Thursday, May 26, 2011

Summer Reading List

I don’t read all that much, although the constant onslaught of music in my life (and the occasional plane trip) take their toll occasionally and I will resort to silence and a book. Here are some items I have read or will read that may make your summer more interesting. My list is short; I know better than to get my hopes up too high.

Arthur Fiedler: Papa, the Pops and Me, by Johanna Fiedler

As part of its release, Ms Fiedler did a book tour with orchestras. She appeared with the New Hampshire Music Festival orchestra back in the 90's in a show which mirrored a Boston Pops-style concert. Between numbers she spoke of her father’s life and times and it was very sweet and informative. What I remember most about Arthur Fiedler is that he died on my 18th birthday; July 10, 1979.

Twilight of the Wagners: The Unveiling of a Family’s Legacy, by Gottfried Wagner

No, I actually haven’t read this, but I’m pretty sure the Wagner freaks in the orchestra have; hornist Mark Harrell, for one. The hardcover sleeve pictures Wagner’s grandsons with Hitler; maybe I’ll remove it before going to the gate. A lot of mysteries to dig into in that book.

Drumming at the Edge of Magic: A Journey into the Spirit of Percussion, by Mickey Hart

If you like the music of the Grateful Dead, then you’ve probably already read this; if not, just know that this book is an enthralling biography of the percussive arts. Grateful Dead percussionist Mickey Hart gave a seminar at UT about 10 years ago, his hearing was pretty bad. Little wonder. Well, his loss is our gain with this very personal memoire/overview of percussion in a universal sense.

A Smattering of Ignorance, by Oscar Levant

This one’s a little hard to find. My landlady at the Lake George Opera Festival had this on her shelf, right next to Dolly Parton’s autobiography. This is a fairly lightweight but delightful stroll through the early 40's Hollywood composers’ scene of the Gershwins, Schoenberg, the Marx Bros., etc. It may be of more interest to musicians, but it is a fast read and Levant is brilliant. Like the Glenn Gould and Boulanger books below, this can be read out of order.

Mademoiselle: Conversations with Nadia Boulanger, by Bruno Monsaingeon

This is a new one for me also. Boulanger is known as “the woman who taught the world how to write music in a French accent.” Her pupil list is staggering; Copland, Roy Harris, Virgil Thomson, Michel Legrand, Astor Piazzolla, Philip Glass, and Elliott Carter among others. I expect to learn a lot from this book.

The Glenn Gould Reader, Tim Page, ed.

Pianist Glenn Gould’s intellect and sarcasm are all over this collection of essays, with some critical looks at the nature of classical music from his high niche in the piano world. Music journal articles, radio show transcripts, LP liner notes and even an interview with himself are brought to life by one of the most controversial but brilliant musicians who has ever lived.

The Classical Kids Series, various artists

If you have kids, these audio books will help another hour on that long car trip back from the beach, and then another hour, and maybe another as the kids ask for more. These tales tend to bear repeating, with dramatic, historical looks at composers such as Bach, Vivaldi, Beethoven and Tchaikovsky. The Vivaldi episode became known as “the Katerina tape” in our family with its vivid, soulful story of a girl searching for a missing strad during Carnival. Children under aged 5 will probably just fall asleep to the delightful soundtrack, but older kids will be drawn right into the drama and the music will stick with them forever.

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