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A Singer's Notebook [Hardcover]

Ian Bostridge
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
RRP: £16.99
Price: £11.89 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

22 Sep 2011

Ian Bostridge is one of the outstanding singers of our time, celebrated both for the quality of his voice and for the exceptional intelligence he brings to bear on the interpretation of the repertoire of the past and present alike. Yet his early career was that of a professional historian, and A Singer's Notebook takes a look at the multifaceted world of classical music through the eyes of someone whose career as a singer has followed a unique trajectory. Consisting of short essays and reviews written since 1997, some in diary form, it ranges widely over issues serious (music and transcendence) and not so serious (the singer's battles with phlegm), while inevitably discussing many of the composers with whom Bostridge has become identified, such as Britten, Henze, Janacek, Schubert, Weill and Wolf.

Ultimately it returns to the theme of his earlier work on seventeenth century witchcraft - what place can there be for the ineffable in a world defined by an iron cage of rationality?

Including a foreword by the eminent sociologist, Richard Sennett, A Singer's Notebook is an intriguing glimpse into the mind and motivation of one of Britain's best loved musicians.


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber (22 Sep 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571252451
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571252459
  • Product Dimensions: 14.4 x 22.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 180,112 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

'Musical conversation gravitates towards two composers to whom Bostridge has returned again and again: Schubert and Britten. Here he is in his element, mixing technical detail with interpretative thoughts. . . His loving meditation on both teases out new connections between Britten and Tchaikovsky, and Schubert, and his flatmate Schober. . . Many of these essays were written, he says, as an exercise to loosen up his writing. It works. . . Bostridge's early formal style is freed in the journalistic furnace of his later pieces.' (Sunday Telegraph)

This is a consistently lively, learned, urbane and passionate book, once opened not likely to be closed until you have read it all. (Choice ***** BBC Music Magazine)

Book Description

'He is not a good singer; he is a great one.' The New Yorker

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
By emma who reads a lot TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover
The beginning of this book left me strangely flat. The first piece, a lecture Bostridge gave on the connections between witchcraft, magic and music, I found a bit disappointing. This was a surprise, as I'd been attracted to read Bostridge's book because of his intriguing background as a former academic - and not just any academic, a student of Keith Thomas no less (Religion and the Decline of Magic: Studies in Popular Beliefs in Sixteenth and Seventeenth-Century England (Penguin History)).

However, I continued to read, and enjoyed every bit of the book more and more. In the end I concluded that for me, the personal and speculative bits (which come first) are less seductive. When Bostridge writes on particular singers, writers and pieces, though, for me the book comes completely alive. I found myself listening again to Schubert sung by Fischer-Dieskau, thinking about song lyrics, pondering Bob Dylan, and then online late at night ordering three CDs by Henze, a composer I'd never even listened to.

There is a focus to Bostridge's expertise and interests; you will read a lot about lieder for obvious reasons. But his carefully argued judgements on much of the recent important literature in his field are just so enjoyable to read that I found myself staying up late to read even when I was tired. And he has sent me back to Charles RosenThe Romantic Generation (Charles Eliot Norton Lectures), who he regards almost as a god, with great joy.

Fantastic read for anyone with the slightest interest in thinking about serious music.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Rest is Magic 9 Sep 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
If you are the sort of music lover inclined to go beyond the sounds and to indulge into musing over such subjects as "music and transcendence", you will enjoy this book.

But there is more : art and artifice, setting words to music, magic of music making, metaphors in singing technique, irrational melancholia about sore throats are a few of the many - more or less serious but never boring - issues. "Magic" extends beyond the first chapter and is sort of leitmotiv of the book. None of the issues is explored comprehensively - the book is appropriately called a "notebook" - so you will probably be stimulated to go on musing on several of the ideas exposed.

