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Classical Music in America: A History of Its Rise and Fall [Hardcover]

Joseph Horowitz
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

24 May 2005
In this chronicle of the tensions and contradictions of a musical high culture, Joseph Horowitz argues that classical music in the United States is peculiarly performance-driven. He traces a musical trajectory peaking at the close of the nineteenth century and receding after the First World War. He defines the decades of ascendancy as the quest for an American compositional voice, painting vivid vignettes of America's most celebrated performers and groundbreaking institutions. He explores a century of decline characterised by illustrious orchestras, conductors and virtuosos, and he exposes a crisis of leadership and suggests new musical directions in the post-modern age. Horowitz fashions a sweeping narrative-packed with personality and incident, textured by literature, sociology and intellectual history-that freshly illuminates the American experience.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 624 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (24 May 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393057178
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393057171
  • Product Dimensions: 24.6 x 16.3 x 4.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,404,733 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

JOSEPH HOROWITZ is the central authority on the institutional history of American classical music, with wide experience as an orchestral administrator and adviser. He is the author of six books and a regular contributor to The New York Times.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
The great event of the 1893-94 New York concert season was the premiere of Antonin Dvorak's symphony "From the New World" at the imposing Music Hall built by Andrew Carnegie on West Fifty-seventh Street two years before. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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5.0 out of 5 stars Thank you 18 April 2014
By John
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Received the book in good time I have not read it but am very happy with again thank you for selling it and sending it to me.
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Amazon.com: 4.1 out of 5 stars  9 reviews
33 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thank Goodness for Criticism! 27 Jun 2005
By Michael Beckerman - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
For years we have been sustained by a notion that we could, if we worked hard enough, use documents of all kinds (musical scores, diaries, images, letters, etc.) to figure out something like "what really happened" in the past. Alas, the past is a much vaster ocean than we imagine. The refreshing thing about Horowitz's brilliant Classical Music in America, is that he's not about writing a chronicle, he's about telling a particular story. In the end, it's not whether you agree or disagree that there was something like a Golden Age in the United States around the turn of the century followed by a gradual but inevitable slide, but that the reader is bathed in the very richness of the tale and the telling. Through his passion, his gifts as a writer and thinker, and actually through the very idiosyncratic thinking that can annoy, cajole, and prod, he compels attention, and stimulates deep thought about the past and the present.

Horowitz has been one of our leading cultural critics for decades, and this is a book that should be on every music lover's bookshelf.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Engrossing, comprehensive history of American musical scene 14 Jun 2006
By klavierspiel - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Horowitz's panoramic history traces the development of American classical music institutions, performers, and composers from the mid-nineteenth century to the present day. Emerging from such low-brow entertainments as "monster concerts" with multitudes of choral and orchestral performers, so numerous that they could hardly hear each other, the American musical scene came to maturity both in Boston and New York, two locales around which much of the author's chronicle centers. Horowitz's chronicle charts in detail the history of many performing institutions in both these cities, the men who ran them, and those who kept a watchful eye on their doings: the music critics. Orchestras, opera companies and solo performers parade past in dizzying array, kept from totally overwhelming the reader by Horowitz's firm organization, both by chronology and by topic area.

It is the attempt to establish a distinctive and indigenous school of musical composition that most interests Horowitz, and here his discussion is at its most valuable. He gives due weight to names that are now fashionable once again, such as Amy Beach, but also speaks up for some that are still neglected, notably George Whitfield Chadwick in Boston. The distinctive musical cultures that arose in the two cities are painted with a sure hand, resulting in many fascinating revelations: Edward MacDowell's chilly relations with many of Boston's pre-eminent composers, for example, came as a surprise to me. Alas, according to the author, though America has produced many major composers in the twentieth century, a truly distinctive and thriving culture of original composition has never succeeded in establishing itself. Horowitz blames this failure on the cultivation of what amounts to performer worship and the endless recycling of a canon of old masterpieces that took hold after World War I. His conclusions may be arguable, but his observations are unfailingly lucid and engaging. This is a book that will sit by Richard Crawford's recent book on American music, and books on American opera and singing by John Dizikes and Peter G. Davis, on my shelf of frequently consulted sources.
24 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb -- and Disturbing 18 April 2005
By Martin B. Haub - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
For the classical enthusiast, this is a must read. It puts into great perspective the problems currently facing us -- and frankly leaves me despondent about the future of live, symphonic music. Everyone involved gets blamed: conductors, soloists, union members, orchestra managers, audiences, composers, music schools...

The book is nicely divided into historical periods, and all the big (and not so big) names are here. Horowitz obviously knows his subject, writes about it passionately and communicates to the reader well. He also likes obscure words: more than once I had to grab a dictionary.

There's a nice Naxos web page that offers up substantial samples of much of the music mentioned in the book.

My only complaint is that I wish he had added a last chapter: What We Need to Do! There are plenty of people who need to read this book, but I fear that it's length will prevent wide readership.
23 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Please Expand Your Thinking 2 Jun 2005
By John Matlock - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
As you may well guess from the title, Mr. Horowitz isn't very happy with the current trends in American music. In many ways you can't but agree with him. He claims that classical music in the United States peaked at about 1900 and that since then it has been falling in impact, in quality, and in just about every other way.

I'm not so sure that I completely agree. One of his points is that American orchestras have become fixated on performing only the music of the old masters and ignoring American composers. In fact he says that at the turn fo the century we were waiting for a major American composer to come in and set the stage for the new country. And that didn't happen.

Music has certainly changed in the last hundre years, but there are more symphanies than ever before. Even the smaller cities like Salt Lake city, San Jose, etc. sport local orchestras. Performances at places like Vail, Colorado and Tanglewood draw good crowds.

I think that there may be a discussion waiting to happen on what is classical music. Shakespeare is certainly classical literature, but it was theater of the masses in its day. Musicals on Broadway, movie themes like John Williams work on Star Wars aren't defined as classical. But in a hundred years Phantom of the Opera may well be considered classical.

Mr. Horowitz certainly raises interesting points, and has crafted a book well worth reading.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lively & approachable 12 May 2007
By W. Weber - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Horowitz writes in a lively and approachable fashion, telling the story of how music and musical performance evolved in our country with brisk and provocative ideas. He's both scholar and journalist, an unusual talent.
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