Classical Music

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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What to Listen for in Mozart

By Robert Harris

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"The essential introduction to Mozart and the pleasures of classical music in a witty, exuberant style to match Mozart's own. What to Listen For in Mozart reveals the essence of Mozart's music as well as his tumultuous life and times, examining his achievements within the aristocratic society of the late 1700's, a society hovering on the brink of revolution, and the details of his career and tragic death, shunned and destitute at the age of thirty-five."

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The Lives and Times of the Great Composers

By Michael Steen

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A grand and panoramic biograhical history of the giants of classical music, The Lives and Times of Great Composers is a new, unique, and lovingly constructed modern reference--and a beguiling read which you will return to again and again. Interlinked yet self-contained, each chapter distills the life of one or more composers, set against the social, political, musical, and cultural background of the time. Read the story of Bach, the respectable burgher, much of whose vast output was composed amidst petty turf disputes in Luteran Leipzig; or the ugly, argumentative Beethoven, obsessed by his laundry; or Mozart, the over-exploited infant prodigy whose untimely death was shrouded in rumor; or the ghastly death of Donizetti and Smetana.

Read about Verdi, who composed against the background of the Italian Risorgimento, or about the family life of the Wagners; and Brahms, who rose from the slums of Hamburg to become a devotee of beer and coffee in fin-de-siecle Vienna, a cultural capital bent on destroying Mahler. Michael Steen paints a vivid portrait of the tumultuous times in which these brilliant, yet flawed, human beings labored--a tour of 350 years of European history.

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The Compleat Mozart: A Guide to the Musical Works of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

By Neal Zaslaw with William Cowdery, editors

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In assembling and editing this collection of essays, it was Mozart specialist Neal Zaslaw's wish to share with a broad audience some of the enjoyment and sense of discovery he has experienced in studying, teaching, writing about, and performing Mozart's music. In particular, this book will have served a worthy purpose if it encourages the reader to explore some of the riches to be discovered when one ventures off the straight and narrow path represented by the fewer than one hundred Mozart works found in the regular concert and opera repertory today.

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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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Tosca

By Giacomo Puccini

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"Floria Tosca, a beautiful opera diva, tries to save her lover’s life by giving herself to the dreaded chief of police, Baron Scarpia. The situation turns deadly, and even Scarpia’s murder may not stop his diabolical plan."
(Washington National Opera)

Available on CD in our collection.

 

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Porgy and Bess

By George Gershwin

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In this legendary Gershwin opera set among the black residents of a fishing village in 1912 South Carolina, Bess - a woman with a disreputable history - tries to break free from her brutish lover Crown after he becomes wanted for murder. The only person willing to overlook her past and offer her shelter is the crippled Porgy. Their relationship is threatened by the disapproval of the townspeople, the presence of her old drug supplier Sportin' Life - and the threatened return of Crown.

Available on DVD and CD.

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Otello

By Giuseppe Verdi

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In 15th-century Cyprus, beautiful Desdemona is married to Otello, the Commander of the Venetian Army. Old officer Iago is plotting against Otello and his lieutenant Cassio. By planting Desdemona's handkerchief on Cassio, manipulative Iago convinces Otello of his wife's infidelity.

Available on VHS and CD in our collection.

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Madama Butterfly

By Giacomo Puccini

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An American Naval officer buys a young Japanese wife. When he leaves to rejoin his ship, she waits patiently for him for three years with the young son she has since had. His eventual return with his new American wife leads to the Japanese girl's suicide.

Available in DVD, VHS, and CD formats.

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