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Our range of the best music history books cover the musical legends of our time and the history of genres and instruments.

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History of Music

  • My Dearest Father

    Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

    Product Code: AZTQN
    Paperback
    'They wanted me to give a concert; I wanted them to beg me. And so they did. I gave a concert.' A selection of personal correspondence between Mozart and his most important mentor and supporter, his father. Introducing Little Black Classics: 80 books for Penguin's 80th birthday. Little Black Classics celebrate the huge range and diversity of Penguin Classics, with books from around the world and across many centuries. They take us from a balloon ride over Victorian London to a garden of blossom in Japan, from Tierra del Fuego to 16th-century California and the Russian steppe. Here are stories lyrical and savage; poems epic and intimate; essays satirical and inspirational; and ideas that have shaped the lives of millions. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791). Mozart's work available in Penguin Classics is Mozart: A Life In Letters.
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  • The Music of James MacMillan

    Phillip A. Cooke

    Product Code: BXVHO
    Hardback
    James MacMillan appeals across the spectrum of contemporary music making and is particularly celebrated for his orchestral, operatic and choral pieces. This book, published in time to mark the composer's sixtieth birthday, is the first in-depth look at his life, work and aesthetic. From his beginnings in rural Ayrshire and his early work with Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, through the international breakthrough success of The Confession of Isobel Gowdie, the continuing success of works such as the percussion concerto Veni, Veni, Emmaneul and his choral pieces, to his current position as one of the most prominent British composers of his generation, the book explores MacMillan's compositional influences over time. It looks closely at his most significant works and sets them in a wider context defined by contemporary composition, culture and the arts in general. The book also considers MacMillan's strong Catholic faith and how this has influenced his work, along with his politics and his on-going relationship with Scottish nationalism. With the support of the composer and his publisher and unprecedented access to interviews and previously unpublished materials, the book not only provides an appraisal of MacMillan's work but also insights into what it means to be a prominent composer and artist in the twenty-first century. PHILLIP A. COOKE is a Composer and Senior Lecturer and Head of Music at the University of Aberdeen. He has previously co-edited The Music of Herbert Howells for Boydell.
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  • My Dearest Father

    Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

    Product Code: AZVCU
    Paperback
    'They wanted me to give a concert; I wanted them to beg me. And so they did. I gave a concert.' A selection of personal correspondence between Mozart and his most important mentor and supporter, his father. Introducing Little Black Classics: 80 books for Penguin's 80th birthday. Little Black Classics celebrate the huge range and diversity of Penguin Classics, with books from around the world and across many centuries. They take us from a balloon ride over Victorian London to a garden of blossom in Japan, from Tierra del Fuego to 16th-century California and the Russian steppe. Here are stories lyrical and savage; poems epic and intimate; essays satirical and inspirational; and ideas that have shaped the lives of millions. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791). Mozart's work available in Penguin Classics is Mozart: A Life In Letters.
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  • Eccentric Melody

    Oliver Knussen

    Product Code: CCIMN
    Other
    Oliver Knussen's concise and effervescent Eccentric Melody occupies a small but important place in the solo cello repertoire, and would enliven any recital. Composed as a double tribute - for cellist Fred Sherry, in his 50th birthday year, to play to Elliott Carter on his 90th birthday - the 2-minute work is presented here in manuscript facsimile.
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  • O Hototogisu!

    Oliver Knussen

    Product Code: CCGFW
    Other
    O Hototogisu! is presented here as a typeset score with two facsimile pages from the composer's manuscript. This exquisite 'fragment of a Japonisme' - premiered in 2017 and conceived as a kind of double concerto for soprano, flute and ensemble of 23 players - proved to be Oliver Knussen's final work. The 8-minute piece couches seven exquisite haiku settings in richly evocative music which incorporates signals from Japanese theatre (particularly Kabuki). It concerns the Hototogisu (or Lesser Cuckoo), a bird widely invoked in Japanese haiku poetry of the 17th-19th centuries, where the poet listens for its arrival from the mountains both as a harbinger of summer and a voice from the land of the dead.
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  • Speakings

