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Hector Berlioz and Richard Strauss: Treatise on Instrumentation (Dover Books on Music) Paperback – 1 Dec 1991

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Product details

  • Paperback: 424 pages
  • Publisher: Dover Publications Inc. (1 Dec. 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0486269035
  • ISBN-13: 978-0486269030
  • Product Dimensions: 2.5 x 22.2 x 27.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 152,035 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

Hugh Macdonald is Avis Blewett Professor of Music at Washington University, St Louis. He has been General Editor of the New Berlioz Edition since its inception in 1967. He has edited The Selected Letters of Berlioz (1995) and Volumes IV, V, VI, VII, and VIII of the Berlioz Correspondance g n rale (1992 ). He is also author of Skryabin (1978) and Berlioz (1982).

Strauss was the greatest and most popular German composer of the 20th century


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Format: Paperback
Two hundred years ago this week, Louis-Hector Berlioz was born. This, then, is a time for me to comment on a few of his works, some of them "favorites by acclamation" and others simply those in which I find special merit.
When Berlioz died, in April, 1869, an obituary in the Musical Times read, in part, "...there can be little doubt that he will be remembered by his able and acute contributions to musical criticism than by any of the compositions with which he hoped to revolutionize the world."
These words by the Musical Times were addressed to Berlioz's feuilletons (musical criticisms in a largely satirical style). Berlioz captured many of his best feuilletons in his anthology Soirées de l'Orchestra ("Evenings in the Orchestra"), and his trenchant wit is also evident in his Memoirs.
But Berlioz did leave behind one work for which musical education for generations of composers to come had been the purpose: his "Treatise on Instrumentation," or, if one likes, "the art of writing for musical instruments of the orchestra to achieve maximum effect." The Treatise was the very first serious effort to fully describe these matters of instrumentation and orchestration, instrument-by-instrument and orchestral-choir-by-orchestral-choir. Paraphrasing a portion of a recent Berlioz Bicentennial article by none less than Norman Lebrecht, the Treatise was closely studied by Gustav Mahler and Richard Strauss (who themselves were masterly orchestrators), Modest Mussorgsky had died with a copy of the Treatise on his bed, and, as a result of wildly successful concerts led by Berlioz in Moscow and St. Petersburg, Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov was motivated to write his own equivalent, "Principles of Orchestration," which would serve as a model for his Russian school of composers.
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By A Customer on 30 Mar. 2004
Format: Paperback
This book is an unavoidable book for anybody who wants to compose or to be more aware of instrumentation. To show what a book this is: Gustav Holst himself bought this book and thought it a great book and look at the works he produced!! I would definately puchase this book!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x9841d684) out of 5 stars 11 reviews
35 of 38 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x98c180e4) out of 5 stars The Book. By the man who "wrote the book." 16 Dec. 2003
By Bob Zeidler - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Two hundred years ago this week, Louis-Hector Berlioz was born. This, then, is a time for me to comment on a few of his works, some of them "favorites by acclamation" and others simply those in which I find special merit.

When Berlioz died, in April, 1869, an obituary in the Musical Times read, in part, "...there can be little doubt that he will be remembered by his able and acute contributions to musical criticism than by any of the compositions with which he hoped to revolutionize the world."

These words by the Musical Times were addressed to Berlioz's feuilletons (musical criticisms in a largely satirical style). Berlioz captured many of his best feuilletons in his anthology Soirées de l'Orchestre ("Evenings in the Orchestra"), and his trenchant wit is also evident in his Memoirs.

But Berlioz did leave behind one work for which musical education for generations of composers to come had been the purpose: his "Treatise on Instrumentation," or, if one likes, "the art of writing for musical instruments of the orchestra to achieve maximum effect." The Treatise was the very first serious effort to fully describe these matters of instrumentation and orchestration, instrument-by-instrument and orchestral-choir-by-orchestral-choir. Paraphrasing a portion of a recent Berlioz Bicentennial article by none less than Norman Lebrecht, the Treatise was closely studied by Gustav Mahler and Richard Strauss (who themselves were masterly orchestrators), Modest Mussorgsky had died with a copy of the Treatise on his bed, and, as a result of wildly successful concerts led by Berlioz in Moscow and St. Petersburg, Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov was motivated to write his own equivalent, "Principles of Orchestration," which would serve as a model for his Russian school of composers.

In point of fact, the revolutionary uses to which Berlioz put orchestral instruments in his compositions cannot be gainsayed, and his compositions, as well has the Treatise, served to redefine orchestral possibilities - and serve as a learning tool for subsequent composers - for the remainder of the 19th century and well into the 20th century. He was an inveterate "tinkerer," in terms of constantly assessing and writing for newly-invented instruments of his era, and, as well, he "borrowed" instruments freely from military bands of his time, to create orchestral "sound worlds" that were new and novel.

