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Hans Von Bülow: A Life and Times Hardcover – December 4, 2009

4.9 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"Alan Walker's ground-breaking "Hans von Bülow: A Life and Times" is the first objective biography of a major player who, for all his social ineptitude, shaped the musical world as we know it today." --Wall Street Journal

"Once again Walker has accomplished the difficult task of infusing a scholarly work with witty and captivating writing. Von Bülow emerges as a complex, immensely gifted and versatile musician, as well as a fascinating person. Enlightening and enjoyable!"--Veda Kaplinsky, Chair, Piano Department, The Juilliard School

"At a time when the study of musical performance is becoming ever more important, Alan Walker's meticulous and vivid account of one of the greatest of all 19th-century performers is of immense value. Musicologists have for so long studied works; now here is a chance to engage with one of those who brought great new works to life, from Wagner's Tristan to Tchaikovsky's First Piano Concerto, during his remarkable career. A fine, long overdue biography in English of a supreme performer."--Sir Nicholas Kenyon, Managing Director, Barbican Centre

"It seems that Alan Walker has left no stone unturned."--Musical Opinion

"This superb biography of virtuoso pianist and conductor Hans von Bulow does for the 19th-century music scene what Alex Ross' The Rest Is Noise did for the 20th, leaving the reader awestruck at the author's command of his research and skillful storytelling...A treat to read." --The Washington Times

"Throughout the book, Walker delights the reader with rich insights and an encyclopaedic knowledge of the field, always infusing his elegant prose with a love of detail and irony, anecdotes and connections fuelled with wit and wisdom, all of which brings the subject alive. As a result his book promises to enrich scholars and music lovers alike, and to turn Beethovenians and Wagnerians into Von Bulowians: a must-read." --Arietta

"Worth the wait...In English, Walker's book has no competition. Its sixty-three illustrations and programme reproductions add much to the reader's pleasure...A remarkable repository of information on Bulow." --The Hungarian Quarterly

"A fascinating study of a man who intersected with all the great musicians of his day...Walker describes all of this in this engaging, well-written book. Highly recommended." --Choice

"This magnificent long-overdue biography is the monument to Bülow that never was...What Truman Capote did in In Cold Blood towards creating a new genre of fiction - faction - that is to say a documentary with all its existential drama built in, Walker has contrived to do by extension in biography - or should we call it biografaction - where by connecting up data in the form of letters, civic documents and newspaper reports, together with an uncanny interpretive gift for reading between the lines, he creates a vital context whereby his book, quite apart from its profundity, finishes by being as unputdownable as the latest historical novel by Mary Renault. " --EPTA Piano Journal

"Von Buelow's legacy lasts to this day, and Walker takes us through his life always with the respect for who he was and what he accomplished even as he reveals his difficult and intractable personality. It is a non-judgmental and thoroughly absorbing account of one of the greatest figures in the history of western music, one who up to this book has been unappreciated and under-valued." --American Music Teacher

"Walker's narrative unfolds with energy, and provides an impressively rounded portrait
of his subject, full of flaws as well as strengths. He explores numerous avenues and
leaves some open for further research--for instance Bülow's compositions, little known,
for which the inclusion of a useful complete catalogue may, it is hoped, stimulate new
performances. We also learn of some lost cylinder recordings of his performances,
which may eventually turn up. Generously laced with witty, wise anecdotes, copious
footnotes, elegant illustrations and a family tree, as well as a hefty index and source list,
the book represents a seminal study of one of the movers and shakers of 19th-century
music, a relatively unsung hero of musical history." --The Wagner Journal

"Walker...can only be thanked for allowing us this intimate, entertaining, and compelling portrait of a very great musician." --Wagner Notes

"This book is a good read, a solid piece of writing on its own merits, as the author shares his knowledge of a fascinating life...Walker never becomes mired in details, but
masterfully uses footnotes that interested readers can pursue if they like. His use of illustrations is apt in the way they amplify points made in the text, rather than serve
any perfunctory function... Hans von Bülow: A Life and Times is laudable for its mastery
of its subject, and is a work of finesse suitable to it. Notes

"This study of Hans von Bülow must stand as one of the most important and indeed necessary biographies of a musician published in recent times. With the lives of many nineteenth-century composers researched to the point of overkill it is right to turn to the principal executants who brought the iconic works of nineteenth-century music into the public domain. Yet Bülow emerges as so much more: with his formidable musicianship supported by a well-furnished mind he represented the best (and worst) of the broad humanistic culture of the intellectual elite of late nineteenth-century Germany. Alan Walker's compelling biography more than justifies Franz Liszt's description of Bülow: 'From Alpha to Omega. He is Music personified' (p. 3). " --Music & Letters

