List of composer biographers

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LSAmadeus
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List of composer biographers

Post by LSAmadeus » Mon May 15, 2017 6:48 pm

I'm very interested in reading about the lives of the composers, but I have no idea who is an authority on each (David Brown for Tchaikovsky abd H. C. Robbins Landon for Haydn are the only ones I really know), and I was wondering If there's a list somewhere. Who writes best about Mozart, Chopin,Schubert etc. New or old.
'An artist must have the freedom to express himself' - Edward Weston
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John F
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Re: List of composer biographers

Post by John F » Tue May 16, 2017 3:31 am

I haven't seen such a list. Here are some well-researched, well-written biographies that refrain from psychoanalytic speculation and such, sticking to the facts and the composers' social and musical milieu.

There is no one-volume biography of Mozart that stands out. Gutman sometimes gets the facts wrong and both he and Solomon put Mozart on the psychoanalyst's couch. Stanley Sadie's biography of the early years (up to 1781) - he died before he could write about the last decade - and Volkmar Braunbehrens's "Mozart in Vienna 1781-1791" are excellent.

For years, Maynard Solomon's biography of Beethoven was the best choice, but its scholarship is now dated and I'd pick Lewis Lockwood's book about the life and music.

I recommend Brian Newbould's "Schubert: The Music and the Man," Malcolm McDonald on Brahms, Henri de la Grange on Mahler (3 enormous volumes), Harlow Robinson on Prokofiev, Laurel Fay on Shostakovich, Norman Del Mar on Richard Strauss (3 volumes), Julian Budden on Puccini, and Mary Jane Phillips-Matz on Verdi.

Of course there are many famous composers missing here. These are books on my shelves that I can personally recommend; others here can certainly add recommendations of their own.
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LSAmadeus
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Re: List of composer biographers

Post by LSAmadeus » Tue May 16, 2017 12:29 pm

Thanks John!
'An artist must have the freedom to express himself' - Edward Weston
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jbuck919
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Re: List of composer biographers

Post by jbuck919 » Wed May 24, 2017 5:03 pm

I have enjoyed John Eliot Gardiner's biography of Bach (arguably the first biography that is not an elaboration of the documentary evidence which we can read for ourselves in The Bach Reader), and Jan Swafford's biography of Brahms. Both suffer from the common problem of historical biographers in offering no real insight into the music itself beyond, again, an elaboration of the obvious, but IMO they are still important biographical documents, and good reading as well.

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