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Critical Entertainments: Music Old and New…

Critical Entertainments: Music Old and New

by Charles Rosen

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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0674006844, Paperback)

Charles Rosen is that exciting college professor from whom you felt honored to earn a B-plus, and his new anthology is bracing. Most of the material, which covers 25 years of Rosen's book reviews, was originally published in general-interest periodicals. Readers who didn't feel up to the score-reading demands of The Classical Style and The Romantic Generation will have no trouble here.

Especially welcome is "The Irrelevance of Serious Music," in which Rosen notes that "the death of classical music is perhaps its oldest continuing tradition," before reassuring us that "the music that survives is the music that musicians want to play" and that the problems are of "resentment, of hatred for an art that one does not understand--or rather, for an art that one is unwilling to understand." Earlier, Rosen had offered his own experiences with Elliott Carter's Double Concerto as a paradigm for the gradual acceptance of a new work, and addressed the difficult elements in Beethoven's compositions that make Rosen's own performances of the sonatas so striking.

Rosen can be funny, both in the dry humor of his thoughts on the New Grove and Harvard dictionaries of music and in his outright jokes as a hapless analyst of Mozart takes it on the chin. And he is touching in a remembrance of Oliver Strunk, whose distrust of dogmatic theory is reflected in all of these essays. A chapter on the keyboard music of Bach and Handel could stand on its own, with Rosen placing Bach's keyboard output squarely in the center of his achievement; his discussion of "the new musicology" (with particular attention to Lawrence Dreyfuss and Susan McClary) is remarkably evenhanded. Anyone who writes that Richard Taruskin "beats his dead horses with infectious enthusiasm" gets an A himself. --William R. Braun

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:08:40 -0400)

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