    Jonathan Harvey

    Product Code: CCDRL
    Other
    Speakings for large orchestra and electronics is undoubtably one of Jonathan Harvey's most important and ambitious works. Composed in 2008, it utilises a unique process of electronic transformation developed at IRCAM to explore the possibility that an orchestra could be made to 'speak'. Winner of the prestigious Monaco Prize, the 25-minute work belongs to a fascinating clutch of works composed around the time of Harvey's final opera, Wagner Dream, which contain musical allusions to Wagner, in this case Parsifal. Unfolding over three continuous movements, the music moves from the babbling of a baby and the frenetic chatter of human life in all its expressions, to music of unity, a hymn which is close to Gregorian chant in which, in Harvey's words 'the paradise of the sounding temple is imagined'. Typeset, and with input from Gilbert Nouno who collaborated with Harvey on the electronic element, this long-awaited new edition makes this stunning piece even more accessible to conductors and enthusiasts.
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  • Foreground Music

    Graham Duff

    Product Code: CBZSS
    Paperback
    A chronicle of a lifetime's passion for gig-going, by one of British television's most respected writers. "Foreground Music is an absolute gem. Charming, very funny and often achingly melancholy, Graham Duff's memoir is suffused with a genuine passion for live music and its (occasionally eccentric) power. -Mark Gatiss The result of a lifetime's passion for gig-going by one of British television's most respected writers, Foreground Music is at once enthusiastically detailed and tremendously illuminating-of both the concert moment and its place in popular culture. It is an engaging memoir of a life lived to the fullest, and a vivid, insightful, and humorous exploration of what music writing might be. Foreground Music describes music performances that range from a Cliff Richard gospel concert, attended by Duff at the age of ten, to the fourteen-year-old Duff's first rock show, where the Jam played so loudly he blacks out, to a Joy Division gig that erupted into a full-scale riot. Duff goes on pub crawls with Mark E. Smith of the Fall, convinces Paul Weller to undertake his first acting role, and attempts to interview Genesis P. Orridge of Throbbing Gristle while tripping on LSD. Foreground Music captures the energy and power of life-changing gigs, while tracing the evolution of forty years of musical movements and subcultures. But more than that, it's an honest, touching, and very funny story of friendship, love, creativity, and mortality, and a testimony to music's ability to inspire and heal. Illustrated with photographs and ephemera from the author's private collection.
  • The Renaissance

    John D Wright

    Product Code: CAZKI
    Hardback
    Think of the Renaissance and you might only picture the work of fine artists such as Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo and Van Eyck. Or architecture could spring to mind and you might think of St Peter's in Rome and the Doge's Palace in Venice. Or you might consider scientists like Galileo and Copernicus. But then let's not forget the contribution of thinkers like Machiavelli, Thomas More or Erasmus. Someone else, though, might plump for music or poets and dramatists - after all, there was Dante and Shakespeare. Because when it comes to the Renaissance, there's an embarrassment of riches to choose from. From art to architecture, music to literature, science to medicine, political thought to religion, The Renaissance expertly guides the reader through the cultural and intellectual flowering that Europe witnessed from the 14th to the 17th centuries. Ranging from the origins of the Renaissance in medieval Florence to the Counter- Reformation, the book explains how a revival in the study in Antiquity was able to flourish across the Italian states, before spreading to Iberia and north across Europe. Nimbly moving from perspective in paintings to Copernicus's understanding of the Universe, from Martin Luther's challenge to the Roman Catholic Church to the foundations of modern school education, The Renaissance is a highly accessible and colourful journey along the cultural contours of Europe from the Late Middle Ages to the early modern period.
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  • Freak Like Me

