Thursday, 24 December 2009

A Farewell to 2009

From Beyond the Stave will take a Christmas break until early January, but before we go we’d like to remind you of some of the books we’ve published this year. We hope that you’ll find at least one or two under your tree on Christmas morning.

It was, as always, our pleasure to turn the spotlight on to some unfairly neglected composers in 2009: Chris Walton’s Othmar Schoeck is an engagingly written portrait of a composer whose reputation is very much in the ascendant after years of comparative neglect; Erik Chisholm is another whose work should really be heard more often than it is, and John Purser’s biography of the man has been well-received; still awaiting Fate’s tap on the shoulder is Dane Rudhyar, whose interests in painting, philosophy, novel writing and astrology have perhaps overshadowed his modernist compositions – hopefully Deniz Ertan’s sympathetic biography will encourage you to investigate his music.

In the field of British music we published a new volume in the Aldeburgh Studies in Music series, Benjamin Britten: New Perspectives, edited by Lucy Walker and including essays by composer Colin Matthews, Piper biographer Frances Spalding, oboist George Caird, writer Claire Seymour and many others. The New Aldeburgh Anthology is a book for those drawn back to Britten’s Aldeburgh year after year for the music, writing and arts - and to all who care for the landscape, the sea and the ongoing life of the Suffolk Coast.

Michael Barlow’s Whom the Gods Love (Toccata Press) told the story of the short but intensely creative life of composer George Butterworth, whose life ended alongside so many others at the Battle of the Somme. Toccata also published two volumes of writings by British composers: William Alwyn’s Composing in Words, edited by Andrew Palmer, and the long-awaited second volume of Havergal Brian on Music (edited by Malcolm MacDonald), where the maverick English composer looks at works by Richard Strauss and Arnold Schoenberg as well as Bartók, Berg, Busoni, Debussy, Dohnányi, Hindemith, Kilpinen, Mahler, Messager, Ravel, Shostakovich, Sibelius, Sousa, Szymanowski, Tailleferre, Varèse and many others.

Collections of essays of this kind provide enormously useful insights into the minds of composers, as does Bálint András Varga’s compelling book of interviews with György Kurtág which also includes his deeply moving homages to his friend and fellow-modernist, Ligeti. No-one with an interest in contemporary music should be without this superb publication.

The Ballet Collaborations of Richard Strauss was the subject of Wayne Heisler Jr’s book, a richly interdisciplinary study of Strauss's collaboration with prominent dance artists of his time as well as his explorations of musical modernism. Ravel is the subject of Stephen Zank’s Irony and Sound: written with insight and flair, it provides a long-needed reconsideration of Ravel's modernity, his teaching, and his place in twentieth-century music and culture.

Sterling Lambert’s Re-reading Poetry looks at Schubert’s multiple settings of Goethe: just as the poet maintained that his work could often be read in more than one way, so Schubert recognised that several of his settings of Goethe’s poems could be rewardingly revisited. A fascinating study of a neglected aspect of a great composer’s work.

Proust, Cocteau, Monet, Diaghilev and Colette were just some of the luminaries of French culture who gathered at the salon of the Princesse de Polignac, and Stravinsky, Satie, Falla and Poulenc all wrote music for her. The glittering world of fin-de-siècle Paris is beautifully evoked in Sylvia Kahan’s Music’s Modern Muse, her acclaimed biography of Winnaretta Singer and her times. Her second husband, Edmond, Prince de Polignac, was a respected composer and music theorist in his own right, and Kahan’s In Search of New Scales details his exploration of the octatonic scale and presents his groundbreaking treatise in English and in the original French.

Composer and critic Bayan Northcott’s collection of essays, The Way We Listen Now, was published to considerable acclaim under the Plumbago imprint earlier this year. Ranging widely over composers from the great European masters to American modernists, Northcott’s collection is a superb volume to sample or to read from cover to cover.

Another author incapable of writing a dull sentence is Daniel Albright, whose latest collection, Music Speaks, also ranges widely, but rarely strays far from opera. For Albright the opera house is the venue where the performances speak the most intricate and significant language invented by our culture - a language that speaks in music, words, pictures, and light.

Indeed opera lovers would have found much to enjoy from our lists in 2009. We were extremely pleased to be able to respond to readers’ requests to reissue Winton Dean and John Merrill Knapp’s classic, Handel’s Operas 1704-1726. This now joins Dean’s volume on the later operas for complete coverage of Handel’s works for the stage, available either separately or as a two-volume set. Another welcome return was John Lucas’s Reggie, available for the first time in an updated paperback under the new title, The Genius of Valhalla. A must for the many fans of the conductor or anyone interested in Wagner and his interpreters.

Gillian Opstad’s acclaimed Debussy's Mélisande is not simply a book about the opera, but looks at the lives of the three early interpreters of the role: Georgette Leblanc, Mary Garden and Maggie Teyte. Many reviewers remarked how convincingly Ms Opstad managed this complex narrative weave. Derek Katz presented an interpretive and critical study of the great Czech composer’s operas in Janáček: Beyond the Borders.

String players will welcome the two-volume set, Intimate Voices: The Twentieth Century String Quartet, edited by Evan Jones. Examining work by 21 composers from 11 countries, this study is a unique examination of a form used by many to confide their most personal thoughts.

Early music has once again been well served by the Boydell Press. Hermann Pötzlinger's Music Book, a study of the St Emmeram Codex by Ian Rumbold with Peter Wright, not only examines the manuscript itself but looks at the culture in which it was compiled. Emma Hornby’s keenly anticipated Medieval Liturgical Chant and Patristic Exegesis examines the relationship between text and melody in medieval music.

In the early 1900s August Halm was widely acknowledged to be one of the most insightful and influential authors of his day, yet today is music theories are less well known than those of his contemporaries such as Hugo Riemann and Heinrich Schenker. Lee A Rothfarb’s recent book looks at his life and the enduring interest of his critical writing. Music historians will also want Bernarr Rainbow’s introductions to the various music manuals he reissued, collected for the first time in Four Centuries of Music Teaching Manuals 1518-1932, edited by Gordon Cox.

Genetic Criticism and the Creative Process, edited by William Kinderman and Joseph E Jones, looks at the process of creative endeavour in an interdisciplinary context, emphasizing literature and drama as well as music.

Finally, where would you have found the most German speakers in the nineteenth century after Berlin and Vienna? Munich, perhaps, or Frankfurt? The answer is surprisingly New York City, and musicologist John Koegel has written a fascinating study of Music in German Immigrant Theater in New York from 1840 until 1940.

All of us at Boydell & Brewer, the University of Rochester Press, Toccata Press and Plumbago wish you the most harmonious Christmas season and a joyous start to 2010, the beginning of another exciting decade of music books from one of the world’s leading independent publishers!

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