composers

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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Beyond Category: The Life and Genius of Duke Ellington

By John Edward Hasse

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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.

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Berlioz

By David Cairns

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"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."

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Mozart's Women: His Family, His Friends, His Music

By Jane Glover

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"Throughout his life, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was enchanted, amused, aroused, and betrayed by women—his mother, sister, wife, sisters-in-law, female patrons, friends, lovers, and fellow artists—and he was equally complex to them. But ultimately the great composer loved and respected the women he knew intimately and those whom he admired from afar. In this fascinating, evocative, and compellingly readable biography, Jane Glover, acclaimed conductor and acknowledged expert on Mozart's life and work, brings these remarkable ladies vividly to life—the real women who shared the composer's tumultuous world and inspired some of his greatest musical achievements, as well as those he dramatized in his magnificent operas."

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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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Wagner: The Man and His Music

By John Culshaw

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It took Wagner more than half of his lifetime to come to terms with his genius, but that struggle and the consequent outpourings of his mature works took an absolute precedence over everything else. He changed the language of music in a way that has no parallel in history.

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Verdi: A Biography

By Mary Jane Phillips-Matz

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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.

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