    Malcolm McLean

    Product Code: CAWIB
    Paperback
    In nineties small-town Surrey, watching Top of the Pops was Malcolm's only escape from boredom and the bullies at school... until a phone call from a pop star changed his life forever. Before long, he was getting compliments from Beyonce, hanging out at award ceremonies with Posh Spice's mum and sneaking onto All Saints' tour bus. Freak Like Me is the true story of one teenage pop fan who, with a group of like-minded outcasts, witnesses the disposable music industry of the late nineties and early noughties first-hand. Tracking down A-lister itineraries, he gets to meet the real personalities behind the Smash Hits posters adorning his bedroom walls. This hilarious memoir is packed with scandalous gossip and poignant memories from the era of Nokia 3310s and dial-up Internet, when chart positions meant everything and, if you wanted to know what your idols were up to off-screen, you had to track them down yourself!
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  • Delius As I Knew Him

    Eric Fenby

    Product Code: BZTQJ
    Hardback
    This is a new edition of Eric Fenby's famous book which has not been available in authorised form for some years. It is a memoir of the last six years of the composer's life when Fenby, then a young organist from Scarborough, volunteered to live in Grez-sur-Loing to help the blind and partly paralysed Delius to continue to compose. The vivid account of the painful and exasperating process whereby Fenby was able to help Delius commit to paper such great works as Songs of Farewell and A Song of Summer is unforgettable. Equally gripping is the description of life in the strange household in which Frederick and Jelka Delius received visitors such as Balfour Gardiner, Roger Quilter, Philip Heseltine, Percy Grainger, Thomas Beecham and Elgar. Delius died in 1934 and Eric Fenby heeded Ernest Newman's advice not to wait but to write down his impressions at once. This he did and Delius As I Knew Him was published in 1936. In 1968 the book inspired Ken Russell's masterly film about the composer Song of Summer. In 1980, Delius and Fenby made an appearance in the song Delius by Kate Bush and subsequently their extraordinary story has influenced other artists too. Today Delius As I Knew Him remains one of the most remarkable books about a composer ever written.
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  • Summertime

    Richard Crawford (University o

    Product Code: BZRCL
    Hardback
    George Gershwin blossomed as an accompanist before his talent as a songwriter opened the way to Broadway where he fashioned his own brand of American music. He composed a run of musical comedies, with his brother Ira as lyricist, and several classical works while he became a favoured guest in New York social circles. His 1924 Rhapsody in Blue was an instant classic rooted in his absorption of African American music. A decade later came Porgy and Bess, his magnum opus. The brothers left New York to write songs for Hollywood-but their work was cut short when George developed a brain tumour and died at thirty-eight. Richard Crawford traces the arc of Gershwin's remarkable life, seamlessly blending colourful anecdotes with a discussion of Gershwin's unforgettable oeuvre.
  • The Silent Musician

    Mark Wigglesworth

    Product Code: BZMVC
    Paperback
    A conductor is one of classical music's most recognisable but misunderstood figures, attracting so many questions: 'Surely orchestras can play perfectly well without you? ' 'Do you really make any difference to the performance?' 'Are the musicians even watching you?' The Silent Musician is not a manual for conductors, nor a history of conducting. It is for all who wonder what conductors actually do, and why they matter.
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  • Handel in London

    Jane Glover

    Product Code: BZHRI
    Paperback
    'How refreshing, to read a book about music written for a music lover and not a musicologist. In clear, lucid, entertaining prose, Jane Glover makes those of us who lack musical literacy better understand and appreciate Handel's divinity.' - Donna Leon, author of Handel's Bestiary and the Inspector Brunetti mysteries. Handel in London tells the story of a young German composer who in 1712, followed his princely master to London and would remain there for the rest of his life. That master would become King George II and the composer was George Frideric Handel. Handel, then still only twenty-seven and largely self-taught, would be at the heart of musical activity in London for the next four decades, composing masterpiece after masterpiece, whether the glorious coronation anthem, Zadok the Priest, operas such as Giulio Cesare, Rinaldo and Alcina or the great oratorios, culminating, of course, in Messiah. Here, Jane Glover, who has conducted Handel's work in opera houses and concert halls throughout the world, draws on her profound understanding of music and musicians to tell Handel's story. It is a story of music-making and musicianship, of practices and practicalities, but also of courts and cabals, of theatrical rivalries and of eighteenth-century society. It is also, of course, the story of some of the most remarkable music ever written, music that has been played and sung, and loved, in this country - and throughout the world - for three hundred years.
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  • Korngold and His World

