25002376 - Book Reviews point. Delivered as An Open Letter...

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Book Reviews 839 point. Delivered as “An Open Letter to Franz Liszt,” it misses the mark on being (if that is its goal) a genteel, rhetorical throw- back to the 1830s, when figures such as Heinrich Heine, Hector Berlioz, and Liszt appeared in the press to weigh in on the state of the artistic world, lacing thoughtful reflection with provocative confession. “In the deepest sense,” muses the author, “the best biography is motivated by admiration. And along the way it may even reveal some autobiography trying to get out” (p. 255). Although the new material peppered throughout the Reflections would have been better served in an updated edition of Walker’s epic biography, it nevertheless sharpens the biographical and musical im- age of its colorful subject. Jonathan Kregor Harvard University Franz Liszt and his World. Edited by Dana Gooley and Christopher Gibbs. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2006. [xx, 587 p. ISBN 0-691-12902-9. $24.95.] Music examples, illustrations, bibliography, index. “I don’t really know what a Gorgon is like, but I am quite sure that Lady Bracknell is one. In any case, she is a monster, without being a myth, which is rather unfair . . .” (Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest , act 1) With this latest volume from the Bard Music Festival series, an empirically plural Liszt is finally in a position to slay the more familiar, anecdotally mythic “Liszt.” Were the pianist–composer still a Merlin without being a myth—adapting Jack’s bon mot about Lady Bracknell—it would not only be “rather unfair,” but a distortion out of sync with twenty-first century criticism. Of course, constructions of Liszt’s identity, whether “plural and boundary-crossing” (p. xvii) or frustrated monoliths “con- dense[d into] a unified, embracing image” (p. xv) remain constructions all the same. What differentiates this volume from simi- lar such studies is the extraordinary wealth of source data brought to bear—an ap- proach that some might construe as nar- rowly positivistic—and the perspective from which it seeks to interrogate, a broader historico-critical perspective (we are told in the preface) that illuminates Liszt “without isolating him in the spotlight.” (p. xvii) With a revisionist prerogative, Leon Botstein’s concluding contribution, for ex- ample, tacitly unseats singular biography by considering Liszt an “ideal prism through which to reconsider the character of [the nineteenth] century” (p. 518). Histori- ography, music printing, the public con- cert, and the press are all under scrutiny then. Liszt is (or perhaps merely focuses) the lens. On the crest of this new perspective, Dana Gooley and Christopher Gibbs’ cor- rective riposte to studies tinged with ha- giography is a mixture of near-obsessive empiricism and cautious assessment. Split into four sections, the central two parts of this book (“Biographical Documents” and “Criticism and Reception”) present 200 pages of valuable source material with de-
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This note was uploaded on 07/17/2011 for the course MUSIC 1010 taught by Professor ? during the Spring '11 term at Utah Valley University.

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25002376 - Book Reviews point. Delivered as An Open Letter...

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