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Book Reviews Rachmaninoff • Italian C-20th music • Bach • Puccini • Schubert RACHMANINOFF antic pianism. But in these pages elementary more detailed canvas which the subject could By Michael Scott errors occur of which nobody reasonably easily have supported. History Press acquainted with the field could ever be guilty. This music’s ‘quest for modernity,’ to ISBN 978-0-7509-4376-5 224 pp. Thus it is absurd to say that Stepan Smolensky quote Webb’s subtitle, was not so much an £20 hardback introduced Rachmaninoff ‘to manuscript avoidance of opera – for even in the 21st music’ (page 104); there are no preludes in century Italians still compose works in that itherto Michael Scott’s endeavours have Rachmaninoff ’s Op.10 (83); Beethoven’s form – but a long-drawn-out flight from react- H been confined to opera. Besides found- ing the London Opera Society which gave Missa Solemnis and Bach’s Mass in B minor are not ‘oratorios’ (75); The prelude Rachman- ion and ignorance. Many attempts to mod- ernise Italian music were frustrated by the concert performances of bel canto operas with inoff used as subject for his Variations Op.22 deep-rooted conservatism of audiences there. many famous singers he has written biog- is No.20 of Chopin’s Op.28, not No.2 (62); The orchestral scores of Mozart, Mendelssohn, raphies of Caruso and Callas besides the two- there are references to ‘Tchaikovsky’s Piano even Beethoven, were unknown in Italy as late volume Record of Singing. Now he has turned Concerto’ on 96 and 115, there being only as the 1860s, Pelléas et Mélisande was greeted to Rachmaninoff and has not been well served one, apparently; what is Bach’s Op.35 on 101, with hostility in 1907, Rosenkavalier was ‘too by his publisher. Both dust jacket and press Bach having no opus numbers? What are modern’ for La Scala in 1911. So it was a long release claim this is ‘the first full biography of Rachmaninoff’s Autobiographical Sketches men- way from Leoncavallo to Nono and 19th- Rachmaninoff for nearly 50 years’ yet such is tioned on 209 though otherwise unknown in century pioneers of instrumental music like far from the case. No awareness is shown of the literature? Despite being cited on 127 Sgambati and Martucci should be saluted for the extensive publications of Geoffrey Norris, there is no Medtner work titled The Art of their independence. So should Busoni, a key the leading UK authority on the composer, Fugue; and whatever is said on 136 Schumann modernist figure whose case is complicated by these including, besides much else, two edit- did not compose 22 sonatas. his German affiliations yet who was sure ions of the ‘Master Musicians’ volume on So one might go on. The hapless reviewer Doktor Faustus (1917-24) finally eliminated Rachmaninoff (Dent 1976, 1993). Other leaves this noticeably slim volume wondering any trace of verismo. A similar claim may be highly regarded biographical studies of this why Michael Scott ever approached this advanced for the contemporaneous Debora e composer to have appeared in recent decades subject. MAX HARRISON Jaèle (1922) by Pizzetti, who, though writing are also ignored. 14 operas followed an independent line in In fact nothing fresh is said here about this ITALIAN 20th them, partly as a result of his fascination with composer. A hit and run approach is adopted CENTURY MUSIC: Renaissance vocal music. Verdi, a towering to his scores, which are not even described in The Quest for figure who had died in 1901 yet who, Webb an elementary programme-note manner; still Modernity tells us, remains an influence on Italian music less is there any attempt at analysis of the By Michael D. Webb even today, had recommended that composers compositional techniques involved. There is Kahn & Averill 150 pp. ‘look back to move forward,’ which sounds no list of works included and there is no ISBN 978-1871082- like the neo-classicism of the 1920s. This was discography of his many recordings. When- 89-0 £13.95 taken up by members of, approximately, the ever anything happens in Rachmaninoff ’s life paperback
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