Magazine article Strings

A Technicolor Tale

Magazine article Strings

A Technicolor Tale

Article excerpt

A Technicolor Tale American Muse: The Life and Times of William Schuman by Joseph W. Polisi. Amadeus Press, $32.95.

Juilliard president maps the fascinating life of composer William Schuman

THE BEGINNING OF WILLIAM SCHUMAN'S LIFE sounds no different frdm that of many American boys: Schuman's parents were immigrants, he grew up in the Bronx, loved baseball, and enjoyed spending summers at camp. In his teen years, he was known as a prankster and crooner, and dated too many girls to count.

Where this tale turns from ordinary to extraordinary is at a New York Philharmonic matinee performance at Carnegie hall, which Schuman attended at the age of 19. The playbill included Arturo Toscanini conducting works by Richard Wagner, Zoltán Kodály, and Robert Schumann. The event transformed Schuman. The charismatic performance and the professionalism of the group impressed him deeply. He would later recount, "I was astounded at seeing the sea of stringed instruments, and everybody bowing together. The very next day, I decided to become a composer."

This "epiphany," as author Joseph W. Polisi writes in American Muse: The Life and Times of William Schuman, is what propelled Schuman into the world of classical music. The pieces of Schuman's life that follow are compelling: Schuman's rather late start as a musician and composer, coupled with his independence and desire to strike out on his own creatively, often meant his works met a cool reception at premiere, but this did little to deter Schuman. …

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