The Music Men

Howard Pollack

"A candid and fascinating portrait of the American composer. The son of Russian-Jewish immigrants, Aaron Copland (1900-1990) became one of America's most beloved and esteemed composers. His work, which includes Fanfare for the Common Man, A Lincoln Portrait, and Appalachian Spring, has been honored by a huge following of devoted listeners. But the full richness of Copland's life and accomplishments has never, until now, been documented or understood. Howard Pollack's meticulously researched and engrossing biography explores the symphony of Copland's life..."

Humphrey Carpenter

The author has used Britten's diaries, letters and manuscripts to construct this full-scale biography of the great English composer. The book concentrates on Britten's personal triumphs and struggles - his long "marriage" to tenor Peter Pears, the production and successes of his major works, his frequent depression and self-doubt, and his dangerously close friendships with young boys.

David Cairns
"This biography of composer Hector Berlioz (1803-1869) describes with unprecedented intimacy, affection, and respect the life of one of France's greatest artists. After long being regarded as an oddity and an eccentric figure, Berlioz is now being accepted into the ranks of the great composers. Based on a wealth of previously unpublished sources, and on a profound understanding of the humanity of his subject, David Cairns's book provides a full account of this extraordinary and powerfully attractive man. Berlioz, Volume I, previously published only in Britain, is now available to American readers in a revised edition, together with the eagerly awaited, new Volume II. These two volumes together comprise a monumental biographical achievement, sure to stand as the definitive Berlioz biography.

"In researching Berlioz's life, Cairns has had access to unpublished family papers, and in Volume I he is able to portray all the people close to Berlioz in his boyhood, and to evoke a detailed picture of their lives in and around La Cte St.-Andr in the foothills of the French Alps. No artist's achievement connects more directly with early experience than that of Berlioz, whose passionate sensibility began to absorb the material of his art long before he had heard any musical ensemble other than the local town band. Volume I also traces the student years in Paris and Italy and discusses Berlioz's three great love affairs, shedding remarkable light on his later character and development. Volume I ends on the afternoon of December 9, 1832, the day of the concert that launched the composer's career."

John Edward Hasse

No one led a band like Duke Ellington, no one led a life like Duke Ellington, and no one wrote music like Duke Ellington. One of the greatest artists of the twentieth century, Ellington was acclaimed in his lifetime as a bandleader, but this biography explores his skill as a composer and musical "problem-solver." The author also guides the reader through the bewildering array of Ellington recordings, selecting and commenting on the most essential ones from each period of Ellington's career.

Jan Swafford

An illuminating portrait of a man whose innovative works profoundly influenced the course of twentieth-century American classical music. Jan Swafford's colorful biography first unfolds in Ives's Connecticut hometown of Danbury, then follows Ives to Yale and on to his years in New York, where he began his double career as composer and insurance executive. The Charles Ives that emerges from Swafford's story is a precocious, well-trained musician, a brilliant if mercurial thinker about art and life, and an experimenter in the spirit of Edison and the Wright brothers.

Benita Eisler

At twenty-one, Chopin fled Russian-occupied Poland for exile in France. He would never see his native country again. With only two public concerts in as many years, he became a star of Parisian society and a legendary performer at its salons, revered by his great contemporaries Schumann, Liszt, and the painter Eugène Delacroix. Blessed with genius, success, and the love of Europe’s most famous—and infamous—woman novelist, George Sand, Chopin’s years of triumph ended with his expulsion from paradise: less than two decades after his conquest of Paris, the composer lay destitute and dying in the arms of Sand’s estranged daughter, Solange. Chopin’s Funeral is the story of this fatal fall from grace, of an Oedipal tragedy unfolding, and of illness and loss redeemed by the radical breakthrough of the composer’s last style. This love story is revisited (not completely accurately) in the film Impromptu, starring Hugh Grant and Judy Davis.