    Daniel Goldmark

    Product Code: BZGJP
    Paperback
    A brand-new look at the life and music of renowned composer Erich Wolfgang Korngold Erich Wolfgang Korngold (1897-1957) was the last compositional prodigy to emerge from the Austro-German tradition of Mozart and Mendelssohn. He was lauded in his youth by everyone from Mahler to Puccini and his auspicious career in the early 1900s spanned chamber music, opera, and musical theater. Today, he is best known for his Hollywood film scores, composed between 1935 and 1947. From his prewar operas in Vienna to his pathbreaking contributions to American film, Korngold and His World provides a substantial reassessment of Korngold's life and accomplishments. Korngold struggled to reconcile the musical language of his Viennese upbringing with American popular song and cinema, and was forced to adapt to a new life after wartime emigration to Hollywood. This collection examines Korngold's operas and film scores, the critical reception of his music, and his place in the milieus of both the Old and New Worlds. The volume also features numerous historical documents-many previously unpublished and in first-ever English translations-including essays by the composer as well as memoirs by his wife, Luzi Korngold, and his father, the renowned music critic Julius Korngold. The contributors are Leon Botstein, David Brodbeck, Bryan Gilliam, Daniel Goldmark, Lily Hirsch, Kevin Karnes, Sherry Lee, Neil Lerner, Sadie Menicanin, Ben Winters, Amy Wlodarski, and Charles Youmans. Bard Music Festival 2019 Korngold and His World Bard College August 9-11 and 16-18, 2019
  • Passionate Spirit

    Cate Haste

    Product Code: BYARH
    Hardback
    The life of an extraordinary artist and intellect: the composer, author and socialite Alma Mahler, whose life spanned one of the most captivating and dramatic periods in history Born into the dying days of the Habsburg Empire, Alma Mahler was at the epicentre of fin de siecle Vienna's artistic and intellectual life. A talented composer in her own right, she was open, generous, remarkably creative, curious, challenging and zealous in her pursuit of love. Artists, architects, musicians and writers jostled to join her coterie. Gustav Mahler was her first husband; Gustav Klimt her first kiss. The great men who were drawn into Alma's wake would be indelibly touched by her power and brilliance: from her second husband Walter Gropius, founder of the Bauhaus and modernist architecture, to the Expressionist painter Oskar Kokoschka and her last husband, writer Franz Werfel. But her life was inflected by tragedy, and the love, support and inspiration that Alma gave to the men she loved came at the heavy price of her own artistic fulfilment. As the turmoil of her century uprooted her from her homeland and she fled Austria first for occupied France and then America, it would be her love of music alone that sustained her through a series of great losses. Drawing extensively on hitherto unpublished diaries and letters, Cate Haste illuminates the passionate spirit of one of history's most complex and charismatic muses, a modern woman with an elemental vitality that could scarcely be contained by her century - who will live forever in the art she created and inspired.
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  • When Words Fail

    Ed Vulliamy

    Product Code: BYHWP
    Paperback
    Can music make the world a better place? Can it really 'belong' to anyone? Can the magic, mystery and incertitude of music - of the human brain meeting or making sound - can it stop wars, rehabilitate the broken, unite, educate or inspire? From Jimi Hendrix playing 'Machine Gun' at The Isle of Wight Festival in 1970 to the Bataclan under siege in 2015, Ed Vulliamy has lived the music, met the legends, and asked, when words fail, might we turn to music? There's only one way to find out, and that is to listen...
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  • The Lark Ascending

