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TCHAIKOVSKY

THE MAN AND HIS MUSIC

Sometimes arid, but useful for Tchaikovsky completists, as well as patient listeners hoping to expand their knowledge of the...

A broad survey of the Russian composer’s life in the context of his major works, and vice versa.

Pyotr Tchaikovsky (1840–93) wrote musical works that remain current today, some having been appropriated for commercials (such as the 1812 Overture) and made into seasonal standards (such as the Nutcracker Ballet). As Brown (Musicology/Southampton Univ.; Tchaikovsky, 1992, etc.) shows, listeners owe those works to some good luck and chance encouragement, for Tchaikovsky trained as a lawyer and seemed destined for a career somewhere along the long corridors of the tsarist Ministry of Justice. Desperate to escape suffocation there, he enrolled in classes taught at the Russian Music Society and quickly impressed his teachers and fellow students with works that would in some instances reemerge in maturity, such as “an orchestral piece, Characteristic Dances, which Tchaikovsky would later rehabilitate into his first opera, The Voyevoda.” The budding composer also grappled with questions of sexual identity, and Brown offers a cautious view on that confusion, which Tchaikovsky apparently hoped to remedy by marrying. His union was unhappy, the increasingly famous composer depressive; Brown traces moods and moments throughout the major works, identifying the circumstances of composition and offering suggested listening alongside a given life episode, which begs for a bundled CD. Brown also offers measured and quite learned musical criticism, arguing, for instance, the relative merits of certain pieces, as with The Sleeping Beauty, which is “as focused as can be, with a far smaller proportion of purely decorative dancing such as dilutes Swan Lake, with a scenario that is consistently as ‘dramatic’ as possible, and with a composer who now had all the insight and skill demanded by such a challenge.”

Sometimes arid, but useful for Tchaikovsky completists, as well as patient listeners hoping to expand their knowledge of the great composer’s work.

Pub Date: April 21, 2007

ISBN: 1-933648-30-9

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2007

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NIGHT

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS

FROM MEAN STREETS TO WALL STREET

Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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