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Men of Music: Their Lives, Times, and Achievements 1950 Revised Enlarged Edition
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Men of Music: Their Lives, Times, and Achievements 1950 Revised Enlarged Edition
Men of Music: Their Lives, Times, and Achievements 1950 Revised Enlarged Edition

Men of Music: Their Lives, Times, and Achievements 1950 Revised Enlarged Edition

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Men of Music: Their Lives, Times and Achievementsis a volume of mini-biographies and evaluations of famous classical music composers, written byWallace BrockwayandHerbert Weinstock, and originally published bySimon and Schusterin 1939.[1]Revised and expanded editions appeared in 1950 and 1958, and the book has gone through seven printings, the most recent being a 1967softcoveredition.The book gained a certain amount of fame because the authors were chosen by the publishing firm itself. They were chosen precisely because they were not professional music critics, and would therefore be able to avoid the highly technical jargon that layman readers might find on album liner notes, in publications, and today, on classical music websites.Some of Brockway and Weinstock's opinions, however, were, and have always been, controversial, as noted byTimemagazine in their 1939 review of the original edition. Among them are:the evaluation ofTchaikovskyas "the greatest symphonist of the nineteenth century after Beethoven" (bypassingBrahms, who is often given that honor by critics, but receives a less favorable evaluation in this book),ofFranz Lisztas "the greatest musical failure of the nineteenth century",of the Ode to Joy inBeethoven's Ninthas a "cataclysmic anticlimax" (because of the difficulty involved in singing it well),ofBeethoven'sMissa Solemnisas also being impossible to perform because of the difficulty involved in singing it,of Beethoven's now well-lovedSymphony No. 6, thePastoral, as "plain dull" because it supposedly does not contain any of the stylistic "trademarks" that the composer was famous for,and finally, the charge that in the final two movements of hisSymphony No. 3, "Brahms descends to real ugliness in his orchestration".[1]Men of Musicalso reflects the musical evaluations of the era in which it was published, as well as the authors' own prejudices. As examples, the only baroque composers covered areBachandHandel;Antonio Vivaldi, who had not yet achieved the popularity that he enjoys now, is left out of the book, along with any mention of his best-loved work,The Four Seasons, which had not been recorded in 1939, and no mention of the work was added in later revisions of the book.The Nutcracker, which had not yet been performed complete in the United States in 1939, was barely mentioned in the original edition; only the twenty-minuteNutcracker Suiteextracted from it was given anything resembling a detailed discussion, and Brockway and Weinstock did not change this in later revisions of the book.Gustav Mahleris also notably missing from the volume, as isAntonín Dvořák, composer of the enormously popularNew World Symphony.No American composers are covered in the book.
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