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The Lives of the Great Composers Hardcover – April 17, 1997
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From Library Journal
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Top Customer Reviews
I have only two reservations about this book. First, the treatment of Mahler is infuriating. Schonberg hates Mahler, and here he has a deaf spot the size of a continent. To me Mahler is among the very greatest, but to a large extent the music is the man and Schonberg can't stand him -- he finds Mahler weak, hysterical, exhibitionistic, and trite. But he is unable to do justice to his position because out of sheer spite, he makes this influential and controversial composer share a chapter with Bruckner (okay, but misguided) and Reger (!!). This is a real pity, because his arguments are fascinating and cry out for expansion and development. He does manage to quote a sentence by Bruno Walter describing Mahler's cruel insensitivity to a hapless composer during an audition, thus illustrating Mahler's deficiencies in ordinary social intercourse and basic human sympathy. But does this have any real bearing on the music?Read more ›
However, to my disappointment, the third edition is not as good as its predecessor. Many of what the author considers "improvements" in the Third Edition actually detracted from its usefulness to me. For example, in the second edition, Schonberg provided short sections which explained the different musical periods - (i.e., Baroque, Classical, Romantic.) These were eliminated in the third edition, even though they're probably invaluable teaching tools for non-academic, non-musicologists like myself. I also found myself wondering about how the author selected composers for inclusion in the new edition.Read more ›
Beecham would surely have applauded the author's straightforward style. Not for Schonberg is the stuffy, academic approach to the great composers so favoured by classical poseurs, but rather a witty series of vignettes designed to make the subjects come alive. Schonberg shows the composers warts and all, and our appreciation of their strengths and flaws (both musically and characterwise) is all the keener for his lack of pretentiousness. For some readers, he will undoubtedly have his blindspots when it comes to assessing certain composers' musical worth (his section on Elgar, for example, is not as glowing as the subject deserves), but he makes no apologies for possessing strong opinions - and nor should he.
If you're looking for a politically correct account of the great composers, then look elsewhere. Meanwhile, the intelligent lay-person (rather than the musical expert) will find many rewarding hours in this witty feast of a book.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
OK this is a classic and really interesting to read. You just have to like Art and music, you DO NOT have to be an expert! The stories about the composers are so interesting. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Sarah Parker
Excellent reading about all these composers and their lives.Published 6 months ago by Ruth E. Jones
Big thick beautiful book, great for reading or as a doorstop! LOL I like Schonbers's writing,,,check out The Great Pianists by him too. Arrived quickly and in excellent condition.Published 8 months ago by Monte60
The paperback edition is too fat to hold comfortably, even with my large hands. The print is small and hard to read on the yellowish paper. Read morePublished 9 months ago by Timothy C. Snyder
The best textbook available on great composers. A concise review and referencePublished 13 months ago by Ali A. Diba