Recently in Books
Opera in the British Isles might seem a rather sparse subject in the period 1875 to 1918. Notoriously described as the land without music, even the revival of the native tradition of composers did not include a strong vein of opera.
Heldentenor Jay Hunter Morris tells us about the lean times when the phone did not ring, as well as those thrilling moments when companies entrusted him with the most important roles in opera.
Commonly viewed as a ‘second-rate’ composer — a European radical persecuted by the Nazis whose trans-Atlantic emigration represented a sell-out to an inferior American popular culture —
Although part of a series entitled Cambridge Introductions to Music, Robert Cannon’s wide-ranging, imaginative and thought-provoking survey of opera is certainly not a ‘beginners’ guide’.
Those of us of a certain age have fond memories of James Melton, who entertained our parents starting in the 1930s and the rest of us in the 1940s and beyond on recordings, the radio, and films.
An important new book on Italo Montemezzi sheds light on his opera Nave. The author/editor is David Chandler whose books on Alfredo Catalani have done so much to restore interest in the genre.
Assumptions about later Italian opera are dominated by Puccini, but Alfredo Catalani, born in the same town and almost at the same time, was highly regarded by their contemporaries. Two new books on Catalani could change our perceptions.
I was feeling cowed by Herr Engels. The four of us had retired from the Stravinsky performance to a Billy Wilder-themed bar in Berlin, the least horrible late-night option in the high end mediocrity of Potsdamer Platz.
This substantial book is one of the latest in the Ashgate series of
collected essays in opera studies and draws together articles from a disparate
group of scholarly journals and collected volumes, some recent, some now
difficult to locate.
Vincent Giroud’s valuable new French Opera, a Short History, is in hand and very welcome it is.
The noted operatic impresario and stage director, Lotfi Mansouri, with the professional help of writer Donald Arthur, has issued his memoirs under the title Lotfi Mansouri: An Operatic Journey.
Originally published in German as Herrin des Hügels, das Leben der Cosima Wagner (Siedler, 2007), this new book by Oliver Hilmes is an engaging portrait of one of the most important women in music during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Robert Stuart Thomson’s Italian language learning text, Operatic Italian, promises to become an invaluable textbook for aspiring operatic singers, voice teachers, coaches and conductors.
Ralph Locke’s recent book on Musical Exoticism is both an historical survey of aspects of the exotic in Western musical culture and a discussion of paradigms of the exotic and their relevance for musicological understanding.
Readers may recognize the author of this book, David J. Buch, a specialist on the origins of the libretto to Mozart’s Magic Flute.
Perhaps it will be enough to tell you that I wasn’t halfway through this book before I searched the web for a copy of Professor Ewans’s study of Wagner and Aeschylus’s Oresteia, and ordered it forthwith: It has to be good.
Chinese bass Hao Jiang Tian was 30, when he enrolled as an undergraduate at the University of Denver 1983.
Two excellent books on opera have come to hand, providing many hours of entertaining reading. I combine notice of them with a few thoughts about composer Paul Moravec’s CDs, and his forthcoming opera premiere at Santa Fe Opera in 2009.
Claudio Monteverdi. Il Ritorno d’Ulisse in patria. Edited by Rinaldo Alessandrini. Urtext. Kassel: Bärenreiter, 2007. BA 8791. A vocal score is available as 8791a.
Published in 2007, Riccardo primo, Re d’Inghilterra (HWV 23) and Tolomeo, Re d’Egitto (HWV 25) mark two of the latest installments of vocal-score editions of Handel’s operas based upon Bärenreiter’s Urtext editions.
17 Jun 2006
HURWITZ: Exploring Haydn—A Listener’s Guide to Music’s Boldest Innovator
The world of J.S. Haydn is one gravely underappreciated and undervalued. He never earned the right to a 1980’s bio pic like Mozart or was appreciated and saluted in pop culture through early rock n’ roll like
Even on a scholarly level Haydn’s music is passed over in
favor of who and what he inspired, innovated and crafted. His personal life
never caught the attention of the public as he was probably never prone to
smashing mirrors in local palaces either.
The elemental importance of Haydn’s music and artistry is brought to
the forefront in David Hurwitz’s new book, “Exploring Haydn: A
Listener’s Guide to Music’s Boldest Innovator”. Hurwitz
mentions early on how Haydn is commonly ignored. He notes that his music
holds many keys to one’s understanding of the immensity of
Haydn’s influence on classical music that followed shortly after his
time up through to today.
Though this book is more than a mere protest to prove how much Haydn was
the father of the symphony. Instead, like Hurwitz’s other
‘Unlocking The Masters’ books, it scintillates in description and
delves into the inner workings of not only Haydn’s music but the
importance of his innovations at the time, his creativity and how these both
carry on through to today.
Ultimately, the passion for the process in which Haydn composed and how
the music developed over time and how the listener should hear these hidden
masterpieces is the crux of Hurwitz’s book. The author’s goal is
to show the novice or beginner music fan what one can expect from engaging in
Haydn’s music. He takes apart each piece and examines it carefully and
skillfully. Truly, by listening to either one of the accompanying compact
discs then reading along with Hurwitz, a new level of perception and
understanding music is presented to the zealous listener. His descriptions
are useful to the unacquainted ear and he opens a new dimension of listening
appreciation. Hurwitz is able to described the music without completely
patronizing the reader into submission. With the knowledge one can cull from
this book, anyone will not feel stifled by Hurwitz’s writing. If
anything he promotes the usage of the reader’s imagination.
An inundated listener is taken on a pragmatic journey through the wild,
colorful and often humorous realm of Haydn. Movements from symphonies and
string quartets from various eras of the composer’s life and career are
highlighted and poured over and dissected with a refreshingly friendly
scholarly flair. Along the way, the music novice is given biographical
information on the master composer. The music is discussed along with the
development and evolution of Haydn’s compositions which give the reader
a well rounded look into the creative process.
This book is a nearly infallible piece of work for the inexperienced and
for those eager to learn more not only about Haydn, but also about music
itself. It falls short only when it attempts to simplify certain matters. For
example, when explaining the difference between major and minor we are left
with an almost exasperating conclusion of: “major=happy,
minor=sad”. Surely there is a middle ground for one to stray far from
the philosophical and bloated writings of say a Theodore Adorno and yet not
have to simply too far in the other direction..
However, these are merely picayune side notes rather than a weighty
complaint. This book may not find it’s way into the hearts of the
cognoscenti, but should serve its justice more fittingly in the class rooms
of high school students on down. With the aid of this book many may find that
there isn’t so much mystery to understanding music but the joy in
discovery as Mr. Hurwitz shows. The overall experience of “Exploring
Haydn” is one that educates with skill, patience and devotion; it
wishes nothing more but for the reader to love and appreciate this underrated
composer as much as the author.