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Michael Levin's 'Settling the Score',
reviewed by KELLY FERJUTZ


It's all too easy to imagine an international orchestra conductor being called an enemy of both Jewish and Palestinian interests. But this book was written in the late 1980s! As someone much wiser than me once said, 'the more things change, the more they stay the same.' Indeed.

Author Michael Levin obviously knows his way around the world of classical music and orchestras and conductors and choruses, etc. He skewers everything with the same relish and deadly wit and just enough reality sprinkled in for good measure to make it all hilariously believable. There are differences between orchestral musicians, soloists and conductors, who are all entirely different from vocal musicians, soloists and conductors. Occasionally, the two sides will collaborate in a positively stunning performance of one of the great choral/orchestral masterpieces of the repertoire, or an opera. When all goes as it should, the result is breath-taking and memorable, but generally, these two entities get along like cats and dogs.

Settling the Score - Michael Levin. © 1990 Ivy Books

In spite of being nearly twenty years old, this satirical look at the world of classical music is as fresh as this morning's coffee. It swirls around a 'new' Mass by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, whose 250th birthday was the subject of world-wide year-long celebrations in 2006. The choral conductor, Donald Bright, who discovered this one (in a box of Schubert manuscripts) was a child prodigy on violin. In spite of his great talent, he was nevertheless untutored in the way of the world and how to get along with people, consequently fading out of public sight in his early teens. Finally, at the conservatory, he discovered choral conducting, and has now risen to the post of conductor of the (imaginary) New York Symphony Chorus.

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Copyright © 5 February 2007 Kelly Ferjutz, Cleveland USA


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