Biography

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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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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Great Masters: Mozart - His Life and Music

By Robert Greenberg

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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."

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Elgar

By Robert Anderson

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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.

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Chopin's Funeral

By Benita Eisler

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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.

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Charles Ives: A Life with Music

By Jan Swafford

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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.

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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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Who Was Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart?

By Yona Zeldis McDonough

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Born in Austria in 1756, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart composed his first piece of music, a minuet, when he was just five years old! Soon after, he was performing for kings and emperors. Although he died at the young age of thirty-five, Mozart left a legacy of more than 600 works. This fascinating biography charts the musician's extraordinary career and personal life while painting a vivid cultural history of eighteenth-century Europe. Black-and-white illustrations on every spread explore such topics as the history of opera and the evolution of musical instruments. There is also a timeline and a bibliography.

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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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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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