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Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
The Lives of the Great Composers / Edition 3

The Lives of the Great Composers / Edition 3

by Harold C. SchonbergHarold C. Schonberg


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An updated and expanded edition of this perennial favorite, tracing the line of composers from Monteverdi to the tonalists of the 1990s.

In this new edition, Harold Schonberg offers music lovers a series of fascinating biographical chapters. Music, the author contends, is a continually evolving art, and all geniuses, unique as they are, were influenced by their predecessors. Schonberg discusses the lives and works of the foremost figures in classical music, among them Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, the Schumanns, Copland, and Stravinsky, weaving a fabric rich in detail and anecdote. He also includes the creators of light music, such as Gilbert and Sullivan and the Strausses.

Schonberg has extended the volume's coverage to provide informative and clearly written descriptions of the later serialists such as Stockhausen and Carter, the iconoclastic John Cage, the individualistic Messiaen, minimalist composers, the new tonalists, and women composers of all eras, including Mendelssohn Hensel, Chaminade, Smyth, Beach, and Zwilich. Scattered throughout are many changes and additions reflecting musicological findings of the past fifteen years.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780393038576
Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 04/17/1997
Edition description: Subsequent
Pages: 656
Sales rank: 189,111
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.40(h) x 1.80(d)

About the Author

Harold C. Schonberg, senior New York Times music critic for twenty years, was the first in his field to be awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism (1971). He is the author of many articles and eight books, including one on chess. Schonberg lives in New York City.

Table of Contents


Pioneer of Opera: Claudio Monteverdi
2. Transfiguration of theBaroque: Johann Sebastian Bach
3. Composer and Impresario: George Frideric Handel
4. Reformer of Opera: Christoph Willibald Gluck
5. Classicism par excellence: Joseph Haydn
6. Prodigy from Salzburg: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
7. Revolutionary from Bonn: Ludwig van Beethoven
8. Poet of Music: Franz Schubert
9. Freedom and a New Language: Weber and the Early Romantics
10. Romantic Exuberance and Classic Restraint: Hector Berlioz
11. Florestan and Eusebius: Robert Schumann
12. Apotheosis of the Piano: Frederic Chopin
13. Virtuoso, Charlatan - and Prophet: Franz Liszt
14. Bourgeois Genius: Felix Mendelssohn
15. Voice, Voice, and More Voice: Rossini, Donizetti, Bellini
16. Spectacle, Spectacle, and More Spectacle: Meyerbeer, Cherubini, Auber
17. Colossus of Italy: Giuseppe Verdi
18. Colossus of Germany: Richard Wagner
19. Keeper of the Flame: Johannes Brahms
20. Master of the Lied: Hugo Wolf
21. Waltz, Can-Can, and Satire: Strauss, Offenbach, Sullivan
22. Faust and French Opera: From Gounod to Saint-Saens
23. Russian Nationalism and the Mighty Five: From Glinka to Rimsky-Korsakov
24. Surcharged Emotionalism: Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
25. From Bohemia to Spain: European Nationalists
26. Chromaticism and Sensibilite: From Franck to Faure
27. Only for the Theater: Giacomo Puccini
28. Romanticism's Long Coda: Richard Strauss
29. Religion, Mysticism, and Retrospection: Bruckner, Mahler, Reger
30. Symbolism and Impressionism: Claude Debussy
31. Gallic Elegance and the New Breed: Maurice Ravel and Les Six
32. The Chameleon: Igor Stravinsky
33. The English Renaissance: Elgar, Delius, Vaughan Williams
34. Mysticism and Melancholy: Scriabin and Rachmaninoff
35. Under the Soviets: Prokofiev and Shostakovich
36. German Neoclassicism: Busoni, Weill, Hindemith
37. Rise of an American Tradition: From Gottschalk to Copland
38. The Uncompromising Hungarian: Bela Bartok
39. The Second Viennese School: Schoenberg, Berg, Webern
40. The International Serial Movement: From Varese to Messiaen
41. The New Eclecticism: From Carter to the Minimalists General Bibliography Index

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The Lives of the Great Composers 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Venantius on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I rarely read biography, especially biographies of writers and other artists. I assume anything worth knowing about them is in their art, that the source of their creativity is a different self from the person the artists¿ friends and family and public know. Also, artists are notoriously mistaken about themselves. You could even say they know themselves less well than does the average person who would no more think of writing a poem or a symphony than s/he would sign up to take a trip to the moon. Notorious bigots, if they happen to be good writers, create sympathetic characters whom by right they should be portraying in the worst light. Think Anthony Trollope¿s MP in The Way We Live Now. And walking saints can produce pap and cant. But not always. Chekhov was saintly in some ways, and no one has matched him as a short story writer.And then there¿s the question of biography being just another form of fiction, or at least being as much about the author of the biography as about the subject.Even so, I overcame my aversion, made an exception, as it were, for Harold C. Schonberg¿s The Lives of the Great Composers and then for his The Lives of the Great Pianists. The reason is my schoolboy-like adoration of classical musicians. I know what neurotic jerks writers usually are (I¿m one myself¿a writer, I mean). But I put great composers and their interpreters high up on pedestals¿or did until I read Mr. Schonberg¿s books.This ¿lives of¿ genre, of course, started with the medieval Lives of the Saints, and continued in the Renaissance with Vasari¿s Lives of the Artists, which tells you something about how Western culture has progressed or a least changed its focus over the last thousand years. By the 19th century artists pretty much had a clear field to themselves, and they played it for all it was worth.Not that the Bachs, Chopins and Prokofievs or Liszts, Hofmanns and Horowitzes come off badly in these books. If anything, Schonberg is an even bigger groupie than I am, though much better qualified to see his subjects¿ moral and social warts. It¿s not a matter of any one of the greats being brought down a peg or two by what he puts in these volumes but of a cumulative impression one is left with and the standards of value by which a modern musicologist like Schonberg (not to be confused, by the way, with the 20th century composer Arnold Schoenberg) evaluates them and their work.I don¿t know why I was so naïf as to think musicians were not, like fiction writers, subject to the academic bent for seeing art as a progressive historical process classifiable into schools and periods: Baroque, Classical, Romantic, Post-Romantic, Modern, Post-Classical and God knows what else. Scholar¿s minds work that way. But it never occurred to me that great musicians could fall for that kind of silliness. They create because they are moved to do so, and what comes out of them is the only thing possible. Or, so I had thought.But they were in fact frequently all too conscious of the imperative to be innovative, if not always original. Truly great artists break the molds, create new forms, because the content of their art, what they must express, demands new forms. Beethoven didn¿t have to think about in what ways he could show up Haydn and out-Mozart Mozart. He spent a few years under the influence of those two, but then found his own voice, matching it to the powerful creation inside him. He didn¿t innovate for the sake of innovation. The content of his art dictated the form and the expression.But others were more self-conscious. Brahms was looked down on as old-fashioned by the school that saw Wagner as the future of music, and then of course Wagner suffered the same fate, until by the time we reach the twentieth century composers would rather die than be thought anything less than avant garde. In consequence we got a dogged academic adherence to innovation for its own sake (and, perhaps, more tellingly, combined with mediocrity) that has driven otherwise
ethancrenshaw on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It is most definately difficult to present this much information in such an entertaining manner. Schoberg pulled it off and has most assuredly out done himself this time. If you like music, you'll like this book.
datrappert on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Classic and indispensable. Schonberg writes extremely well, though his opinions may not sit well with everyone. It's always clear, however, when he's expressing his own opinion, so it's not a big deal. If you're even remotely interested in classical music, you need to get this book.
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