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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

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

  • BYHWP

    When Words Fail (Paperback)

    Ed Vulliamy

    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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  • BYARH

    Passionate Spirit (Hardback)

    Cate Haste

    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 Drawing extensively on hitherto unpublished diaries and letters, Cate Haste illuminates the passionate spirit of one of history's most complex and charismatic muses, a modern woman with an elemental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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  • BXYFW

    The Lark Ascending (Hardback)

    Richard King (Events organise

    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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  • BXVHP

    Music in Elizabethan Court Politics (Paperback)

    Katherine Butler, BSc MBBCh

    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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  • BXVHO

    The Music of James MacMillan (Hardback)

    Phillip A. Cooke

    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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  • BWUNZ

    Fritz Reiner, Maestro and Martinet (Paperback)

    Kenneth Morgan

    This award-winning book, now available in paperback, is the first solid appraisal of the legendary career of the eminent Hungarian-born conductor Fritz Reiner (1888-1963). Personally enigmatic and often described as difficult to work with, he was nevertheless renowned for the dynamic galvanization of the orchestras he led, a nearly unrivaled technical ability, and high professional standards. Reiner's influence in the United States began in the early 1920s and lasted until his death. Reiner was also deeply committed to serious music in American life, especially through the promotion of new scores. In Fritz Reiner, Maestro and Martinet, Kenneth Morgan paints a very real portrait of a man who was both his own worst enemy and one of the true titans of his profession.
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  • BWSOH

    Handel (Paperback)

    Donald Burrows

    Handel is one of the most remarkable figures in the history of western music. His compositions form one of the peaks of creative achievement in the Baroque period, and cover a remarkable range: full-scale Italian operas and English oratorios (including Messiah), but also shorter works such as the Water Music and the Coronation Anthem Zadok the Priest. His compositional processes were often complex, but could result in accessible and memorable 'hit tunes', such as the aria that subsequently became famous as 'Handel's Largo'. His life and career were as remarkable as his music. Born in Germany to a family that reputedly tried to discourage his initial interest in music, he broke away to seek his fortune in Italian opera, and proceeded to gain first-hand experience of the latest Italian styles in Rome, Florence, Venice and Naples. A series of career moves brought him via Hanover to London, where he eventually settled and dominated the city's musical life for half a century. There he quickly made his mark in English church music as well as Italian opera, and eventually created two new musical genres - English theatre oratorio and the organ concerto. Handel is important also because, as a musician, he also became a significant public figure. In Rome he attracted the patronage of princes and cardinals; soon after his arrival in London he appeared at the court of Queen Anne, and he subsequently enjoyed substantial support from the 'Hanoverian' royal family. He survived turbulent periods in the musical and political life of London, reached a wider public through publications of his music, died a rich man and was buried in Westminster Abbey. This biography provides a comprehensive and balanced account of both the man and his music, drawing on the unusually rich legacy of documentary and musical sources from Handel's lifetime. This new edition of a book that has been recognized as a 'classic' biography of Handel, reliable on the factual details of the composer's life and comprehensive in the coverage of his music, incorporates a great deal of new material. The last half century has seen a great renewal of research on the circumstances of Handel's life, and a major expansion in performances and recordings of his music. The book brings together the results of this scholarly activity, and is informed by wide experience of modern performances of Handel's music, including the revival of his operas and experimentation with 'authentic' performance practices.
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  • BWHUR

    Michael Tippett (Hardback)

    Oliver Soden

    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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  • BWDFP

    The Italian Cantata in Vienna (Hardback)

    Lawrence Bennett

    Lawrence Bennett provides a comprehensive study of the rich repertoire of accompanied vocal chamber music that entertained the imperial family in Vienna and their guests throughout the 17th and early 18th centuries. The cantata became a form of elite entertainment composed to amuse listeners during banquets or pay homage to members of the royal family during special occasions. Concentrating on Baroque cantatas composed in the Habsburg court, Bennett draws extensively on primary source material to explore the stylistic changes that occurred within the genre in the generations before Haydn and Mozart.
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  • BUBOT

    Souvenir (from Colette) (Other)

    Thomas Ades

    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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  • BTOLS

    The Rite of Spring (Hardback)

    Gillian Moore

    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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  • BTDZX

    Conversations with Rossini (Hardback)

    Ferdinand Hiller

    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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  • BSXXF

    Music Lessons (Hardback)

    Pierre Boulez

    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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  • BSIKH

    Johann Sebastian Bach (Hardback)

