Music

Forbidden Music by Michael Haas & Hollywood and Hitler by Thomas Doherty

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August 2014, no. 363

For all their differences of subject matter and approach (not to mention style), both of these studies can be seen as belonging to the category of what might be termed archaeological history. That is, they are concerned with retrieving and bringing to the surface a gallery of characters and set of important stories and connections which have been either suppressed or ignored.

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I was a part-time pilgrim on John Eliot Gardiner’s extraordinary year-long journey, from Christmas 1999 to New Year’s Eve 2000, when he took Johann Sebastian Bach on the road. Gardiner’s Bach Cantata Pilgrimage, with his fifteen-member Monteverdi Choir and the twenty instrumentalists of the English Baroque Soloists, performed in Britain, Europe, and the United States all of JSB’s 198 surviving sacred cantatas on the liturgically appropriate days for which they were composed.

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There once was a boy named Lenny
Whose talents were varied and many
So many that he was inclined
Never to make up his mind
In fact he was so gifted
He never felt uplifted
Just undefined.
Poor Lenny – ten gifts too many
The curse of being versatile.
To show how bad ...

Lecturing in Vienna in 1999, Nick Cave outlined his theory on the nature of the love song. ‘Within the fabric of the Love Song … one must sense an acknowledgement of its capacity for suffering.’ Unless pain and longing simmer beneath the surface of the music, it isn’t a love song at all. What Lorca referred to as ‘duende’ and Cave himself calls ‘an inexplicable sadness’ at the h ...

Alma Moodie’s story is remarkable, which makes it all the stranger that she has been so thoroughly forgotten. A frail child prodigy from central Queensland, she became Carl Flesch’s favourite pupil and a renowned concert violinist in Germany after World War I, friend and performer of most of the great figures of international contemporary music, from Max R ...

Richard Wagner: A Life in Music by Martin Geck (translated by Stewart Spencer)

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February 2014, no. 358

After four days in the theatre, and just as many resting up between instalments, Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen ends with a big tune. Like most of Wagner’s themes, this one has been given a name: the ‘Redemption through Love’ motif. The name was not the work of the composer but of one of his acolytes, Hans von Wolzogen, and in its orig ...

That George William Lewis Marshall-Hall (1862–1915) is far from a household name cannot simply reflect collective amnesia about Australian music of the era. While Nellie Melba and Percy Grainger remain widely celebrated, subversion of moral and religious orthodoxies left Marshall-Hall’s legacy significantly undervalued. These sixteen carefully sequenced es ...

It would be a pity if this well-researched and nuanced biography of the greatest English composer of the second half of the twentieth century became known for the rather sensational medical revelations contained in the last chapter. Certainly, they gave me pause before I began reading the book.

Benjamin Britten (1913–76) was the towering ...

In one of the most penetrating essays in this wide-ranging collection, the pianist and scholar Charles Rosen, while addressing the topic of ‘La Fontaine: The Ethical Power of Style’, notes in an aside: ‘What is original in Montaigne is the strange path he takes to arrive at the idea.’ It is an observation that might be equally well applied to the author of the twenty-eight pieces in this volume, most of which originated as extended reviews for the New York Review of Books over the past two decades, apart from ‘Too Much Opera’, which dates from 1979 and, to put it politely, rather shows its age. On the other hand, the subsection entitled ‘Mostly Mozart’ includes, along with four previously published pieces, three new essays, which offer clear evidence of Rosen’s gifts as musical and cultural analyst. Covering topics as varied as dramatic and tonal logic in the operas, Mozart’s entry into the twentieth century, and Mozart and posterity, these hundred-plus pages provide a combination of sociology and musicology, history and aesthetics, performance analysis, and a grasp of the secondary literature that is characteristic of the Rosen who was both performer and critic. (He died in December 2012.)

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‘Rather like a consummate storyteller, Mozart knows how to keep us close to the edge of our seats,’ says Andrew Ford, composer, broadcaster, andauthor of this collection of illuminating essays on musical themes assembled from his talks, articles, and scripts for the radio series Music and Fashion. Like Mozart, two of Ford’s strengths are his compelling voice and his capacity to keep the reader enthralled. The down-to-earth title signposts something different, something digestible and fun to read.

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