Opera and the Morbidity of Music

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New York Review of Books, Apr 8, 2008 - Music - 384 pages
The death of classical music, the distinguished critic and musicologist Joseph Kerman declares, is “a tired, vacuous concept that will not die.” In this wide-ranging collection of essays and reviews, Kerman examines the ongoing vitality of the classical music tradition, from the days of Guillaume Dufay, John Taverner, and William Byrd to contemporary operas by Philip Glass and John Adams.

Here are enlightening investigations of the lives and works of the greatest composers: Bach and his Well-Tempered Clavier, Mozart’s and Beethoven’s piano concertos, Schubert’s songs, Wagner’s and Verdi’s operas. Kerman discusses The Magic Flute as well as productions of the Monteverdi operas in Brooklyn and the Ring in San Francisco and Bayreuth. He also includes remembrances of Maria Callas and Carlos Kleiber that make clear why they were such extraordinary musicians.

Kerman argues that predictions—let alone assumptions—of the death of classical music are not a new development but part of a cultural transformation that has long been with us. Always alert to the significance of historical changes, from the invention of music notation to the advent of recording, he proposes that the place to look for renewal of the classical music tradition in America today is in opera—in a flood of new works, the rediscovery of long-forgotten ones, and innovative productions by companies large and small. Written for a general audience rather than for experts, Kerman’s essays invite readers to listen afresh and to engage with his insights into how music works. “His gift is so uncommon as to make one sad,” Alex Ross has said.
 

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - dmtmusic - LibraryThing

Opera and the Morbidity of Music, although immensely interesting, was a bit of a letdown insofar as I felt as though it was badly mistitled. Opera, a subject on which Joseph Kerman is incredibly well ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - aviddiva - LibraryThing

Opera and The Morbidity of Music is a collection of essays written by musicologist and critic Joseph Kerman over a period of about thirty years, mostly for the New York Review of Books. They vary ... Read full review

Contents

Opera and the Morbidity of Music
7
Two Cheers for Rach 3
23
Labyrinth Music
27
William Byrd and the Catholics
41
The Operas of Monteverdi
57
A Short Life
69
A Guide to The WellTempered Clavier
79
୨ Wilfrid Mellers on Bach
87
Beethoven Hero
173
Beethovens Concertos
185
Three Riffs on the Ninth
201
The Romantic Generation
205
Schuberts Songs
221
A Life
231
Reading Opera
243
A Life
255

Four Biographies
99
Mozarts Last Year
115
The Piano Concertos
123
The Magic Flute
137
Sonata Forms
151
Works and Life
161
The Late Operas
267
Wagner and Wagnerism
281
A Ring for San Francisco
307
Bayreuth 2001
319
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About the author (2008)

Joseph Kerman is emeritus professor of music at the University of California, Berkeley. He began writing music criticism for The Hudson Review in the 1950s, and is a longtime contributor to The New York Review of Books and many other journals. His books include Opera as Drama (1956; new and revised edition 1988), The Beethoven Quartets (1967), Contemplating Music (1986), Concerto Conversations (1999), and The Art of Fugue (2005).

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