    Andrew Gant

    Part One: The History (What do we know?) This brief historical introduction to Bach explores the social, political and religious factors that formed the original context of his life and work, and considers how those factors affected the way he was initially received. What was his impact on the world at the time and what were the key ideas and values connected with him? Part Two: The Legacy (Why does it matter?) This second part explores the intellectual and cultural `afterlife' of Bach, and considers the ways in which his impact has lasted and how his music has been interpreted by later generations. Why is he still considered important today? And what aspects of his legacy are likely to continue to influence the world in the future? The book has a brief chronology at the front plus a glossary of key terms and a list of further reading at the back.
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  • BRYKO

    The Silent Musician (Hardback)

    Mark Wigglesworth

    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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  • BROZG

    Ocean of Sound (Paperback)

    David Toop

    David Toop's extraordinary work of sonic history travels from the rainforests of Amazonas to the megalopolis of Tokyo via the work of artists as diverse as Brian Eno, Sun Ra, Erik Satie, Kate Bush, Kraftwerk and Brian Wilson. Beginning in 1889 at the Paris exposition when Debussy first heard Javanese music performed, Ocean of Sound channels the competing instincts of 20th century music into an exhilarating, path-breaking account of ambient sound. 'A meditation on the development of modern music, there's no single term that is adequate to describe what Toop has accomplished here ... mixing interviews, criticism, history, and memory, Toop moves seamlessly between sounds, styles, genres, and eras' Pitchfork's '60 Favourite Music Books'
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  • BRNGN

    Carter (Hardback)

    David Schiff

    Elliott Carter (1908-2012) was the foremost composer of classical music in America during the second half of the 20th century. Over the course of a career that spanned seven decades, he consistently produced works that critics hailed as creatively daring, intellectually demanding, and emotionally complex. Distancing himself from the various "schools" and movements that grew and waned in popularity during the postwar era, Carter cultivated a deeply personal musical style that he developed and refined up until the very end of his life. This book springs from author David Schiff's life-long interest in Elliott Carter's music and his close personal connection with the composer which spanned over forty years. This critical overview of Carter's life and work explores aspects of the composer's life about which he was usually reticent-and occasionally misleading-such as his complicated relationships with Charles Ives, Aaron Copland, Nicolas Nabokov, and his own parents. Schiff's study of Carter's complete oeuvre-from his politically charged Depression-era ballets to the deeply personal and reflective late works-is based on extensive study of the composer's personal sketches and letters. Featuring an in-depth look at the legacy project of Carter's final decade, seven settings of American modernist poetry by E.E. Cummings, T.S. Eliot, Marianne Moore, Ezra Pound, Wallace Stevens and William Carlos Williams, this newest addition to the Master Musicians Series paints with a fine brush the story of America's foremost composer of the second half of the twentieth century.
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  • BRIVY

    Handel in London (Hardback)

    Jane Glover

    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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  • BRHXR

    Schumann (Hardback)

    Judith Chernaik

    Schumann: The Faces and the Masks is a groundbreaking account of a major composer whose life and works have been the subject of intense controversy ever since his attempted suicide and early death in an insane asylum. Schumann was a key figure in the Romanticism which swept Europe and America in the 19th century, inspiring writers, musicians and painters, delighting their enthralled audiences, and reaching to the furthest corners of the world. All the contradictions of his age enter Schumann's works, from the fantastic disguises of his carnival masquerades and his passionate love songs to his great 'Spring' and 'Rhenish' Symphonies. He was intensely original and imaginative, but he also worshipped the past-especially Shakespeare and Byron, Raphael and Michelangelo, Beethoven and Bach. He believed in political, personal and artistic freedom but struggled with the constraints of artistic form. He turned his tumultuous life into music that speaks directly to the heart, losing none of its power with the passage of time. Drawing on hitherto unpublished archive material, Chernaik sheds new light on Schumann's life and music, his sexual escapades, his fathering of an illegitimate child, the true facts behind his courtship of his wife Clara and the opposition of her monstrous father, and the ways in which the crises of his life, his dreams and fantasies, entered his music. Schumann's troubled relations with his fellow-Romantic composers Mendelssohn and Chopin are freshly explored, and the full medical diary kept at Endenich Asylum, long withheld, enables Chernaik to solve the mystery of Schumann's final illness. Using her wide experience as a scholar of Romanticism and a novelist, Chernaik vividly brings Schumann's world and his extraordinary artistic achievement to life in all its rich complexity.
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  • BQXKH

    Tchaikovsky (Hardback)

