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Music in 1853: The Biography of a Year Hardcover – 28 Dec 2012


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Boydell Press; 1 edition (28 Dec. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1843837188
  • ISBN-13: 978-1843837183
  • Product Dimensions: 24.1 x 16.3 x 1.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 484,580 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

(This) narrative is refreshingly efficient, and connections that have eluded single-subject biographers come to light. Music-lovers of all persuasions are likely to gain something from this well-written, thoroughly researched work. OPERA NEWS Hugh Macdonald's 'biography of a year' is positively postmodern in the way it dissolves its documentary sources into a smoothly running narrative that relishes and thereby transcends the archaic clichés of a genre in which hindsight brings multiple ironies and insights to bear. MUSICAL TIMES Macdonald writes with great fluency and grace. (...) This is a splendid effort. AMERICAN RECORD GUIDE This is a book to read and re-read, beautifully bound and printed (...) and if there were such a thing as Gramophone Book of the Year, this would be my first recommendation. GRAMOPHONE (Macdonald) is the author of books that palpably enrich and illuminate. ... (he) brings to skill that rarest skill of any serious writer on music: the ability to talk about it not as a some arcane technical discipline, but as a direct articulation of thought and feeling, and the defining activity of those who practise it. LONDON REVIEW OF BOOKS (A) highly readable biography. SPECTATOR In Hugh Macdonald's highly readable Music in 1853, musical colossi are bumping into each other on almost every page. FINANCIAL TIMES (Macdonald's) detailed interweaving of the daily lives of these characters leaves an abiding impression, not just of the endless travel involved in being a working musician, but also of the importance of the railroads: the new arteries of central Europe's increasingly vigorous cultural life. SUNDAY TIMES

About the Author

HUGH MACDONALD is Avis H. Blewett Professor Emeritus of Music at Washington University, St Louis. He has authored books on Skryabin and Berlioz and has previously published Beethoven's Century: Essays on Composers and Themes with Boydell/URP.

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Norman Geddes on 27 Jan. 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Hugh Macdonald has homed in on a year of tremendous significance, not only for some of the most important composers of the nineteenth century, but of music's subsequent development. Yet perhaps the biggest player in all of this has nothing to do with music: it is, surely, the rapid spread of railways. Travel had never been so easy or so swift and the composers featured in this book took full advantage of it and gained enormously.

For the more casual reader (i.e. myself) some of the journey details can become tedious. But this book is not soley for the casual reader, nor does this sort of detail completely spoil it for that reader. There is much here for all lovers of music at whatever level of appreciation. Though familiar with the very popular works of Berlioz, for example, I have never read a biography and my scant knowledge of the man came from concert program notes and cd booklets. I had no idea how far he had travelled and was surprised to learn how the Germans recognised his genious long before the French.

The twenty year old Brahms fascinates with his boyish appearance, his outward shyness and his inner strong belief in his abilities as a compose. His meeting with Robert and Clara Schuman in the year of this book was undoubtedly his launchpad and it makes very interesting reading here even if you have read about it before.

Most importantly Hugh Macdonald brings these very important composers vividly alive. As you read this book they stride from is
its pages and fill the room in which you are sitting: they are real! If you are interested in all the contreversy and animosity that divided musucians and audiences in the second half of the nineteenth century, read this book, because here, in 1853, is where it all began.

A very rewarding read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Mr. R. Lee on 8 Feb. 2014
Format: Hardcover
By 1853 the great cities of Europe were connected by a network of railways. Musicians were thus able to interact more easily, exchanging rapidly-delivered mail and freely crossing frontiers in the international spirit which followed the overthrow of Napoleon. Though none of its narrative (not even dialogue) is invented, this is a book which reads like a novel and as such is one which I found very difficult to put down. The starting point is a few weeks before Richard Wagner’s 40th Birthday. We become witnesses to meetings of Brahms, Spohr, Liszt, Schumann, Joachim and Berlioz, but everyone has Wagner on his mind. In fact he turns up on half of the book’s 186 pages.
Impatiently awaiting the first postal delivery of each day, Wagner kept up a voluminous correspondence with his friends, most important of which was that with Liszt who was ever willing to assist and encourage him as well as from time to time being a source of much-needed funds. Wagner’s first action of 1853 had been to send his libretti for Der Junge Siegfried and Siegfrieds Tod to the printers for a run of 50 copies.
In the week following the concerts which he conducted in Zurich to celebrate his birthday Wagner composed a piece of music for the first time in over five years: 23 bars for piano in the style of a polka which he presented to Mathilda Wesendonck. On 20th June he followed this with a single movement piano sonata at the head of which manuscript he wrote: “Wisst ihr, wie das wird?” “Know ye what is to come?” quoting the Norns and Brünnhilde from what was to become Götterdämmerung.
On 2nd July Wagner met Liszt off the train for his eight-day visit to Zurich. Wagner felt that he and Liszt were moving into a new world of music, leaving Schumann and his supporters far behind.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By S. Graham David on 10 Jan. 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
With a wealth of fascinating photographic material and a nicely balanced mix of anecdote and music history, this intelligent and handsomely turned volume out creates something like a sense of familiarity with Brahms, Schumann and the various musicians and composers active or, like the 19-year-old Brahms, adventurously setting out on the road to fame and acclaim. No technical knowledge is required of the reader; in fact, it makes comfortably enjoyable read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By DavidS on 30 May 2013
Format: Hardcover
It's quite remarkable how all these famous composers moved around Europe and interacted with one another. It really gives a good insight into these personalities. Very well written, the pages go by easily. Recommended.
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By DavidX on 26 Jan. 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A brilliant new approach to my favourite period in classical music: take a particular year and see what all the protagonists, such as Schumann, Brahms, Wagner and Berlioz, were up to during that year. The answer: quite a lot -- travelling, meeting, corresponding, as well as composing and conducting. And the ease of travel in those days, particularly by train, comes as a surprise. It's interesting to learn about these composers' private lives, ideas, philosophies and interaction. A shortish book but beautifully produced and well illustrated. But if you're looking for technical musical analysis, look elsewhere.
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