Berlioz: Scenes from the Life and Work

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					Book Reviews                                                                               309

sported the proper “communication, imagi-          say has the flavor of triumphant arrival—of
nation, and variety” (p. 253) could fulfill         a job well done. But it also has the flavor of
golden-age expectations.                           a challenge: now that the tools and materi-
   After the Golden Age is an impassioned re-      als are at hand, it is time for a fresh ap-
minder that “the player too was a creative         proach to the composer, time to rethink
artist” (p. 101) in an environment that            entrenched narratives of his life, consider
offered “the entire spectrum of playing            new facts, and explode what Bloom calls
styles, from our standard sober renditions         “old inanities” surrounding Berlioz’s
of pieces to versions which we would with-         “flawed technique” (p. 6). Bloom’s call for
out hesitation classify as transcriptions”         reinvigoration is carried through the first
(p. 259). Some aspects of nineteenth-              essay by Jacques Barzun, which sets out in
century performance practice, such as pre-         more specific terms the challenge that
luding or a more flexible attitude toward           faces the new Berlioz scholarship.
the fixity of the score, are easily recover-           In order to understand and discuss “The
able; others will remain lost. Whether crit-       Music in the Music of Berlioz” (to borrow
ics, and more importantly audiences, will          the title of his essay), Barzun suggests that
warm to the changes done to the delivery           we must not only alter the terms of criti-
of canonic works is harder to gauge.               cism but consider the ways in which stan-
Regardless, Hamilton’s book will hopefully         dard critical vocabulary has itself marginal-
serve as the starting point for a renewed          ized Berlioz. He calls for a new and
consideration of romantic performance              enriched language capable both of describ-
practice as another viable option for the          ing Berlioz’s sounds and forms and articu-
modern pianist and listener.                       lating what makes them sensible and beau-
                        Jonathan Kregor            tiful. Reconsidering the old problem of
                       University of Cincinnati    “program music” is an important first step,
                                                   according to Barzun, who calls for critics to
                                                   relinquish the idea of Berlioz as a grossly
Berlioz: Scenes from the Life and                  literal composer—a purveyor of musico-
Work. Edited by Peter Bloom. (East-                visual effects—and to examine in more so-
man Studies in Music.) Rochester, NY:              phisticated terms what renders his work
University of Rochester Press, 2008.               meaningful. To do this, we require a much-
[xiii, 248 p. ISBN-13: 9781580462099.              expanded vocabulary for the description of
$75.] Illustrations, music examples,               timbre and texture as well as a broader cul-
bibliographic references, index.                   tural perspective on orchestration in the
                                                   first half of the nineteenth century. In addi-
   In the most recent set of Berlioz-focused       tion, Barzun points out the need for a
essays edited by Peter Bloom, we encounter         more sophisticated approach to Berlioz’s
keen, provocative, and methodologically            melodic language—a set of critical tools ca-
innovative work. The essays in this collec-        pable of interpreting his phraseology and
tion draw their impetus, in part, from the         melodic affect. The renovations in termi-
explosion of activity surrounding Berlioz’s        nology that Barzun recommends imply fun-
bicentennial anniversary in 2003, an event         damental shifts in methodology and cul-
marked by a series of international confer-        tural perspective. They require analysts to
ences, performances, exhibitions, and              place Berlioz’s music back in its proper
recordings, as well as by the completion of 
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