"This study of Hans von Bülow must stand as one of the most important and indeed necessary biographies of a musician published in recent times...Compelling." --Music & Letters

"[An] engaging biography." --The Beethoven Journal

"Walker's book can be highly recommended for its engaging style and its wealth of information about Bülow's up-and-down relations with family members, Wagner, and other composers. We become familiar with the exceptional talents of a truly one-of-a-kind nineteenth-century musician." --The Opera Journal

About the Author

ALAN WALKER is Professor Emeritus of Music at McMaster University, Canada. Before settling in North America he was on the staff of the Music Division of the British Broadcasting Corporation in London. He has broadcast for the BBC, for the CBC, and for CJRT - FM (Toronto), and gives regular public lectures on the music of the Romantic Era, a period in which he specializes. His thirteen published books include A Study in Musical Analysis, An Anatomy of Musical Criticism, and symposia on Chopin, Schumann, and Liszt. Dr. Walker is also author of a three-volume, prize winning biography of Franz Liszt, a project which took him twenty-five years to complete, and for which the President of Hungary bestowed on him the medal ProCulturaHungarica. The biography also received the Royal Philharmonic Society Prize, presented by HRH The Duke of Kent in London. He is the recipient of the Music Teachers National Association 2010 Achievement Award and the Knight's Cross of the Order of Merit from Hungary.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (December 4, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195368681
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195368680
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 1.6 x 6.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,700,288 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is an exceedingly well written account about the life of Hans von Bulow, by Alan Walker, a music scholar that seems to have a gift for writing a page turner, unusual for those in his field who usually write dull, technical treatises. Von Bulow's travails and accomplishments have enough melodrama to fill a long running soap opera. Mr. Walker details these with an obviously carefully researched account.

Great performers and conductors achieve fame in their own time; great composers survive to eternity. There were some that did both well, such as Mahler or Mendellsohn. Von Bulow was not one of them. He was a towering figure in the 19th Century era of Western Music known as the Romantic Period as a great conductor and one of the best concert pianists of his time. Unfortunately his compositions, few as they were, have not withstood the test of time and thus he is not well remembered any more. Those who have heard of Bulow only associate him with the notion that he was one of the great cuckolds of the 19th century, losing his wife Cosima (Franz Liszt's daughter) to none other than Wagner, his mentor.

While Walker brings this unfortunate episode of Bulow's life to his readers in full color, he balances the slate with an equally colorful account of the remainder of Bulow's life and the magnitude of his accomplishments. At times the prose gets technical, but it never bogs down to the thick unintelligible music-soup often encountered in Symphony concert programs.

I would highly recommend this book not only for those interested in music history, but also those who enjoy reading biographies of colorful, larger-than-life, historical figures.

Moris Senegor M.D.
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Format: Hardcover
Walker does it again with this gripping story of one of the most important pianists and conductors of the 19th century. It is hard to believe that this is the first biography in English of the man who was a star pupil of Liszt, the husband of Liszt's daughter, Cosima, the champion of Wagner (and, of course, famously cuckolded by him), and, later, the champion of Brahms. The book is meticulously researched, laced with pertinent quotes from letters and other documents of the time (without being weighted down by them), and absolutely gripping from beginning to end. A must for anyone interested in 19th-century composers, great pianists, great conductors, or opera. Bravo, Dr. Walker!
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This is another well written,well researched, and pleasing-to-read
compilation by Alan Walker.Very intricately detailed,yet a book that I found it hard to put down.I've commented directly to the author himself,and to many others that this author has a beautiful gift of writing about musicians.It is always interesting reading.The Liszt 3 volume biography is another example of this flair.I only hope he writes more biographies in the future.I can read these books time and again and not be at all bored with any of them.There is so much information packed away and no wasted words,just pleasant "learning."
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Alan Walker has done it again! I have loved every single book he has written and consider him to be one of the best biographers and writers of our generation, if not the best. His biography of Hans Von Bulow is no exception. Hans Von Bulow set the highest standards for conducting and piano playing for over a century. Alan Walker has done the same for writers and biographers. Mr. Walker is a complete scholar, his documentation is superb, and his writing style is excellent. When you start a book by Mr. Walker, you are spellbound until you finish it, and you know that you have been given the most accurate account possible. I felt a sense of regret when I finished the book because I wanted it to go on and on. Mr. Alan Walker, thank you!
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