    Richard King (Events organise

    Product Code: BXYFW
    Hardback
    The Lark Ascending, Ralph Vaughan Williams' 'pastoral romance for orchestra' was premiered on 14 June, 1921. Over the course of the twentieth century this piece of music, perhaps more than any other, worked its way into the collective consciousness to seemingly define a mythical concept of the English countryside: babbling brooks, skylarks, hayricks. But the birth and legacy of the composition are much more complex than this simplified pastoral vision suggests. The landscape we celebrate as unsullied and ripe with mystique is a living, working, and occasionally rancorous environment - not an unaffected idyll - that forged a nation's musical personality, and its dissenting traditions. On a chronological journey that takes him from postwar poets and artists to the late twentieth century and the free party scene which emerged from acid house and travelling communities, Richard King explores how Britain's history and identity has been shaped by the mysterious relationship between music and nature. From the far west of Wales to the Thames Estuary and the Suffolk shoreline, taking in Brian Eno, Kate Bush, Boards of Canada, Dylan Thomas, Gavin Bryars, Greenham Common and The Kinder Scout Mass Trespass, The Lark Ascending listens to the land and the music that emerged from it, to chart a new and surprising course through a familiar landscape.
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  • Music in Elizabethan Court Politics

    Katherine Butler, BSc MBBCh

    Product Code: BXVHP
    Paperback
    Queen Elizabeth I (1558-1603) had a strong reputation for musicality; her court musicians, Thomas Tallis and William Byrd, even suggested that music was indispensable to the state. But what roles did music play in Elizabethan court politics? How did a musical image assist the Queen in projecting her royal authority? What influence did her private performances have on her courtships, diplomatic affairs, and relationships with courtiers? To what extent did Elizabeth control court music, or could others appropriate performances to enhance their own status and achieve their ambitions? Could noblemen, civic leaders, or even musicians take advantage of Elizabeth's love of music to present their complaints and petitions in song? This book unravels the connotations surrounding Elizabeth's musical image and traces the political roles of music at the Elizabethan court. It scrutinizes the most intimate performances within the Privy Chamber, analyses the masques and plays performed in the palaces, and explores the grandest musical pageantry of tournaments, civic entries, and royal progresses. This reveals how music served as a valuable means for both the tactful influencing of policies and patronage, and the construction of political identities and relationships. In the late Tudor period music was simultaneously a tool of authority for the monarch and an instrument of persuasion for the nobility. Katherine Butler is a researcher and tutor at the University of Oxford.
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  • Michael Tippett

    Oliver Soden

    Product Code: BWHUR
    Hardback
    The music of the British composer Michael Tippett - including the oratorio A Child of Our Time, five operas, and four symphonies - is among the most visionary of the twentieth century. But little has been written about his extraordinary life. In this long-awaited first biography, Oliver Soden weaves a century-spanning narrative of epic scope and penetrating insight. Soden has discovered troves of unpublished letters and manuscripts, and recorded moving interviews with Tippett's friends and colleagues. He paints a portrait of a powerful intellect and infectious personality: charming, stubborn, and great fun. But he also uncovers the sorrows and secrets that Tippett stowed away beneath his cheerfulness, not least the darker reaches of some tempestuous and often tragic love affairs. Soden's achievement is to have enriched our understanding not only of Tippett but of his times. Figures such as T.S. Eliot, E.M. Forster, Barbara Hepworth, and W.H. Auden jostle in the cast list. An Edwardian world of gaslight and empire cedes to turmoil and warfare; one startling revelation is the extent of Tippett's involvement in the fiery left-wing politics of the 1930s. The narrative roves from the mining villages of the north, blighted by unemployment, to a cell at Wormwood Scrubs, where Tippett was imprisoned as a conscientious objector. Later chapters uncover his operas' game-changing attitudes to gay and civil rights, against a backdrop of the Cold War and the Space Race. And singing from the page comes the music, through which Soden charts an exquisitely written course, offering lucid readings of Tippett's most famous works while resuscitating forgotten masterpieces. The result is a landmark in the study of twentieth-century culture, simultaneously an astonishing feat of scholarship and a story as enthralling as in any great novel.
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  • Souvenir (from Colette)

