Know-It-All: Classical Music
The 50 Most Significant Genres, Composers and Forms, Each Explained in Under a Minute
This primer begins with the development of early polyphony from plainsong before moving through the Renaissance, Baroque and Classical eras to the Minimalism of today. It explains the predominant forms of each era, from the motet to the symphony; summarises the achievements of major composers; and presents profiles of contemporary performers.
Elgar, Vaughan Williams, Britten and the English Musical Renaissance
The 20th century brought a spectacular revival in English music, initiated by Elgar’s Enigma Variations. In these linked essays Alldritt tells the story of the period through the work of the three composers who each supported the renewal in their own generation. He focuses on their music’s deeply engaged response to the conflicts, political changes and psychological impact of a violent and destructive age.
Stravinsky's "Great Passacaglia"
Recurring Elements in the Concerto for Piano and Wind Instruments
Completed in 1924, the Concerto for Piano and Wind Instruments is one of the works in which Stravinsky developed his neoclassic style. In response to the composer’s description of it as a ‘great passacaglia’, Traut analyses all three movements to identify repetitions of elements that ‘impact the piece at the deepest levels’. He also discusses the compositional sketches, Stravinsky’s performances as a soloist and the critics’ strong but mixed reactions.
Songs without Words
Keyboard Arrangements of Vocal Music in England, 1560–1760
Before the era of recording, keyboard arrangements were the primary means by which new music was disseminated. Mangsen uses this large and varied corpus to examine how the most popular tunes became the equivalent of today’s jazz standards, appearing in versions ranging from the simple to the highly virtuosic. She also highlights the importance of female keyboard players, at whom such arrangements were particularly aimed, in popularizing the opera genre.
The New Percy Grainger Companion
This authoritative companion to the life and work of the Australian-born composer and pianist Percy Grainger (1882–1961) aims to stimulate interest in Grainger’s music and encourage live performance. Among the essays, musicians write on performing his orchestral and piano music, choir and solo singing and his wind band compositions, while biographical studies explore topics such as the composer’s family background, his home in New York and his writings.
Nation and Classical Music
From Handel to Copland
This interdisciplinary study examines the relationship between emergent nationalism and the classical music that contributed to the dissemination of the national ideal. The authors explore the work of figures including Smetana, Elgar and Shostakovich to reveal how folk idioms were assimilated into art music, and how composers adapted national myths and created works for public commemoration and mourning.
Delius and Norway
The English composer Frederick Delius (1862–1934) travelled to Norway on 20 occasions, spending one to three months getting his ‘old self back again’, and around 33 of his compositions were inspired by the country or were settings of its poetry. This study examines the vital role that Norway and its artists – particularly Edvard Munch, Edvard Grieg and Knut Hamsun – played in the life and work of the composer.
Benjamin Britten Studies
Essays on an Inexplicit Art
Taking its cue from Britten’s statement, made during a BBC Third Programme discussion of Billy Budd, that music is ‘an inexplicit art’, this volume of 16 essays shifts the perspective on Britten scholarship, interweaving historical, musicological, sociological, psychological and theoretical approaches.
The Well-Travelled Musician
John Sigismond Cousser and Musical Exchange in Baroque Europe
Born in Hungary, the musician John Sigismond Cousser (1660–1727) travelled throughout Europe during his long career, leaving the continent for London in 1704 and eventually settling in Dublin. Based in part on Cousser’s invaluable ‘Commonplace Book’, this study shows how he played a key role in the transmission of musical styles, particularly French and Italian, across the German-speaking lands during the Baroque era.
A Critical Biography
Best known for his four-volume Life of Richard Wagner, Ernest Newman (1868–1959) was a dominant but controversial figure in British musical criticism who contributed columns to the Sunday Times for more than 38 years. This biography focuses on the influences and motivations behind his writing on various subjects, placing it within the contemporary intellectual context and highlighting his interest in the freethought movement, rationalism and historical method. Slightly off-mint.
