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Moral Fire: Musical Portraits from America's Fin de Siècle Hardcover – May 22, 2012

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Editorial Reviews


“A thoroughly engrossing read, a journey to an impassioned time rich in ideas, idealism, and hope for the future.”
(Chester Lane Symphony Now 2012-07-12)

“Horowitz's prose in "Moral Fire" is graceful and lucid, and his splendid musical analysis of such works as the "Concord" sonata and Ives's evocation of Henry David Thoreau's "silence of the night" are sure to send readers scurrying back to scores and recordings to revisit the works he discusses.”
(Marion Lignana Rosenberg Wall Street Journal 2012-08-30)

“Rich in historical detail, Moral Fire is highly rewarding to musicians and historians, bringing a new understanding to the mis-understood Gilded Age.”
(Parsons American Record Guide 2012-09-01)

“Essential reading for anyone who wants to grasp the distinctive early history of the BSO or the cultural roots of modern-day Boston.”
(Jeremy Eichler Boston Globe 2012-08-04)

“Today they are all but forgotten, yet Henry Higginson, Henry Krehbiel and Laura Langford were three American figures of astounding accomplishment. . . . Horowtiz’s book rightly reminds us of the achievements of these major fin-de-siecle protagonists.”
(John Robert Brown Classical Music Magazine 2012-09-08)

Horowitz makes [an] excellent [case] for . . . a reexamination of turn-of-the-century high culture in the US. . . . Recommended.”
(D. A. Wells, California State University, Sacramento Choice 2012-12-01)

“The most recent of Joseph Horowitz's commanding studies of American musical life concentrates on four figures from the turn of the twentieth century whose characters exemplify in distinctive ways the moral fire of his title.”
(David Matthews Times Literary Supplement (TLS) 2012-10-26)

“Fascinating history.”
(Peter Jacobi Bloomington Herald-Times 2012-12-09)

"Thoughtful and nuanced. . . . We owe a debt of gratitude to Horowitz."
(Alexander H. Shapiro The Wagner Journal 2013-03-01)

“Horowitz offers a revisionist view of the era—not as a philistine, materialistic ‘Gilded Age’ but as a time when right-minded individuals felt that they could and should improve the lot of their fellow humans.”
(Fred Cohn Opera News 2012-10-01)

From the Inside Flap

"Joseph Horowitz's absorbing study of four key figures in the history of classical orchestral music in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century America is consistently fascinating, thought-provoking, and rewarding. This book should be of great interest to anyone who loves music and cares about its place in, and meaning to, society."

—Mark Volpe, Managing Director, Boston Symphony Orchestra

Moral Fire is not only a wonderfully readable book, but also a welcome work of scholarship by one of our most astute and discriminating students, critics, and champions of the classical music tradition in America. This book will be welcomed not only by those interested in the history of music in America, but also by cultural historians and American Studies specialists for its perceptive insights into U.S. culture—and cultural aspiration—at the dawn of the twentieth century.”

—Paul S. Boyer, General Editor, The Oxford Encyclopedia of American History

“In this vivid, empathetic book, renowned scholar Joseph Horowitz further develops his case that to understand American intellectual and cultural history, one must understand Americans’ deep engagement with music in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Despite their different backgrounds and mindsets, the four figures profiled in Moral Fire all reveal the impulses and contradictions of Gilded Age culture through their involvement with music. Higginson, Langford, Krehbiel, and Ives were all intensely romantic yet devoted to moralism and uplift, democratic in spirit and agenda yet refined and sophisticated, Victorian yet modern. Moral Fire helps readers understand why the much-misunderstood Gilded Age in reality ranks as an especially creative and formative period in American thought and culture.”

—Alan Lessoff, editor, Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 270 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press (May 22, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520267443
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520267442
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,814,082 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By David Mayger on December 20, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The author delivers on his pledge to redress the common view of late 19th century America as heartless money-grubbing. His choice of subjects is clever and his expositions justify his choices. And, not the least virtue of this book, it is written by a man whose love of the language is disciplined and thorough. Well thought-out and supremely well written!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Mooncusser on February 12, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Four fine reviews of music figures of the last century=particulary the founding of the Boston Symphony and the life of Charles Ives.
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