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BILL NEWMAN reads 'Erich Leinsdorf on music'


Erich Leinsdorf on Music. Copyright (c) 1997 Amadeus Press

As soon as I unpacked this vastly entertaining, informative and witty book I was assured that its author would mention Korngold and Die Tote Stadt, seeing he made the first complete recording. Leinsdorf describes Korngold as 'a fine example of a composer who went to Hollywood and never sold out. He made a tremendous impact on the standards of film music, simply by never departing from the style of his earlier opera compositions.' Elsewhere he is less complimentary by grouping Schreker, Korngold and Pfitzner who 'wrote between them at least another fifteen operas of which none comes near Richard Strauss's vital works and (the first two) also found the need to incorporate unusual erotic was all too obviously calculated rather like some of the more questionable periodicals that hover between literature and pornography.' In his recording 'the role of Paul was sung by the tenor René Kollo who was also commuting between Munich and Bayreuth to sing Parsifal. The dramatic passages went well but the lyric bel canto sections showed the effects of his Wagner performances.'

So much for the conductor's honest and practical approach to music making. I can't say I always enjoyed Leinsdorf in the concert hall - he conducted one of the worst performances of a Bruckner Symphony it was my misfortune to sit through, although he redeemed himself later with a stunning Beethoven Nine. I have mixed feelings about his recordings for Westminster, EMI-Capitol and RCA-BMG, but he certainly made his musical mark much earlier with live Wagner from the Met (a Die Walkure on Eklipse has remarkable drive, span and style, for example). Yet this book is an excellent testing ground for the right and wrong ways to approach music in the light of a musician's overall knowledge of the subject, subdividing into 'The Life of a Musician, Conducting' - 'The View from the Podium', 'Interpreting a Musical Score', 'Essays on Composers', 'The Crisis of Audiences and Critics', 'Reflections on the World of Opera', 'Aspects of the Symphony', 'The Power (and Perils) of Recorded Music', 'Sketches from a Musical Life', 'A Musical World in Crisis', 'Toward a Brave New World of Music'.

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Copyright © 9 September 2000 Bill Newman, Edgware, UK






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