In presenting Composers of Yesterday -- a companion volume to Composers of Today, published two years ago -- the editor and publisher feel that a definite gap in musical literature has been filled.
Both the publisher and the editor have felt that the musical layman (whose number is increasing prodigiously with each year) was in need of a reference book on composers especially designed to satisfy his own particular needs. Composers of Yesterday has attempted to provide, in each of its sketches, such information as the average music-lover invariably desires about composers. The average music-lover is interested in copious biographical material, generously sprinkled with the spice of anecdotes; he is avid for a glimpse at the personality of the composer -- the man as distinguished from the artist. Finally, music-lovers are eager to know what leading critics of all time have said about the composer's major works, about the nature of his style, about his contribution to musical development and about his position in musical history. To satisfy such curiosity, the editor has combed the writings of leadings critics and biographers, has tapped all sources contemporary with each composer, has referred to all available material in books, magazines and newspapers and collated the most important information into these sketches. Thus each sketch is, for the most part, a synthesis of the leading critical thought available about each composer.
It was the original intention of the editor to make this volume the last word in comprehensiveness by including some three hundred and fifty composers, including many whose significance was only transitory. As the work on this book progressed, it became appallingly evident that -- if the book were not to expand to prohibitive size -- either the space devoted to each composer must be curtailed or else a number of the composers must be deleted from the table of contents. To abbreviate the sketches would have defeated the very purpose of this book. It would have been impossible to include all that information which musical laymen seek about an important composer, information which he is unable to find in other reference books. The editor, therefore, decided to eliminate the less significant composers from the book. None of these omissions, the editor is confident, will be seriously felt by the reader.
In selecting composers for inclusion in this volume, the editor has chosen either those whose work still affords aesthetic pleasure, or else those who have played so important a part in the development of the musical art that their names live on, even though their music does not. Each sketch was prepared with the intent of giving the reader a historical perspective; in this connection, the editor urges the reader to consult frequently the synthetic historical outline in the appendix.