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[...] a legendary coach of chamber music, Kurtg has an exceptional ear for nuance that also informs his compositional work-in his music, every single note seems to be a matter of life or death. Many works were inspired by friends and colleagues, and the book provides invaluable information on a number of them, often revealing new layers of meaning in the music.
764 Notes, June 2010 critics, who, over the years, have offered late works as the Chichester Psalms (1965) various explanations to account for it. I and Songfest (1977) that continue to win contend that the answer to this question friends around the world. And this does is of great importance, not only for un- not mention his complementary achieve- derstanding Bernstein but also for under- ments as educator, lecturer, pianist, and, standing the culture in which he was a most spectacularly, conductor. We could leading figure. (p. 168) use more commentary to help us better un- derstand not just how Bernstein reﬂected After making short shrift of knowing cri- his times, but how he helped shape and tiques by Mstislav Rostropovich, Leon Bot- enliven them. stein, and Wilfrid Mellers, Seldes argues Howard Pollack that what Bernstein really needed, to com- University of Houston pose his “masterpiece,” was a “a libretto or a program that narrated” the “loss of liberal faith and loss of civic ethical life” during the post-Vietnam era and “an audience that György Kurtág: Three Interviews and would respond to his ethical challenge” Ligeti Homages. By Bálint András (p. 174). This leads to a consideration of Varga. (Eastman Studies in Music, the presumed “dissolution of the progres- v. 67.) Rochester, NY: University of sive imagination” as evidenced in the post- Rochester Press, 2009. (xi, 166 p. ISBN 1948 work of Arthur Miller and Norman 9781580463287. $75.) Music examples, Mailer, seen as analogous to Bernstein’s illustrations, bibliography, discogra- own decline—one caused first by phy, index. McCarthyism; then, in the 1960s, by a “shifting economic structure” (p. 182) that Bálint András Varga is a master at inter- lessened class conflict; and then, by the viewing composers. His book-length con- 1970s and 1980s, by the growing conser- versations with Witold Lutosławski, Luciano vatism of the American public. “In sum, Berio and Iannis Xenakis are classics of Bernstein’s compositional frustration had the literature on those composers, and his its roots more in the evolving American so- interview collection 3 kérdés, 82 zeneszerzo ˝ cial fabric, from the beginnings of the Cold (3 Questions, 82 Composers [Budapest: War to his death in 1990, than in his sup- ˝ Zenemukiadó, 1986]) have set new stan- posedly limited talents, his idiosyncrasies, dards of breadth and depth in writings on his habits, and his psychological disposi- contemporary music. With this new book, tions” (p. 191). Varga has truly “come home.” A Hungarian Does Seldes mean to argue that Bern- long associated with Editio Musica Buda- stein fulﬁlled his compositional potential in pest before joining Universal Edition, he the years prior to 1948, but not afterwards? has been promoting György Kurtág’s music In any case, the whole argument seems since the 1970s and has considered his fel- tendentious, based as it is on Bernstein’s low countryman Kurtág a primary musical despair over the fact that he failed to write reference for decades. For many years, the “a masterwork of lasting importance.” Hungarian composer refused to give any Bernstein was the brooding type, often crit- interviews and acquired the reputation of a icizing not only himself, but lamenting the notoriously difﬁcult person to get close to; presum
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