A Life in Time
Based on an extended interview given during a 2003 UK tour, and other first-hand accounts, Philip Clark explores the jazz pianist’s music and influence on performers including Sting and John Cage. It recalls behind-the-scenes stories of breakthrough classics like ‘Take Five’, which propelled jazz into the mainstream, and Brubeck’s many encounters and collaborations with musical greats such as Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie and Count Basie.
The Classic FM Puzzle Book
This book will test your knowledge of classical music with more than 100 crosswords, sudokus, visual teasers, number games and team quizzes. Arranged in three sections of increasing difficulty, Adagio, Accelerando and Molto Vivace, the puzzles cover conductors, composers, operas, symphonies, instruments, notation and music theory. Solutions are provided at the back.
David's Blissful Harp
A Critical Edition of the Manuscript of Matthew Parker's Metrical Psalms (1–80)
Archbishop Parker’s psalter was printed in 1567/68, following a long process of revision. This edition presents the published text facing Parker’s manuscript version; it includes two unpublished metrical psalms, together with facsimiles of the manuscript and Thomas Tallis’s eight tunes.
The long and sometimes turbulent life of Sir Michael Tippett (1905–98) has been studied much less than his visionary music. This first full-length biography, which uses excerpts from his unpublished letters and from interviews with those who knew him, uncovers the sorrows behind the composer’s cheerful persona and the extent of his involvement in left-wing politics during the 1930s.
The Composition and Afterlife of Handel's Masterpiece
Composed in a three-week burst of creativity, Handel’s sacred oratorio Messiah took an audacious, unprecedented form. Keates explains how the composer and his librettist, Charles Jennens, devised its narrative and musical structure and how the oratorio relates to the cultural and spiritual contexts of Georgian England. He also describes its mixed reception at the first Dublin and London performances and the process by which it became established as one of the best-loved works in the choral repertoire.
The First Great Romantic Symphony
When it was first performed in 1805, Beethoven’s Third Symphony (the ‘Eroica’) baffled audiences with a size, complexity and expressiveness that broke the Viennese Classical mould and would change the course of Western music by making symphonies the vehicle for composers’ greatest thoughts. This guide to the work analyses its innovations and explores its biographical and political background, including Beethoven’s increasing deafness and his shifting opinions of Napoleon, to whom the ‘Eroica’ was once dedicated.
Fryderyck Franciszek Chopin
Illustrated Lives of the Great Composers
Quoting extensively from contemporaries of Chopin, Ateş Orga traces the composer’s life and musical career from his birth in the village of Żelazowa Wola, west of Warsaw, in 1810, to his life as an emigré in Paris and his tragically early death in 1849. A selection of his music is performed by Idil Biret on the accompanying CD.
Illustrated Lives of the Great Composers
Following Mahler from his birthplace in Kalist, Bohemia in 1860 to his early death in Vienna in 1911, Seckerson explores the vicissitudes of his reputation – internationally renowned as a conductor during his lifetime, Mahler was initially neglected as a composer after his death. The CD contains seven selections from the symphonies and three lieder.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Illustrated Lives of the Great Composers
Born in 1756, into a family where he ‘lived and breathed in an atmosphere of music’, Mozart was to become music’s most famous prodigy. Drawing on contemporary accounts and the composer’s letters, Woodford presents the story of a prolific musical life, cut short at the age of 35. The 15-track CD includes excerpts from the operas, concertos and requiems.
Musicians of Bath and Beyond
Edward Loder (1809–1865) and his Family
The head of a very talented musical family, John David Loder (1788–1846) led the theatre orchestra in Bath and later the Philharmonic in London, and wrote the leading violin instruction manual of his time. Comprising 13 scholarly essays, this study of the Loders’ musical careers illuminates aspects of the music profession in the 19th century, music in the British colonies, and English Romantic opera.
Beyond the Rio Grande
Although he is little known today, the composer, conductor and critic Constant Lambert (1905–51) was a prominent champion of both English ballet and jazz. This detailed biography draws on his entertaining letters and the reminiscences of many friends and colleagues.
