ITALIAN 20th CENTURY MUSIC: The Quest for Modernity by ProQuest


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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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