Classical Music in America
Jeffrey Kahane's Picks
Artistic Advisor Jeffrey Kahane embarks on a lecture and reading series that examines the evolution of America’s authentic musical identity, one intricately entwined with European tradition and inspired by its own rich, musical heritage.
Inherit the TruthWritten by Anita Lasker-WallfischSynopsis
This is the story of the destruction of a talented Jewish family, and of the survival against all the odds of two young sisters. It is one of the most moving stories to emerge from the Second World War. Anita and her elder sister Renate defied death at the hands of the Gestapo and the SS over a period of two and a half years when they were sucked into the whirlpool of Nazi mass extermination, being first imprisoned as ‘criminals’ and then being transferred, separately, to Auschwitz, and finally to Belsen when the Russians approached. They were saved by their exceptional courage, determination and ingenuity, and by several improbable strokes of luck. At Auschwitz, Anita escaped annihilation through her talents as a cellist when she was co-opted into the camp orchestra directed by Alma Rosé, niece of Gustav Mahler.
Passionate Spirit The Life of Alma MahlerWritten by Cate HasteSynopsis
History has long vilified Alma Mahler. Critics accused her of distracting Gustav Mahler from his work, and her passionate love affairs shocked her peers. Drawing on Alma's vivid, sensual, and overlooked diaries, biographer Cate Haste recounts the untold and far more sympathetic story of this ambitious and talented woman. Though she dreamed of being the first woman to compose a famous opera, Alma was stifled by traditional social values. Eventually, she put her own dreams aside and wielded power and influence the only way she could, by supporting the art of more famous men. She worked alongside them and gained credit as their muse, commanding their love and demanding their respect. Passionate Spirit restores vibrant humanity to a woman time turned into a caricature, providing an important correction to a history where systemic sexism has long erased women of talent.
April 20, 2021
Dangerous MelodiesWritten by Jonathan RosenbergSynopsis
Dangerous Melodies vividly evokes a time when classical music stood at the center of twentieth-century American life, occupying a prominent place in the nation's culture and politics. The work of renowned conductors, instrumentalists, and singers―and the activities of orchestras and opera companies―were intertwined with momentous international events, especially the two world wars and the long Cold War.
Classical Music in AmericaWritten by Joseph HorowitzSynopsis
“An opinionated, stimulating account of how classical music failed to establish fruitful roots in America,” Classical Music in America chronicles “a cultural attitude that has produced many fine artists and striking moments―but no institutional or intellectual support to sustain them” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review).
“An admirable, scholarly volume” (Times Literary Supplement), this “formidable book ... shows how American classical music became a ‘performance culture,’ an ersatz-European showplace for celebrity virtuosos, rather than a native-born genre” (The New Yorker).
“As a comprehensive, convincing analysis of the contemporary dilemma” of reconciling European heritage with American vision “and a riveting portrait of the century and a half of events and personalities which brought it about, Mr Horowitz’s account would be hard to beat” (The Economist).
“Anyone seeking to understand why American classical music has come to so dead an end―and wondering how it might yet escape a final descent into cultural irrelevance―should read Classical Music in America with close attention” (Commentary).
The Rest is NoiseWritten by Alex RossSynopsis
In this sweeping and dramatic narrative, Alex Ross, music critic for The New Yorker, weaves together the histories of the twentieth century and its music, from Vienna before the First World War to Paris in the twenties; from Hitler's Germany and Stalin's Russia to downtown New York in the sixties and seventies up to the present. Taking readers into the labyrinth of modern style, Ross draws revelatory connections between the century's most influential composers and the wider culture. The Rest Is Noise is an astonishing history of the twentieth century as told through its music.
December 15, 2020
Nadia Boulanger A Life in MusicWritten by Leonie RosenstielSynopsis
A detailed, authoritative portrait of a commanding figure in twentieth-century music. Nadia Boulanger's life spanned nearly a century, and at her death she was still director of the American School of Music at Fontainebleau, which she helped found after World War I. Enormously influential, she taught many distinguished performers and composers among them Aaron Copland, Virgil Thomson, and Elliott Carter. She helped American music gain worldwide recognition. For this first full biography, Léonie Rosenstiel has drawn on papers and records to which Boulanger gave her unprecedented access and also on numerous interviews. The result is a rich portrait of an important woman of our time.
Clara Schumann The Artist and the WomanWritten by Nancy ReichSynopsis
This absorbing and award-winning biography tells the story of the tragedies and triumphs of Clara Wieck Schumann (1819-1896), a musician of remarkable achievements. Throughout, excerpts from diaries and letters in Reich's own translations clear up misconceptions about her life and achievements and her partnership with Robert Schumann. Highlighting aspects of Clara Schumann's personality and character that have been neglected by earlier biographers, this candid and eminently readable account adds appreciably to our understanding of a fascinating artist and woman.
January 19, 2021
New Worlds of DvořákWritten by Michael BeckermanSynopsis
Focusing on Dvorák's eventful stay in the United States from 1892 to 1895, this book explores the world behind the public legend, offering fresh insights into the composer's music. We see the traditional image—that of a simple Czech fellow with a flair for composing symphonic and chamber music—give way to one of a complex figure writing works filled with hidden drama and secret programs.
Dvořák in LoveWritten by Josef ŠkvoreckýSynopsis
In 1892, at the height of his prodigious powers, Anton Dvorák was persuaded to leave his native Bohemia to come to New York to be director of the National Conservatory for Music. This splendid novel tells the story of Dvorák's utterly requited love affair with America.
March 2, 2021
Wagnerism Art & Politics in the Shadow of MusicWritten by Alex RossSynopsis
In Wagnerism, Alex Ross restores the magnificent confusion of what it means to be a Wagnerian. A pandemonium of geniuses, madmen, charlatans, and prophets do battle over Wagner’s many-sided legacy. As readers of his brilliant articles for The New Yorker have come to expect, Ross ranges thrillingly across artistic disciplines, from the architecture of Louis Sullivan to the novels of Philip K. Dick, from the Zionist writings of Theodor Herzl to the civil-rights essays of W.E.B. Du Bois, from O Pioneers! to Apocalypse Now.
March 16, 2021
Artists in ExileWritten by Joseph HorowitzSynopsis
During the first half of the twentieth century - decades of war and revolution in Europe - an "intellectual migration" relocated thousands of artists and thinkers to the United States, including some of Europe's supreme performing artists, filmmakers, playwrights, and choreographers. For them, America proved to be both a strange and opportune destination. A "foreign homeland" (Thomas Mann), it would frustrate and confuse, yet afford a clarity of understanding unencumbered by native habits and bias. However inadvertently, the condition of cultural exile would promote acute inquiries into the American experience. What impact did these famous newcomers have on American culture, and how did America affect them?
May 18, 2021