The Concert Companion

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Corlyss_D
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The Concert Companion

Post by Corlyss_D » Sun Apr 10, 2005 7:05 pm

Old books on music, say from before the 1970s, seem to be very flat and unhelpful so I usually stay away from them. The other day I was in our local used bookstore, which is bigger than Second Story back in the DC metro area, and checking out their music section. I came across a volume of program notes, The Concert Companion, by Louis Biancolli and Robert Bagar. They used to write for the NYP, having come to that lofty post by the death of their predecessor, Pitts Sandborn, in 1941. The two unknown, downy-chinned youths stepped into the breach and produced notes for an astonishing range of composers and compositions.

The book is 868 pp. worth of analyses on composers from Tomas Luis de Victoria to Lukas Foss. Included are all the famous ones you could think of and the more obscure, like Emerson Whithorne, Givanni Battista Viotti, William Walton, William Grant Still, Wallingford Rieger (probably no relation to our very own Wallingford) Walter Piston, Daniel Gregory Mason, Bernard Hermann, Tikhon Khrennikoff, Arthur Foote, Nicholas Miaskovsky, Philip Heseltine, and many more.

Deems Taylor says in his intro, "As a reader of program notes I derive more pleasure from learning that So-and-So composed his third symphony while under the influence of hashish than from being told that the first theme is announced by two tubas and a viola d'amore." I would too, but that appears to be a fanciful construct intended to illustrate that the authors don't dwell on compositional details to the exclusion of interesting biographical information that all can relate to. That's very true. I read around in the book the other night and found it to be a terrific source of information and a great way to substitute for the rather poor quality of liner notes these days. And it's a pleasant way to become reacquainted with some of your old favorites. There is considerable material on Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Mozart, all the luminaries. Handel is underrepresented but with solid compositions, like an organ concerto and a concerto from Op. 6, as well as the Water Music and some pastiche by Sir Thomas Beecham called 'The Faithful Shepherd."

A couple of disappointments: there is no Monteverdi, or Dittersdorf.

I paid $13 for my copy to support a local bookseller. You can get it on www.bookfinder.com for $1. Cheap at twice the price.
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Post by Ralph » Sun Apr 10, 2005 10:29 pm

Funny, an Avery Fisher Hall usher I always chat with recommended this book to me last night. Actually, I think I have it...somewhere!
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Post by Ralph » Sun Apr 10, 2005 10:35 pm

Music books from before World War II are very interesting. I have several that describe Mahler as if he visited earth from a distant planet (don't tell me he did).
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Post by Corlyss_D » Sun Apr 10, 2005 11:29 pm

Ralph wrote:Music books from before World War II are very interesting. I have several that describe Mahler as if he visited earth from a distant planet (don't tell me he did).
That's nothing. I used to have a card to the DC Main library when I was a student at AU. The music collection there was voluminous, but nothing new. The books on famous composers published in WW1 had no, repeat no, Germans in them. It was unbelievable. There went half of music history.
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Post by Donald Isler » Sun Apr 10, 2005 11:44 pm

Around 1990 a cousin gave me the 1912 edition of Das Goldene Buch der Musik, from her late mother's collection. It included most of the prominent performers of that era. One of the people in the book still had an active career when I received it: Miecyzslaw Horzowski who, in 1990, gave his last piano recital at Carnegie Hall, at the tender age of almost 98!
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Post by Corlyss_D » Mon Apr 11, 2005 2:08 am

Donald Isler wrote: Miecyzslaw Horzowski who, in 1990, gave his last piano recital at Carnegie Hall, at the tender age of almost 98!
Since I just heard of him within the last 10 years, I had no idea his career started that early. Lance tipped me off to his Chopin's Nocturnes. A very nice set.
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Post by herman » Mon Apr 11, 2005 4:55 am

I am rather iffy about pre 1960 pop musicology. I have seen too many books in collections of aunts and uncles that were clearly inspired by the kind of nationalist thinking of the late-nineteenth and early twentieth century. And I believe I can still see traces of this way of thinking even today in the way young people on the internet point blank assume Mendelssohn was not as good a composer as Schubert or Beethoven because Mendelssohn had had an easy life (code for: son of monied Jews), or Tchaikovsky was too hysterical emotionally to write well-structured music (code for: gay Russian).

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Post by Guest » Mon Apr 11, 2005 6:55 am

Ralph wrote:Music books from before World War II are very interesting. I have several that describe Mahler as if he visited earth from a distant planet (don't tell me he did).
It might explain something.

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Post by Ralph » Mon Apr 11, 2005 7:22 am

Corlyss_D wrote:
Donald Isler wrote: Miecyzslaw Horzowski who, in 1990, gave his last piano recital at Carnegie Hall, at the tender age of almost 98!
Since I just heard of him within the last 10 years, I had no idea his career started that early. Lance tipped me off to his Chopin's Nocturnes. A very nice set.
*****

I attended his last recital at Carnegie Hall when he was 98 or 99. An amazing experience. I had a ticket for his 100th birthday recital there too but it was cancelled because of illness. He died soon after.
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Post by Donald Isler » Mon Apr 11, 2005 8:40 am

Horzowski probably had the longest career in classical music history, about 90 years. He was a child prodigy, made his debut before he was 10, and kept going till he was almost 100!
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Post by Wallingford » Mon Apr 11, 2005 8:35 pm

The Bagar-Biancolli volume was one of my early "bibles." Lots of richly descriptive stuff on the music itself, and seldom-told stories on the composers' lives.

But any of you DIE-HARD ROMANTICS who love reading extra-musical details into anything and everything ever written (a favorite pastime of Mahler's)........I heartily recommend the early-1900s volume "Great Works of Music" by Philip Goepp. THAT guy had a rich imagination--often to the point of unintentional hilarity.
If I could tell my mom and dad
That the things we never had
Never mattered we were always ok
Getting ready for Christmas day
--Paul Simon

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