The Symphony: A Listener's Guide

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9780195061772: The Symphony: A Listener's Guide

From the agile beauty of Mozart's "Jupiter" and the fierce power of Beethoven's Fifth to the celebration of heroism in Shostakovich's "Leningrad," the symphony has long held a prime place in the Western musical pantheon. Now, in The Symphony, renowned teacher and critic Michael Steinberg offers music lovers a monumental guide to this most celebrated of musical forms, with perceptive commentaries on some 118 works by 36 major composers.
Enriched by biographical detail, historical background, musical examples, and many finely nuanced observations, this volume is a treasury of insight and information. Readers will find illuminating discussion of the complete symphonies of Beethoven, Schumann, Brahms, Elgar, Sibelius, and Mahler, as well as of the most loved symphonic works of Schubert, Bruckner, Dvorak, Tchaikovsky, Vaughan Williams, Prokofiev, and others. We learn, for example, how to listen more sharply for Haydn's humor, to Mozart's singular combination of pathos with grace, and to the evolution of Beethoven's musical ideas in his epoch-making nine symphones. The range and variety of composers are remarkable--Schumann's musical poetry, Tchaikovsky's melodic genius, Mendelssohn's patrician elegance, Mahler's wild and beautiful innovations, Bruckner's mighty cathedrals in tone, the brooding mysteries of Sibelius, Stravinsky's fascinating engagements with the past, and Aaron Copland's ebullient American athleticism--and all are illuminated by Steinberg's deft, inviting, and intensely personal essays. The book boasts generous coverage of American composers, with sections on Howard Hanson, Walter Piston, Roger Sessions, Aaron Copland, William Schuman, and John Harbison. Steinberg gives us such a vivid portrait of each composer's personality that we get the most immediate sense of how the work is a direct expression of the person from whose soul and brain it has sprung.
Tracing the ways in which composers have dealt with the extraordinary musical challenges that have engaged them throughout the centuries, Steinberg takes us through the revolutions of expression, sound, and form that have shaped the symphony's remarkable history. Whether beginners or veterans, music lovers will listen to the symphony with enlivened interest and deeper understanding with Steinberg's masterful guide in hand.

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Review:

This is a serious, inclusive look at symphonic composers and their work. A well-constructed reference, it examines the development of the symphonic art from its beginnings to the present day, composer by composer, in chronological order. This would be a useful addition to any music bookshelf.

About the Author:


Michael Steinberg is the program annotator of the San Francisco Symphony and the New York Philharmonic and earlier served the Boston Symphony in the same capacity. He has been on the faculty of the Manhattan School of Music and the New England Conservatory, has lectured and taught widely in America and Europe, and was the music critic for The Boston Globe for twelve years.

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