Besides, you will perhaps discover some unknown composers (for me it was Henze and Adès, and I have yet to listen to some Janacek) and a few things on well-known works such as St Matthew Passion, Winterreise, The Turn of the Screw, the War Requiem ; not surprisingly, Britten is much discussed by Bostridge and his views are rather revelatory (to quote only one example: the final scene of The Turn of the Screw compared to the final scene of Wozzeck).

The reading is very pleasant, quite understandable even in the more philosophical places ; captivating too, and one is only tempted to read it too fast, so a re-reading may be found necessary.

Looking again through the book to write this review I realized how compelling it is, while opening it at any page, to follow the author in his thoughts and be elated beyond the music discussed, into its magic.

Please excuse my English: I enjoyed the book very much and there was only one positive review.
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14 of 20 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A Polymath's Notebook 27 Mar 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The modest title of this book gives no indication of the vast learning, wisdom and critical perception of the author, so that at the beginning it's very easy for the reader to believe that Bostridge really does know everything. Later on, however, it becomes clear that he doesn't. The first essay, 'Music and Magic' is an erudite twenty-four page introduction to ...er... music and magic. It is written in simple, straightforward language that anyone with degrees in history and music and a PhD in philosophy can follow with relative ease. I imagine so, anyway.
From these few pages we learn, among other things, that Proust was 'deeply influenced by Schopenhauer' and that Wittgenstein, Ludwig, not his brother, was 'another Schopenhauer aficionado' and 'a key figure in the 'linguistic'revolution in twentieth-century philosophy'. We also learn that Galileo's father, Vicenzo Galilei emphasised the necessary imperfections of contingent sound.' (Lots of people don't know that. I must confess I didn't myself).
He tells us that Newton interpreted Pythagoras' views on musical consonance as containing the essence of the inverse square law of gravitation, his dazzling solution to the unity of celestial and terrestrial mechanics and dynamics, Newton's triumph was to equate mathematical functions and physical reality and thus smuggle magic, and a sort of silent music, into the age of reason.' Clever chap.
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Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Rest is Magic 9 Sep 2012
By Veronique Borde - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
If you are the sort of music lover inclined to go beyond the sounds and indulge into musing over such subjects as "music and transcendence", you will enjoy this book.

But there is more : art and artifice, setting words to music, magic of music making, metaphors in singing technique, irrational melancholia about sore throats are a few of the many - more or less serious but never boring - issues. "Magic" extends beyond the first chapter and is sort of leitmotiv of the book. None of the issues is explored comprehensively - the book is appropriately called a "notebook" - so you will probably be stimulated to go on musing on several of the ideas exposed.

Besides, you will perhaps discover some unknown composers (for me it was Henze and Adès, and I have yet to listen to some Janacek) and a few things on well-known works such as St Matthew Passion, Winterreise, The Turn of the Screw, the War Requiem ; not surprisingly, Britten is much discussed by Bostridge and his views are rather revelatory (to quote only one example: the final scene of The Turn of the Screw compared to the final scene of Wozzeck).

The reading is very pleasant, quite understandable even in the more philosophical places ; captivating too, and one is only tempted to read it too fast, so a re-reading may be found necessary.

Looking again through the book to write this review I realized how compelling it is, while opening it at any page, to follow the author in his thoughts and be elated beyond the music discussed, into its magic.

Please excuse my English: I enjoyed the book very much and there was no review.
3.0 out of 5 stars I was hoping to discover what it's like to be a famous soloist and also about his ... 19 Aug 2014
By Frances Verrinder - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is an interesting collection of journal pieces that Bostridge originally wrote for the Guardian newspaper in London. I was hoping to discover what it's like to be a famous soloist and also about his experience of and relationship to singing and music. Alas. I was bored. I gave this book to my singing teacher and she had the same reaction. Perhaps the sad truth is that the experience of making music can't really be adequately described in words.
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent!!! 24 April 2013
By Ralph F. Blecha - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Great book by a great author and great vocal and dramatic artist. Should be read by anyone interested in the arts.
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