Six Summer Reads for Classical Music Fans

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

WQXR
beach reading (flickr/aafromaa/)

Summer is prime season for reading. Whether you are headed to the beach or to your backyard, here are six recommendations for new music-related books to bring with you:

1. Moral Fire: Musical Portraits from America's Fin de Siècle by Joseph Horowitz

In Moral Fire: Musical Portraits from America's Fin de Siècle, prominant American music scholar Joseph Horowitz explores the lives of four heroic figures in the history of American classical music: Henry Higginson, who invented and owned the Boston Symphony Orchestra; Laura Langford, who presented Wagner concerts 14 times a week each summer in Coney Island; Henry Krehbiel, proactive “dean” of New York’s music critics, and Charles Ives, the iconoclastic composer. Though these individuals played very different roles in contributing to late-19th century American music, Horowitz argues that they all embraced in their own ways the important idea that art can be morally empowering. He further believes that this dynamic era can be a model for today's classical music leaders.

2. Music as Alchemy by Tom Service

Any classical music fan knows who the world’s best conductors are, but exactly what do Abbado, Rattle, and Gergiev do on the podium that makes them so extraordinary? Tom Service, the chief classical music critic for The Guardian, delves into the rehearsal rooms of some of the world’s greatest music directors to find out, and to dispel the myth of the tyrannical, despotic maestro, in Music as Alchemy.

3. Mozart at the Gateway to His Fortune by Christoph Wolff

Mozart at the Gateway to His Fortune, by Christoph Wolff, offers a new perspective on Mozart’s life. It explores the period from 1788-1791, when Mozart served Emperor Joseph II and composed many of his most beloved works, including his three greatest and final symphonies during the summer of 1788. For those whose understanding of Mozart’s music is often shadowed by the immediate context of his untimely death, this book may provide a refreshing look at the prosperity and promise that filled these years of his life.

4. The Music between Us: Is Music a Universal Language? by Kathleen Marie Higgins

Joining the many recent publications about the fascinating connections between music and our minds is Kathleen Marie Higgins's The Music between Us: Is Music a Universal Language? Higgins investigates the different ways in which music is used across cultures -- exploring its role in rituals, education, work and healing -- and why music has almost universal appeal to our deepest emotions and experiences. Higgins is a philosophy professor at the University of Texas but her approach encompasses aspects of psychology, musicology, linguistics and anthropology.

5. Music for Silenced Voices by Wendy Lesser 

Very few books about Shostakovich have been written for a general audience rather than a purely academic one; Wendy Lesser’s Music for Silenced Voices makes for one more. Lesser, an editor of The Threepenny Review, comes to the quartets as a passionate listener rather than as a musician or musicologist. As such, she takes the reader through Shostakovich’s intriguingly complex life with a narrative that follows his 15 string quartets in chronological order. 

6. When the Fat Lady Sings by David W. Barber

David W. Barber is the author of several bestselling books of humorous musical literature, including Accidentals on Purpose and Bach, Beethoven and the Boys. His 2000 book, When the Fat Lady Sings, looked at the history of opera in a similarly lighthearted way, but one that still leaves the reader informed and enlightened. It has now been re-released in a Kindle format.

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Comments [4]

David Beardsley

Re: Charles Ives (Moral Fire). He of course was greatly influenced by the Concord Idealists, or Transcendentalists as they're more commonly known, and believed that music could be a gateway to the experience of the Over-Soul, to use Emerson's term. For more, I humbly offer my own book, The Ideal in the West, as a summer read.

Jun. 12 2012 09:34 AM
Anthony Lopez

I recommend Cassie Loves Beethoven by Alan Arkin. While reading it to my daughter, I can't help but laugh at the way this book about a talking cow reminds of why I love music, and Beethoven of course, so much.

Jun. 08 2012 10:14 PM
Dan from Connecticut

May I suggest 'The Savior' by violinist Eugene Drucker, a founding member of the Emerson String Quartet? It is a novel written around the theme of Bach's Chacone. wonderful

Jun. 08 2012 10:31 AM
Ralph from UWS

Sexy legs! When can we see the rest of her?

Jun. 07 2012 12:13 PM

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