Additional Book Information
Series: New York Review Books
Publication Date: April 8, 2008
Opera and the Morbidity of Music
The death of classical music, the distinguished critic and musicologist Joseph Kerman declares, is "a tired, vacuous concept that will not die." In this wide-ranging collection of essays and reviews, Kerman examines the ongoing vitality of the classical music tradition, from the days of Guillaume Dufay, John Taverner, and William Byrd to contemporary operas by Philip Glass and John Adams.
Here are enlightening investigations of the lives and works of the greatest composers: Bach and his Well-Tempered Clavier, Mozart's and Beethoven's piano concertos, Schubert's songs, Wagner's and Verdi's operas. Kerman discusses The Magic Flute as well as productions of the Monteverdi operas in Brooklyn and the Ring in San Francisco and Bayreuth. He also includes remembrances of Maria Callas and Carlos Kleiber that make clear why they were such extraordinary musicians.
Kerman argues that predictions—let alone assumptions—of the death of classical music are not a new development but part of a cultural transformation that has long been with us. Always alert to the significance of historical changes, from the invention of music notation to the advent of recording, he proposes that the place to look for renewal of the classical music tradition in America today is in opera—in a flood of new works, the rediscovery of long-forgotten ones, and innovative productions by companies large and small. Written for a general audience rather than for experts, Kerman's essays invite readers to listen afresh and to engage with his insights into how music works. "His gift is so uncommon as to make one sad," Alex Ross has said.
Kerman's subjects range widely, from book reviews through several obituaries (Maria Callas and Carlos Kleiber), essays on various topics, discussions of recordings, and even some commentary on individual compositions.
— The Examiner
One of the most frequently quoted writers about opera....
— Globe and Mail