Gyrgy Kurtg: Three Interviews and Ligeti Homages by ProQuest


[...] 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.

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									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;
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