Alice Hunt Sokoloff
Cosima was a child of the passionate and stormy union between Franz Liszt and Marie d'Agoult. She married her father's brilliant pupil Hans von Bulow, but her husband's devotion to the "master" he idolized, Richard Wagner, led Cosima to a great passion for Wagner. Scandel and divorce followed, but it was as Cosima Wagner that her life found fulfilment. She gave Wagner the total devotion that he needed, making possible the completion of the Ring cycle of operas and the realization of his dream that became Bayreuth.
The author was a student of Alexander Siloti who was a pupil of Liszt.
Robert Anderson

Drawing on diaries, correspondence, and musical manuscripts, this book captures the complex personality of the great English composer Edward Elgar, tracing the preoccupations that bind together his life and works and describing the society and culture of his day. Elgar expressed a heartfelt religious faith in works such as the oratorio The Dream of Gerontius. He was an inveterate lovers of riddle and codes; his famous "Enigma Variations" puzzle musicologists to this day. His uncomplicated patriotism inspired him to honor the military greatness of England with the famous set of concert marches Pomp and Circumstance.

Charles Schwartz

This is the biography of George Gershwin, the man who gave America some of our most loved music. It is the story of a man obsessed. His need to create music led to hundreds of hit songs that are still popular, the opera "Porgy and Bess" and such Broadway hit musicals as "Strike Up the Band" and "Lady Be Good." Yet Gershwin, the composer of such concert pieces as "Rhapsody in Blue' and "An America in Paris," was never quite satisfied with his accomplishments, and never quite felt that he had realized his musical goals. This restlessnes and dissatifaction ruled his personal life as well. This is the story of a man who tragically died at the age of 38, just as he approached the full maturity of his creative gifts.

Robert Greenberg

One of the Great Courses series of recorded lectures, this is a biographical and musical study of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791), who composed more than 600 works of beauty and brilliance in just over 20 years. Mozart combined the pure lyricism of song with dramatic timing, depth of expression, and a technical mastery of the complexities of phrase structure and harmony to create a body of work unique in the repertoire. His personal life has generated nearly as much interest. Was Mozart the horse-laughing idiot of theater and cinema? Was he borderline autistic or musical freak? And how did he really die? Professor Robert Greenberg of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music states that,"The goal of these lectures is to show Mozart to be a person: a talented, hard-working, ambitious man who had friends and enemies and whose music was subject to criticism in his own day."

Christoph Wolff
"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."

Jan Swafford
"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."

Humphrey Burton

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.


"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.

J.D. Landis

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.

Peter Gay

"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.

Robert Gutman

"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."


Michele Girardi

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.

Robert W. Gutman

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.

David Mountfield

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.

Harlow Robinson

The prolific creator of such classic popular works as Romeo and Juliet, Peter and the Wolf, and Cinderella, Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953) was one of the most important and influential composers of the twentieth century. In this definitive biography of Prokofiev, Harlow Robinson provides a richly detailed portrait of a man whose complex character, like his music, combined the traditional and the contemporary in odd and unexpected ways. Drawing on previously unknown or unavailable Russian-language sources, including extensive archival material, Robinson traces Prokofiev's extraordinary life from the fairy-tale world of Czarist Russia, through his many years abroad in America and Europe, to his perplexing permanent return to Moscow in 1936 under the Soviet Regime. That Prokofiev died on the very day as Josef Stalin, his principal persecutor, was the final irony of his intense and enigmatic career.

Robert Craft

Robert Craft was Stravinsky's closest friend during the last twenty-three years of the composer's life. He kept detailed diaries which provide a glimpse of Stravinsky's life, work and social circle. The greats of twentieth century music, art and literature make appearances throughout this book as they interact with the great musical innovator.
Also available as an eBook.

Christopher H. Gibbs

"Franz Schubert's tragically short life was lived in one of Europe's most richly musical cities: a Vienna that worshipped Beethoven and where Rossini and Paganini drew crowds. Christopher Gibbs considers how and what Schubert composed, taking a fresh look at this misunderstood composer, particularly the unfolding of his professional career, his relationship to Beethoven, the growth of his reputation and public image and his darker side of drinking, depression and sexual ambiguity. This searching and sympathetic biography questions the customary sentimental clichés and the recent revisionist views concerning this elusive genius."

Mary Jane Phillips-Matz

Verdi was one of the greatest, the most successful, and the longest-lived of all composers. Written with the full cooperation of the Verdi family and drawing on a wide range of sources, this is an authoritative re-examination of a long, vigorous and productive life. The book captures Verdi's tremendous energy, creativity, Italian nationalism and philanthropy and offers insight into the complexities involoved in the composition and production of opera.