Composers on Composers

Composers on Composers

Composers on Composers

Composers on Composers

Synopsis

This important compilation lends a new perspective to music criticism by gathering the comments of 85 well-known composers concerning the work of their peers. Encompassing all forms of commentary, from caustic attacks to perceptive criticism and praise, the book offers new insights into the development of music and its most important creators by collecting under each composer's name the remarks made about him by other composers.

Excerpt

Composers create worlds of their own, each of which is different from the world of every other composer. Often they are not sympathetic to the music of other composers, finding other styles and musical vocabularies incompatible with their own. A minority have the capacity to be objective and to stand back from their own and others' music and view it all in perspective. Some composers have been music critics at some stages of their lives, but music critics in general, be they composers or not, are not known for their lack of prejudice, especially to new music. It may be unfair to quote assessments of new compositions that composers are hearing for the first time; they are not immune from the general rule that first impressions of new music are usually misleading and that familiarity may reveal its merits.

Selecting the words of composers commenting on other people's music raises additional problems. Not all composers are especially articulate, and some are diffident in offering their opinions. Despite what I have written above, a few are surprisingly tolerant of others; at the other extreme, some condemn almost everything. One of the latter was Frederick Delius, who went so far as to condemn Mozart; Delius was perhaps the only composer, great or otherwise, who thought so little of the Austrian genius. Some composers lived for part of their lives with companions who recorded their every word and prompted them to offer their opinions about other composers and their music, as well as a variety of other subjects. Cosima Wagner's diaries are a constant source of amazement when we read of Richard Wagner's reaction to other music and musicians. Some of his comments are penetrating; others betray the most appalling prejudice. Stravinsky was well recorded by Robert Craft, who made something of an . . .

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