The Singing of the Strasbourg Protestants, 1523–1541
Exploring the part played by music, especially group singing, in the unfolding of the Protestant reforms in Strasbourg, this study considers both religious and ‘popular’ songs in the city, looking at how both genres fitted into people’s lives during a time of strife and how this music affected, and was affected by, the new ecclesiastical arrangements.
The Faces and the Masks
Judith Chernaik describes Robert Schumann (1810–1856) as a key figure in Romanticism: ‘a true Romantic in his embrace of poetry and feeling, his love of emotional extremes, his intermingling of life and art’. In this groundbreaking biography she traces the composer’s life and musical career, from his provincial, middle-class upbringing to his tragically early death, and draws on the medical records kept by Schumann’s doctor to shed light on the composer’s final illness in the Endenich asylum.
A Global History
From the music of ancient Israel to modern country, folk and jazz, this richly illustrated history introduces the extraordinary breadth of Christian musical expression through the ages. The book traces both liturgical traditions and non-liturgical sacred music across the world, from Europe to China, and draws on the expertise of a team of scholars and musicians to discuss themes as varied as psalms, medieval chant, the 19th-century ‘hymn industry’ and the American gospel tradition.
And the Voice of the Castrato
The counter-tenor Nicholas Clapton presents a biography of Alessandro Moreschi (1858–1922), the only castrato singer whose voice can still be heard on an early 20th-century recording. The study offers ‘a glimpse into the vocal world of the 18th-century castrato superstars’, but also delves into the strange and lonely life beyond Moreschi’s fame.
Three Hundred Years of Composers' Instruments
The Cobbe Collection
This catalogue of the Cobbe Collection of keyboard instruments at Hatchlands Park comprises detailed descriptions, technical information and photographs of over 40 instruments, ranging in date from Charles II’s virginals (1664) to an organ by JW Walker of London (1903) and includes instruments that belonged to, among others, Bach, Haydn, Chopin and Elgar.
The Sea in the British Musical Imagination
From Purcell and Arne to Vaughan Williams and Maxwell Davies, British composers have often made use of maritime tropes. These twelve essays examine how their music reflects changes in Britons’ relationship with the sea, focusing on three themes: the sea as landscape, profession and metaphor. Slightly off-mint.
Masques, Mayings and Music-Dramas
Vaughan Williams and the Early Twentieth-Century Stage
These eight essays elucidate a significant moment in the renaissance of English music-theatre. Focusing particularly on Vaughan Williams, they show how Wagner’s ideas influenced English composers who were reimagining dramatic traditions going back to Mummers’ plays, 17th-century masques and the music of Purcell.
One of the first internationally famous conductors, Richter (1843–1916) premiered works by Wagner, Brahms and Elgar. Fifield’s detailed biography draws on the letters and diaries of Richter and other prominent musicians; this expanded edition also features his complete ‘conducting books’ documenting 4,351 public performances. (Previously published as True Artist and True Friend.)
The Composer and the Community
Beginning with Benjamin Britten’s speech On Receiving the First Aspen Award (1964) in which he expressed his commitment to community and place, this volume presents 20 essays, interviews and commentaries by composers, performers and facilitators reflecting on the role of the composer in the community in Britain during the last 50 years.
Benjamin Britten and Russia
Cameron Pyke examines the origins and development of Benjamin Britten’s cultural ‘Russophilia’ over the whole course of his creative life, describing his engagement with Russian composers and musicians including Shostakovich, Prokofiev, Stravinsky and Rostropovich as well as other aspects of Russian culture, particularly Pushkin, politics and musical performance and style.
Composing an American Life
One of America’s foremost composers reflects on his life and times, from the marching bands of his 1950s childhood to his acclaimed 2005 opera Doctor Atomic. He also explains the interplay of tradition and innovation in his own compositional process and the work of fellow-musicians.
Sounds and Sweet Airs
The Forgotten Women of Classical Music
For centuries female composers have been unjustly ignored and patronized, since they worked within a male-dominated musical culture that sought to exclude them, even to the extent of questioning their music’s authorship. The eight composers profiled here all challenged this prejudice with courage and pragmatism, from Francesca Caccini, who manipulated the gender politics of the Medici court, to Vaughan Williams’ pupil Elizabeth Maconchy, who fought back against sexism by working with ‘rigid self-discipline’.
