TRIAL OF STRENGTH

WILHELM FURTWÑNGLER IN THE THIRD REICH

A significant addition to the ongoing discussion of the extent to which Germany's most important musical figure was co-opted by the Nazis. Wilhelm FurtwÑngler (1886-1954) was among the most important re-creative artists of the century, supreme interpreter of the high German classics and an almost mystical believer in their spiritual power. He was also, as Prieberg (Music in the National Socialist State, not reviewed) convincingly demonstrates, dangerously naãve in believing that he could keep those masterpieces undefiled—and himself uncompromised—by the politicization of the arts in Nazi Germany. In a similar manner to the way that the physicist Werner Heisenberg believed that he could preserve the purity of German science despite what he saw as the vulgarity of the Nazi regime, FurtwÑngler saw himself as the guardian of German high culture and civilization. This is not an easy book to read; the style is effortful (it's unclear whether that is the fault of the writing or of the translation), and the subject—the degradation of an artist- -is chilling and painful. Prieberg fully explicates FurtwÑngler's acts of resistance: his arguments in the 1930s against the banning of music written by non-Aryan composers; his protests against the firing of Jewish members of the Berlin Philharmonic and their replacement by inferior musicians. Prieberg's thesis is that, having decided to stay in Germany, FurtwÑngler was ``broken'' by the regime (``blackmailed'' into conducting Hitler's birthday festivities in 1942, he avoided the task in subsequent years by pleading illness). The real strength of Prieberg's work is its reliance on contemporary documents, many quoted at considerable length, that allow the reader to draw his or her own conclusions. These conclusions are likely to be less charitable, and less favorable, to the maestro, than Prieberg's. A powerful primer on the futility of temporizing with evil.

Pub Date: June 15, 1994

ISBN: 1-55553-196-2

Page Count: 394

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1994

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WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD

A LIFETIME OF RECORDINGS

Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

A LITTLE HISTORY OF POETRY

A light-speed tour of (mostly) Western poetry, from the 4,000-year-old Gilgamesh to the work of Australian poet Les Murray, who died in 2019.

In the latest entry in the publisher’s Little Histories series, Carey, an emeritus professor at Oxford whose books include What Good Are the Arts? and The Unexpected Professor: An Oxford Life in Books, offers a quick definition of poetry—“relates to language as music relates to noise. It is language made special”—before diving in to poetry’s vast history. In most chapters, the author deals with only a few writers, but as the narrative progresses, he finds himself forced to deal with far more than a handful. In his chapter on 20th-century political poets, for example, he talks about 14 writers in seven pages. Carey displays a determination to inform us about who the best poets were—and what their best poems were. The word “greatest” appears continually; Chaucer was “the greatest medieval English poet,” and Langston Hughes was “the greatest male poet” of the Harlem Renaissance. For readers who need a refresher—or suggestions for the nightstand—Carey provides the best-known names and the most celebrated poems, including Paradise Lost (about which the author has written extensively), “Kubla Khan,” “Ozymandias,” “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” Wordsworth and Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads, which “changed the course of English poetry.” Carey explains some poetic technique (Hopkins’ “sprung rhythm”) and pauses occasionally to provide autobiographical tidbits—e.g., John Masefield, who wrote the famous “Sea Fever,” “hated the sea.” We learn, as well, about the sexuality of some poets (Auden was bisexual), and, especially later on, Carey discusses the demons that drove some of them, Robert Lowell and Sylvia Plath among them. Refreshingly, he includes many women in the volume—all the way back to Sappho—and has especially kind words for Marianne Moore and Elizabeth Bishop, who share a chapter.

Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-23222-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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