As the Treatise demonstrates, Berlioz was no mere dilletante, experimenting in willy-nilly ways, but was in fact thoroughly "grounded" in his understanding of such basic principles as acoustics and the creation of sound. In its original French form (virtually all of which, in translation, survives in this revised edition), the Treatise clearly set out all of these principles, applied to the instruments of his time by means of examples drawn from a wide range of musical compositions, and the French-language original seemed not to have been a problem for all the German, Russian, Italian, English and what-have-you composers who learned from it.

A half-century later, in 1904, Richard Strauss was requested to review and "revise and update" the Treatise by the publisher. It is in this form, with emendations by Strauss and translated ably into English, that the Treatise currently exists. Needless to say, familiarity with musical notation is important if one is to fully appreciate the value of the Treatise. But the narrative, including descriptions-in-words of musical examples of individual instruments and instruments used in various combinations, is clear enough that even those not knowledgeable in musical notation can bypass the notated examples and simply read the narrative with benefit. Berlioz was an exceedingly gifted writer, blessed with clarity in all that he wrote.

Strauss's emendations are rather clearly set out separately from Berlioz's original effort, so that the two do not get confused. By and large, Strauss doesn't trample too much on Berlioz's efforts, but deals with instruments not available to Berlioz, with many of his own examples drawn from the works of Richard Wagner. But Strauss's comparative measures of - and prejudices regarding - Berlioz and Wagner as composers are quite well established in his own separate Foreword.

The most recent instrument invention included in Strauss's emendations is the heckelphone (baritone oboe), which invention Strauss commissioned Wilhelm Heckel for Strauss's use in his "Symphonia Domestica." Obviously, then, the Treatise is not the reference to which to turn for descriptions and applications of instruments that are of 20th century invention, nor, for that matter, instruments in use elsewhere than in Europe that subsequently found application in 20th century "Western" music (such as the Indonesian gamelan).

A side benefit of the Treatise is in its historical value as a repository of capabilities, sonorities, techniques and usages of instruments long deemed obsolete, but in current use during Berlioz's careers as composer and conductor. Where else can one find such a wealth of detail on instrumental esoterica and arcana like the ophicleide, bombardon and serpent (all forerunners of the tuba), as well as various instruments invented by the highly-creative Adophe Sax, inventor of the saxophone but also the various saxhorns, saxtrombas and saxtubas now obsolete? In fact, I could find only one oversight on Berlioz's part, that of the sarrusophone, invented by Auguste Sarrus, a contemporary "competitor" to Adophe Sax.

It's a small oversight. Unless, of course, one takes a personal interest in the sarrusophone and its musical possibilities. I happen to, but that's just me.

Anyone interested in the course of musical instrument usage and history should have this inexpensive Treatise in his or her library. If you can't read the musical notation and examples, you'll nonetheless come away with an excellent understanding of Berlioz's contributions to the field.

Bon anniversaire, M. Berlioz!

Bob Zeidler
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x98c18150) out of 5 stars Quite possibly the best book on music ever written! 1 April 2000
By Bret Newton - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Every time I open up this book I find something completly new and exciting. I have never seen an author(s) so enthusiastic about every instrument. Every instrument of the day (keep in mind that it was written in the 1840's and later revised in c. 1900) gets special attention with music examples from great composers like the authors and Wagner. Each musical selection is shown in its full score so that the reader/listener can get a better image of what their reading about or hearing (the only way one can understand some of these examples is to go out and listen to these examples otherwise their just notes on a page). Quite possibly my favorite section is the one where Berlioz describes his "perfect" orchestra. It is one so massive that it sends chills down my spine! A must have for any music library.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x988bd36c) out of 5 stars Strauss's additions are worth the price alone 21 Jun. 2004
By Jess A Hendricks - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Two of the best orchestrators of all time contributed to this book regarding orchestration and the mechanics of various instruments. With examples from many scores included in alsmost every section (especially Wagner, who Strauss admired highly), this tome is invaluable. Throughout the book limitations, advantages, and effects achievable by a broad range of instruments are discussed in detail with good examples included for each section.
I highly recommend the Treatise on Instrumentation. It is worth the price just to get to hear the personal opinions and thoughts of two master composers.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x98c183d8) out of 5 stars A book for all levels of composers 10 Dec. 2007
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book was recommended to me by Amazon, having bought many similar titles in the past. This is by far the best book of it's type that I've found.

Hector Berlioz sets out each section of the orchestra in a logical fashion, reference book style and describes each instrument in a clear, readable and enjoyable manner. We gain, not just his in-depth knowledge of the instruments, but all his experiences of them within the orchestra. He offers tips regarding scoring that can make all the difference within an orchestration. The editing by Richard Strauss does nothing but enhance the work, adding his comments on the more modern versions of the instruments etc.

This is a first class book on instrumentation/orchestration and would recommend it to composers of all levels of experience. (Who can't learn from a master?)

A.W. Roberts (Composer)
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x98c18378) out of 5 stars Treatise! 19 Mar. 2008
By Mika Howard - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This book on orchestration is top notch. Not only does it cover the basics, but it goes further by accepting that some "rules" can be broken to get the desired effect the orchestrator is looking for. I would recommend it to beginners as well as advanced students who want to learn to go beyond the borders.
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