The Rameau Compendium
Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683–1764) was a composer and performer of operas, keyboard works and chamber music, but also a sophisticated theorist and teacher. This reference work, by a leading authority on French Baroque music, reflects the full range of those activities. The book begins with a short biography drawing attention to significant patterns in his life and work; the rest of the volume forms a Rameau ‘dictionary’ with entries on people, places, instruments and institutions as well as the composer’s own works.
Musorgsky & His Circle
A Russian Musical Adventure
The 'Mighty Handful' of five Russian composers who came together in St Petersburg in the 1860s had little musical education, but they created some of the most popular music in the classical repertoire, including Borodin's Prince Igor and Rimsky-Korsakov's Sheherazade. Walsh's study analyses how this rare example of a creative musical collective worked and reveals the crucial role played by their mentor, the art historian Vladimir Stasov, in fostering a Russian nationalist music. Slightly off-mint and American-cut pages.
Now best remembered as the conductor of Manchester’s Hallé Orchestra, Sir Hamilton Harty (1879–1941) began his career in Ulster and Dublin before coming to prominence in London as a piano accompanist. This biography reveals how he was influenced by these early experiences, analyses the debates he provoked on such topics as jazz and modernism and emphasizes his parallel career as a composer of orchestral works, chamber music and songs. The book ends with complete lists of Harty’s recordings and compositions.
Dear Green Sounds
Glasgow's Music Through Time and Buildings
‘A blazingly musical city... Glasgow became a UNESCO City of Music in 2008 thanks to the countless kinds of music that coexist on these streets.’ This volume reflects the diversity of the city and its sounds in 21 richly illustrated essays on the music, history and life of 20 different venues, from the Cathedral to King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut, by way of pubs, recording studios, concert halls, ballrooms, the College of Piping and the legendary Apollo.
Make a Joyful Noise
Renaissance Art and Music at Florence Cathedral
Luca della Robbia’s fine Cantoria – an organ loft and singers’ gallery – was installed in Florence Cathedral in 1438, opposite a similar structure by Donatello. The essays in this beautifully illustrated volume present analysis of details from the Cantoria’s carved reliefs depicting musicians, as well as research into the organs and choirbooks that were once used in the gallery. A postscript describes how this Renaissance masterpiece has been displayed in its new context at the Museo dell’Opera.
Messiaen Perspectives 2
Techniques, Influence and Reception
The second of a two-volume work that examines Olivier Messiaen’s interconnections with his cultural milieux, this collection of 14 essays analyses his compositional approach and the repercussions of his music and includes Robert Fallon’s Catalogue of Messiaen’s Birds.
New York Composers' Forum Concerts
Melissa J de Graaf tells the story of the Composers’ Forum, a free weekly concert series at which American composers such as Aaron Copland, Amy Beach and Henry Cowell introduced their work to a newly developing audience for modern music. She also analyses the transcripts of the question-and-answer sessions sponsored by the Forum: reflecting its inclusive, populist ideology, these conversations offer remarkable insights into New Yorkers’ diverse reactions to the music and their attitudes to modernism, politics and American identity.
The Master's Style
The conductor Herbert von Karajan (1908–1989) left his unmistakable mark on a wide and diverse repertoire ranging from Bach to contemporary composers, and modernized the image of the conductor as a figure of casual sartorial elegance. This photographic biography, published jointly by La Scala in Milan and the Karajan Institute in Salzburg, draws not only on the public photographs that chart the Austrian maestro's career but also on intimate family snapshots that reveal the private man.
Mozart's music has enthralled listeners for centuries. In this concise biography, the historian Paul Johnson charts the composer's life from the age of three, when he first recognized chords, to the creation of his mature masterpieces Don Giovanni and The Marriage of Figaro. Dispelling popular myths, it explores his relationships with his father, his wife and the royal court of Vienna, and highlights the intelligence, wit, charisma and drive of this extraordinarily gifted man.