A richly detailed and freshly illuminating musical/political history.

For half a century, classical music reflected America’s identity on the world stage.

In a thoroughly researched and engrossing history, Rosenberg (Twentieth Century U.S. History/Hunter Coll. and CUNY Graduate Center; How Far the Promised Land?: World Affairs and the Civil Rights Movement From the First World War to Vietnam, 2005, etc.) reveals the surprising connection between classical music and world politics from the early 1900s until the end of the Cold War. During these years, classical music became imbued “with political and ideological meaning” that helped Americans “decide what was worth fighting for and why. It helped to illuminate the meaning of democracy, freedom, and patriotism” as well as “tyranny and oppression.” Because music seemed so potent a force, debate raged over which music and which performers should be heard in concert halls: Musical nationalists believed that certain composers, performers, or conductors could contaminate the nation and should be banned; musical universalists held that music transcended politics and “could speak to the hopes and dreams of all humanity.” The two positions became violently opposed during World War I, when “uncontrolled xenophobia and hypernationalism” focused on Germans. Concerts and contracts were canceled, two acclaimed maestros were imprisoned, and “The Star-Spangled Banner” became a requisite part of an orchestra’s repertoire. Americans, Rosenberg writes, “came to see Germans as demonic, whether they were fighting on a European battlefield or directing symphony orchestras.” By the next war, however, universalists prevailed, and the idea of “enemy music” disappeared, replaced by “the notion that classical music, German compositions included, could help vanquish malevolent regimes.” As Boston Symphony conductor Serge Koussevitsky put it, “of all the arts, music is the most powerful medium against evil.” That sentiment continued during the Cold War, when the American government sent symphony orchestras and performers throughout the world “to display the fruits of liberal democracy to friend and foe.” Among the stars of that effort was New York Philharmonic conductor Leonard Bernstein, who believed that classical music “might play a part in building a more compassionate and cooperative world.”

A richly detailed and freshly illuminating musical/political history.

Pub Date: Dec. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-393-60842-7

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Sept. 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2019



This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996




An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955

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