PARIS: The Musical Kaleidoscope 1870-1925 by Elaine Brody

PARIS: The Musical Kaleidoscope 1870-1925

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Musical Europe from 1870-1925 was like a wheel with two spokes--the Vienna as recalled in Schorske's Fin-de-Siecle Vienna and the Paris of Bizet, Debussy, Offenbach, Ravel, and Saint-Sachs. Brody (Music/New York University? offers an all-inclusive survey of the convoluted cultural scene of the latter. Unfortunately, Brody's treatment is somewhat disjointed, consisting of a baker's dozen of essays that together have the feel of 13 hurriedly gathered, old musicology essays, with whole sections appearing to be practically repeated two or three times in different essays. Beyond that cavil, Brody knows her stuff, and presents a complete picture of a half-century of cultural cross-pollination between music (French, German, Spanish, and Russian), art, and literature in a Paris where Wagnerian influences vied with Japanese and ""L'Orientalisme."" She begins with the death of Berlioz (who freed French music ""for the future, untying the bonds of classicism and academicism that shackled the imagination of so many French composers"") and ends with the mid-20's when composers stopped writing for the public and began writing for each other. To her credit, Brody presents a comprehensive summary of the various trends, movements, people, and places that comprised the Parisian scene of those years. This compares well with such other standards as Martin Cooper's French Music From the Death of Berlioz to the Death of Faure or Laurence Davies' The Gallic Muse, both of which tend to emphasize the great men rather than the intellectual spirit of Paris. The major influence of the era? Brody sees the impact of Wagner on music, art, and literature in France as the single greatest phenomenon of that half-century, an influence that died only with the upsurge of anti-Germanism engendered by WW I. Despite its problems, an informative guide to la musique francaise.

Pub Date: Sept. 4th, 1987
Publisher: Braziller