Magazine article Musical Opinion

The Lives and Times of the Great Composers

Magazine article Musical Opinion

The Lives and Times of the Great Composers

Article excerpt

The Lives and Times of the Great Composers by Michael Steen Icon Books 984 pages softback Illustrated [£12:99] ISBN 978-1848-31 13-5-0

The amateur music-lover can often acquire a detailed knowledge of a composer and his music which far outshines that of the professional or scholar, and if he has a gift with words, he can put it into a language, which the layman can easily grasp, facts and occasionally figures that illuminate the subject in a manner which the dry-as-dust academic or humanities professor will never grasp.

But such enthusiasm brings certain inherent dangers in that a person, anxious to acquire knowledge of a subject, will encounter someone who knows more than he does, and therefore assumes that that person's greater knowledge constitutes all one needs to know.

This book is a remarkable achievement: broadly speaking, it relates the details of the lives of most major European classical composers over a roughly 300-year period from the 168Os (births of JS Bach and Handel) to the 1970s (deaths of Shostakovich and Britten), and does so in an eminently readable manner. The selection is personal, and, frankly, amateurish in the best sense, and whilst outlining most of the accepted facts concerning the lives and times of these men, nothing in the last 40 years is touched upon, and one looks in vain for any insight into the music. The musidan may find it extraordinary, for example, to read the seven pages devoted to Shostakovich's life without once encountering a mention of any of the composer's 15 string quartets, and to say that 'Elgar still fails to get much support outside Great Britain' in a book published in a year wherein Elgar's Violin Concerto will receive well over 100 performances world-wide is downright nonsense. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.