The Music Men

Johann Sebastian Bach, the Learned Musician

By Christoph Wolff

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"A landmark biography of Bach on the 250th anniversary of the composer's death, written by the leading Bach scholar of our age. Although we have heard the music of J. S. Bach in countless performances and recordings, the composer himself still comes across only as an enigmatic figure in a single familiar portrait. Author Christoph Wolff presents a new picture that brings to life this towering figure of the Baroque era.

"This engaging new biography portrays Bach as the living, breathing, and sometimes imperfect human being that he was, while bringing to bear all the advances of the last half-century of Bach scholarship. Wolff demonstrates the intimate connection between the composer's life and his music, showing how Bach's superb inventiveness pervaded his career as musician, composer, performer, scholar, and teacher. And throughout, we see Bach in the broader context of his time: its institutions, traditions, and influences."

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Johannes Brahms: A Biography

By Jan Swafford

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"Johannes Brahms has consistently eluded his biographers. Throughout his life, he attempted to erase traces of himself, wanting his music to be his sole legacy. Now, in this masterful book, Jan Swafford, critically acclaimed as both biographer and composer, takes a fresh look at Brahms, giving us for the first time a fully realized portrait of the man who created the magnificent music. Brahms was a man with many friends and no intimates, who experienced triumphs few artists achieve in their lifetime. Yet he lived with a relentless loneliness and a growing fatalism about the future of music and the world.

"The Brahms that emerges from these pages is not the bearded eminence of previous biographies but rather a fascinating assemblage of contradictions. Brought up in poverty, he was forced to play the piano in the brothels of Hamburg, where he met with both mental and physical abuse. At the same time, he was the golden boy of his teachers, who found themselves in awe of a stupendous talent: a miraculous young composer and pianist, poised between the emotionalism of the Romantics and the rigors of the composers he worshipped--Bach, Mozart, Beethoven. In 1853, Robert Schumann proclaimed the twenty-year-old Brahms the savior of German music.

"Brahms spent the rest of his days trying to live up to that prophecy, ever fearful of proving unworthy of his musical inheritance. We find here more of Brahms's words, his daily life and joys and sorrows, than in any other biography. With novelistic grace, Swafford shows us a warm-blooded but guarded genius who hid behind jokes and prickliness, rudeness and intractability with his friends as well as his enemies, but who was also a witty drinking companion and a consummate careerist skillfully courting the powerful."

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Leonard Bernstein

By Humphrey Burton

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Composer, pianist, author, television lecturer, Harvard lecturer, cultural icon and conductor without peer, Leonard Bernstein was one of the most flamboyant and multifaceted musical giants of the twentieth century. His versatility and boundless energy were legendary. He captivated Broadway with such hits as On the Town and West Side Story, wrested and cajoled out of the world's best orchestras the most inspired performances ever heard, and introduced several generations of Americans to classical music with his "Omnibus" and Young People's Concerts television shows. This detailed and in-depth biography brings to life this controversial and contradictory figure.

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Life of Rossini

By Stendhal

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"The only reality in music is the state of mind which it induces in the listener."
Stendhal published this biography of Rossini in 1824. It isn't very useful as biography, but that wasn't Stendhal's purpose. It was a vehicle for lively, but unreliable gossip about the Italian music scene. It is propaganda to inject some life into the French opera by encouraging the production of Rossini and other Italian composers in Paris and to free the French opera houses from government control. Stendhal's recommendations were followed: first Rossini was brought to Paris, and after the 1830 revolution the Paris Opera was handed over to an independent impresario. This marked the beginning of the blossoming of French opera. This edition is the 1970 translation by Richard N. Coe.

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Longing

By J.D. Landis

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The Romantic era was the cradle for artists who lived life to the fullest and loved without restraint, and Robert Schumann and his wife, Clara, were the epitome of this unbounded period. Robert shocked and confused listeners with music that heralded the beginning of the modern era while he drove both his mind and his body to their limit. Clara was the most acclaimed female pianist of her time--a time that included Liszt, Chopin, Mendelssohn, and later, Brahms, whom Clara and Robert loved more than any other man. With characters of surpassing vitality, Longing delineates the most intimate details of the relationships between men and women with a surpassing precision, sympathy, and wisdom.

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Mozart

By Peter Gay

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"The greatest mind in Western music, by a National Book Award-winning writer on culture and psychology.

"Mozart's unshakable hold on the public's fascination can only be strengthened by the historian and biographer Peter Gay's bold, new perspective. His passionate and painstaking research reveals truths more fascinating than the myths that have long shrouded the maestro's life. Here is the archetypal child prodigy whose genius triumphed over early precociousness, and who later broke away from a loving but tyrannical father to pursue his vision unhampered.

"Peter Gay's Mozart traces the legendary development of the man whose life was a whirlwind of achievement, and the composer who pushed every instrument to its limit and every genre--especially opera--into new realms. More than an engrossing biography, this is a meditation on the nature of genius and, for any music lover, a trove of new critical insights."

Also available as an audiobook.

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Mozart: A Cultural Biography

By Robert Gutman

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"This major work places Mozart's life and music in the context of the intellectual, political, and artistic currents of eighteenth-century Europe. Even as he delves into philosophic and aesthetic questions, Robert Gutman keeps in sight, clearly and firmly, the composer and his works. He discusses the major genres in which Mozart worked--chamber music; liturgical, theater, and keyboard compositions; concerto; symphony; opera; and oratorio. All of these riches unfold within the framework of the composer's brief but remarkable life. With Gutman's informed and sensitive handling, Mozart emerges in a light more luminous than in previous renderings. The composer was an affectionate and generous man to family and friends, self-deprecating, witty, winsome, but also an austere moralist, incisive and purposeful. Mozart is both an extraordinary portrait of a man in his time and a brilliant distillation of musical thought."



 

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Puccini: His International Art

By Michele Girardi

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Puccini's operas are among the most popular and widely performed in the world, yet few books have examined his body of work from an analytical perspective. This volume remedies that lack in lively prose accessible to scholars and opera enthusiasts alike. Although the emphasis is on the compositions there is a full examination of Puccini's life, family, musical influences and society.

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Richard Wagner: The Man, His Mind, and His Music

By Robert W. Gutman

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The turbulent personal and professional life of the musical genius Richard Wagneris a subject that has intrigued many writers. In this biography, Robert W. Gutman has related Wagner's life and work to the history of ideas and the many currents of thought that converged in this fascinating man. Wagner's art reflected the finest and worse elements of the nineteenth century, many of which exercised a fateful influence on our own times. This book examines the darker regions of nationalism and racism from which Wagner drew his most powerful symbols.

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Rossini

By David Mountfield

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This small book has a companion compact disc recording of Rossini's most popular compositions. This is a good introduction to the composer of The Barber of Seville and William Tell. Included are a listing of Rossini's complete works and a list of recommended recordings.

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