' artist.
'An illuminating, invigorating, thought-provoking and profoundly human book, of immense value to any lover of Mozart.' Jane Glover
'No one has ever written better on Mozart.' Peter Conrad, Observer
'Immensely enjoyable.' Peter Gay, London Review of Books
'This book distils what, at my advanced age, I feel able to say about music, musicians, and matters of my pianistic profession.'
Ever since Alfred Brendel bid farewell to the concert stage after six decades of performing, he has been passing on his insight and experience in the form of lectures, readings and master-classes. This reader for lovers of the piano distils his musical and linguistic eloquence and vast knowledge, and will prove invaluable to anyone with an interest in the technique, history and repertoire of the piano.
Erudite, witty, enlightening and deeply personal, A Pianist's A to Z is the ideal book for all piano lovers, musicians and music aficionados: rarely has the instrument been described in such an entertaining and intelligent fashion.
First published in 1939, On Russian Music was conceived by Gerald Abraham as a sequel to his earlier Studies in Russian Music (1935, also in Faber Finds), and complements the previous work in many useful respects. Glinka moves to the forefront via close study of both of his operas. A historical account of the composition of Borodin's Prince Igor enriches the critical study made in the first book. And chapters on Mlada and Tsar Saltan round out Abraham's appreciations of the major operas of Rimsky-Korsakov.
There are also critical and historical essays on works by Mussorgsky, Dargomïzhsky, Tchaikovsky and other composers, and analyses that, in their time, threw new light on the programmatic meaning of such well-known compositions as Scheherazade and the Pathétique symphony. The book is superbly illustrated with music examples throughout.
'People are always asking, 'Aren't you proud of your famous brother?' I was, of course, but often wished he was not so famous so that one could see more of this brother who was such a joy to be with. Janet Baker has written that the air crackled when he walked into the room, and she was right...'
The younger of Benjamin Britten's two sisters, Elizabeth ('Beth') Britten first published this loving and revealing portrait of their shared childhood in 1986. She evokes the Lowestoft upbringing of the four Britten siblings, their dentist father Robert, and mother Edith, who keenly encouraged the children's interest in music. She recalls the flat they shared in London while Benjamin studied at the Royal College of Music; and tells of 'The Old Mill at Snape', Britten's home/studio after its renovation by Beth's future father-in-law. Of special interest are Britten's letters to Beth from America, where he and Peter Pears emigrated in 1939 then became ensconced after war broke out.
First published in English in 1980, this important early memoir of Gustav Mahler is by Natalie Bauer-Lechner (1858-1921), a viola player and close and devoted friend of Mahler until his marriage to Alma Schindler in 1902. She visited him in Hamburg and frequented his circle in Vienna, also accompanying him and his family on a number of the summer vacations during which the Second, Third and Fourth Symphonies came into being, together with many of the Wunderhorn songs.
Compiled from Bauer-Lechner's private journal, these Recollections are a vital, invaluable record of Mahler's personal, professional and creative life during the last decade of the nineteenth century. A large part of the book recounts, at first hand, conversations with Mahler concerning his works and his ideas about performance (both in the opera-house and on the concert platform.)
Gerald Abraham's reputation as an authority on Russian music has tended to obscure his deep interest in the music of Poland and Czechoslovakia, and of the nineteenth-century generally. From a lifetime's devoted scholarship in these fields Abrahams selected his best work to make up this volume (first published in 1968), one of exceptional breadth and fascination.
The subjects range from the relationship of Slavonic music to the western world, to detailed essays on figures such as Chopin, Dvorák, Rubinstein and Mussorgsky. A study of realism in Janacek's operas contains a particularly fine analysis of From a House of the Dead and there is an account of the fantastic 'erotic diary' for piano in which Zdenek Fibich, one of the finest nineteenth-century Czech symphonists, recorded the secrets of his love affair with former student and librettist Anežka Schulzová.
Gerald Abraham (1904-1988) was a distinguished musicologist, among his official posts those of Professor of Music at the University of Liverpool and Assistant Controller of Music at the BBC.
The third and final volume of Prokofiev's Diaries covers the years 1924 to1933 when he was living in Paris. Intimate accounts of the successes and disappointments of a great creative artist at the heart of the European arts world between the two World Wars jostle with witty and trenchant commentaries on the personalities who made up this world.
The Diaries document the complex emotional inner world of a Russian exile uncomfortably aware of the nature of life in Stalin's Russia yet increasingly persuaded that his creative gifts would never achieve full maturity separated from the culture, people and land of his birthplace. Since even Prokofiev knew that the USSR was hardly the place to commit inner reflections to paper, the Diaries come to an end after June 1933 although it would be another three years before he, together with his wife and children, finally exchanged the free if materially uncertain life of a cosmopolitan Parisian celebrity for Soviet citizenship and the credo of Socialist Realism within which it struggled to straitjacket its artists.
Volume Three continues the kaleidoscopic impressions and the stylish language - Prokofiev was almost as gifted and idiosyncratic a writer as he was a composer - of its predecessors.
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