    Thomas Ades

    Product Code: BUBOT
    Other
    Thomas Ades composed the score for the 2019 film Colette starring Keira Knightley and Dominic West, which is based on the life of the French novelist Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette. The film explores her fight for creative ownership and resistance to the societal constraints of the early 20th century. This solo piano piece appears in the end credits, played by the composer himself, and appears as the track "Colette" on the soundtrack album.
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  • The Rite of Spring

    Gillian Moore

    Product Code: BTOLS
    Hardback
    On 29 May 1913, at the Theatre des Champs-Elysees in Paris, a new ballet by Diaghilev's Ballets Russes, choreographed by Vaslav Nijinsky, received its premiere. Many of the cultural big names of Paris were there, or were rumoured to have been there: Debussy, Ravel, Proust, Gertrude Stein, Picasso. When the curtain rose on a cast of frenziedly stamping dancers, a near-riot ensued, ensuring the evening would enter the folklore of modernism. While it was the dancing that triggered the mayhem, Stravinsky's score contained shocks enough, with its innovations in form, rhythm, dissonance and its sheer sonic power. The Rite of Spring would achieve recognition in its own right as a concert piece, and is now seen as one of the most influential works of the 20th century. Gillian Moore explores the cultural climate that created The Rite, tells the story of the creation of the music and the ballet and provides a guide to the music itself, showing how a scandalous novelty of 1913 became a 21st-century concert staple. As well as considering its influence on 20th-century classical composers, she probes The Rite's impact on film music (including scores for Star Wars and Jaws); its extensive influence on jazz musicians (including Charlie Parker) and by artists as diverse as Weather Report, Joni Mitchell, Frank Zappa and The Pet Shop Boys.
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  • Conversations with Rossini

    Ferdinand Hiller

    Product Code: BTDZX
    Hardback
    The conversations the 63-year-old Rossini had with Ferdinand Hiller in Trouville in Normandy in September 1855, and the finely drafted impression of Rossini himself with which Hiller prefaces the conversations, will be of exceptional interest to all music lovers. No other single source offers so vivid a sense of Rossini the man and the musician, not to mention the many composers, performers, and people of influence he knew and met. This is the first complete publication of the conversations in English.
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  • Music Lessons

    Pierre Boulez

    Product Code: BSXXF
    Hardback
    Pierre Boulez was appointed to the College de France in 1976, with the chair devoted to 'Invention, technique and language in Music', and he held his position until 1995. The publication of his extraordinary College de France lectures, his most significant writings from the 1970s to the 1990s, will make a major contribution to the discussion in English about Boulez's aesthetic legacy. His goal in Lecons de musique is to express his conception of musical language, laid out over the course of nearly twenty years of lecturing. He is thinking about the possible paths musical thought could take, as well as the musical legacy of the past In addition to composers, music historians, theorists, and music students, this book will be invaluable to those interested in the history and aesthetics of 20th century music, musical manifestations of artistic modernism, the history of ideas, and French intellectual and cultural history. Faber have been Pierre Boulez's publisher since 1986 - previous books include Orientations, Boulez on Music Today and Boulez on Conducting. 'Boulez's achievements in changing every part of the fabric of classical musical culture all over the world are indelible.' Tom Service, Guardian
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  • The Silent Musician

    Mark Wigglesworth

    Product Code: BRYKO
    Hardback
    A conductor is one of classical music's most recognizable figures. Many people who have never actually been to an orchestral concert have an image of what one looks like. But rarely does such a well-known profession attract so many questions: 'Surely orchestras can play perfectly well without you? Do you really make any difference to the performance?' This book is not intended to be an instruction manual for conductors, nor is it a history of conducting. It is for all who wonder what conductors actually do. Exploring the relationships with the musicians and music they conduct, and the public and personal responsibilities they face, leading conductor Mark Wigglesworth writes with engaging honesty about the role for any music lover curious to know whether or not the profession really matters.

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