    John Suchet

    Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's life - and premature death - has long been mythologised and misunderstood. John Suchet draws back the curtain to show us the real man behind the music. A shy, emotional child, Tchaikovsky came late to composing as a career. Doubting himself at every turn and keenly wounded by criticism, he went on to become one of the world's best-loved composers. Yet behind the success lay sadness: the death of his mother haunted him all his life, while his incessant attempts to suppress his homosexuality took a huge toll. From his disastrous marriage to his extraordinary relationship with his female patron, his many amorous liaisons and his devotion to friends and family, Suchet shows us how the complexity of Tchaikovsky's emotional life plays out in his music. Long hidden behind sanitised depictions by his brother and the Russian authorities, Tchaikovsky: The Man Revealed examines the complex and contradictory character of this great artist, and how he came to take his rightful place among the world's greatest composers.
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  • BQXKD

    When Words Fail (Hardback)

    Ed Vulliamy

    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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  • BQIRL

    Twentieth-Century Classical Music (Hardback)

    Fiona Maddocks

    Part of the new Ladybird Expert series, Twentieth-Century Classical Music is an accessible, authoritative, and entertaining introduction to the Western classical music that captured the defining moments of the contemporary world. Written by The Observer's classical music critic Fiona Maddocks, Twentieth-Century Classical Music will take you on an acoustic journey through history with a curated playlist on each page. Early in the century, Schoenberg pioneered musical experiments which turned old traditions on their head. Then Stravinsky's sensational Rite of Spring, written on the eve of WWI dramatically altered the course of all classical music that followed. From the influence of the jazz age and the sounds of cities, the nationalism of folk revival, Russian revolutions from the Bolsheviks to Stalin, to the fall of the Berlin Wall, you'll learn how Western composers painted with a new orchestral palette to capture the sentiments of their time. Written by the leading lights and most outstanding communicators in their fields, the Ladybird Expert books provide clear, accessible and authoritative introductions to subjects drawn from science, history and culture. For an adult readership, the Ladybird Expert series is produced in the same iconic small hardback format pioneered by the original Ladybirds. Each beautifully illustrated book features the first new illustrations produced in the original Ladybird style for nearly forty years.
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  • BNGIH

    Luther's Liturgical Music (Paperback)

    Robin A. Leaver

    Martin Luther's relationship to music has been largely downplayed, yet music played a vital role in Luther's life -- and he in turn had a deep and lasting effect on Christian hymnody. In Luther's Liturgical Music Robin Leaver comprehensively explores these connections. Replete with tables, figures, and musical examples, this volume is the most extensive study on Luther and music ever published. Leaver's work makes a formidable contribution to Reformation studies, but worship leaders, musicians, and others will also find it an invaluable, very readable resource.
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  • BKMBR

    Beethoven's Cello: Five Revolutionary Sonatas and Their World (Hardback)

    Marc D. Moskovitz

    In 1796 the young Beethoven presented his first two cello sonatas at the court of Frederick William II, an avid cellist and the reigning Prussian monarch. Released in print the next year, these revolutionary sonatas forever altered the cello repertoire by fundamentally redefining the relationship between the cello and the piano and promoting their parity. Beethoven continued to develop the potential of the duo partnership in his three other cello sonatas - the lyrical and heroic Op. 69 and the two experimental sonatas Op. 102, No. 1 and No. 2, transcendent compositions conceived on the threshold of the composer's late style. In Beethoven's Cello, Marc D. Moskovitz and R. Larry Todd examine these seminal cornerstones of the cello repertoire and place them within their historical and cultural context. Also addressed are the three variation sets and, in a series of interludes, the cellos owned by Beethoven, the changing nature of his pianos, the cello-centric 'Triple' Concerto and the arrangements for cello and piano of other works. Featuring a preface by renowned cellist Steven Isserlis and concluding with translated reviews of the composer's cello music published during his lifetime, Beethoven's Cello is the ideal companion for cellists, pianists, musicologists and chamber-music devotees desiring a comprehensive understanding of this beloved repertoire.BR> MARC D. MOSKOVITZ is principal cellist of the ProMusica Chamber Orchestra. He has recorded the music of virtuoso cellists David Popper and Alfredo Piatti for the VAI label, and his American premiere of Zemlinsky's Cello Sonata was heralded by the Washington Post as 'an impassioned performance'. Moskovitz has contributed to the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, and his biography, Alexander Zemlinsky: A Lyric Symphony was published by Boydell & Brewer in 2010. Recognized as 'Mendelssohn's most authoritative biographer' (The New Yorker), R. LARRY TODD is Arts and Sciences Professor at Duke University. He is the author of Mendelssohn: A Life in Music, named Best Biography in 2003 by the Association of American Publishers, and Fanny Hensel: The Other Mendelssohn, awarded the ASCAP Nicholas Slonimsky Award for outstanding biography in music. As a pianist, he has recorded with Nancy Green the complete cello works of Mendelssohn and Fanny Hensel for JRI Recordings.
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