Virgil Thomson: Composer on the Aisle

Anthony Tommasini

Published by W. W. Norton & Company, 1998
ISBN 10: 0393318583 / ISBN 13: 9780393318586
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Synopsis: In this vivid portrayal of a giant in American twentieth-century music and criticism, Anthony Tommasini recounts Thomson's experiences as a composer, critic, and gay man. Tommasini chronicles Thomson's upbringing in turn-of-the-century Kansas City, along with his struggle to accept his sexuality-"I didn't want to be queer"-as he searched for a place in the wider world through army service in World War I as well as at Harvard and in 1920s Paris. There Thomson studied with Nadia Boulanger and formed an artistic alliance with Gertrude Stein that would result in the pioneering opera Four Saints in Three Acts. Thomson's fourteen-year tenure as chief music critic for the New York Herald Tribune showcased his talent for brilliant, biting commentary and established him as an influential writer on music and an arbiter of musical taste. The result of this involving narrative is a classic American biography of a classic American character.

Review: Best known for an opera he set to Gertrude Stein's text, Four Saints in Three Acts (1934), and for the Pulitzer Prize-winning score of the documentary Louisiana Story (1948), composer Virgil Thomson (1896-1989) was also an unswerving champion of modern American classical music during his tenure as the powerful music critic of the New York Herald Tribune (1940-54). His works' tonality, stress on simplicity, and skillful use of traditional American tunes strongly influenced Aaron Copland, Leonard Bernstein, and many others. Lively prose evokes the crusty character of an American original in this enjoyably opinionated biography.

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Title: Virgil Thomson: Composer on the Aisle
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
Publication Date: 1998
Binding: Paperback
Book Condition: Used: Good

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