Roger Sessions: How a "Difficult" Composer Got That Way

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Oxford University Press, Aug 22, 2002 - Music - 368 pages
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For more than half of his long life, composer Roger Sessions was a commanding figure on the American musical scene. He enjoyed the solid respect of his peers, and as a teacher of a generation of composers and author of compelling writings on his craft, his influence on musical thought remains profound. Yet, even in his lifetime, his music endured vastly disrespectful neglect. He was a "difficult" composer. Sessions was well aware of it. In a New York Times article, he wrote, "I have sometimes been told that my music is 'difficult' for the listener. There are those who consider this as praise, those who consider it a reproach. For my part I regard it as, in itself, neither one or the other...it is the way the music comes, the way it has to come." The way Sessions's music "had to come" is a recurrent focus of this biography. As the story is told, often in the composer's own words, the complex picture emerges of a remarkable man who, gradually and not very willingly, learned to accept his unexpected lot as a "difficult" composer. Frederik Prausnitz, an acquaintance of Sessions and conductor of his work, combines personal and musical insights to present this fascinating portrait of an influential, yet often overlooked, modernist composer.
 

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Contents

INTRODUCTION
3
The Matriarch
7
The Consort
20
Young Roger
25
Letters from Harvard
36
Ernest Bloch
57
Berenson
77
The Musical Idea I
91
Teacher
184
Family Friends and Montezuma
200
Berkeley
214
Dallapiccola
233
The Musical Idea III
249
Harvest
271
Overview
295
Musical Terms
303

Summer of 1929
103
Berlin Interlude
121
Home
137
Sea Change
151
Something More
166
The Musical Idea II
172
Ernest Bloch on Cleveland Dismissal in 1925
304
NOTES
307
SOURCES
327
INDEX
335
Copyright

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About the author (2002)

Frederik Prausnitz, now retired, was a conductor with the BBC Symphony, the New Philharmonia Orchestra of London, the English Chamber Orchestra, the Juilliard Orchestra, and his own chamber ensemble. He also taught in the conducting program at the Peabody Conservatory of Music for many years, as well as at the New England Conservatory of Music. In 1974, he was the recipient of the American Bruckner Society's Mahler Medal of Honor. Roger Sessions's Ninth Symphony is dedicated to him.

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