GREAT IDEAS IN MUSIC by Percy M. Young

GREAT IDEAS IN MUSIC

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Thanks largely to its adherence to the Great Ideas theme, this apostolic music history is inventively organized. And importantly so, in that it transcends biography and chronology motifs to focus on twelve influential perspectives, beginning with the most recent--Schoenberg's revolution of the composer's vocabulary (Dr. Young here playing apologist to skeptics). Moving back in time there follows a chapter on the development of the piano complete with diagrammatic comparisons to earlier keyboard instruments; then one on the emergence of string-quartet form as originated by Haydn and adopted by Beethoven and Bartok; then a discussion of horns from their use in hunting through their refinement and ultimate acceptance for serious performance. Once again back--to Pope Gregory's modal systematizing of scales--and now forward to (""John""?) Bach's notion of well-tempered tuning with its implication of tonal scales (as illustrated by his 48 preludes and fugues). Zoltan Kodaly's application of Hungarian folk song to composition constitutes the seventh new pattern, preceding still another move back, to the Origins and growth of opera, oratorio, and ballet. After a short look at comic opera from The Beggar's to Mozart and Gilbert & Sullivan, a sympathetic explanation of Wagner's innovations . . . which lead right up to Schoenberg again. The title subject in each chapter serves as a springboard for talk about descendent evolutions, introduced by contrasting musical examples and supplemented by reading and recording recommendations. The confines of the spotlighted ideas dictate both topical selectivity (some very famous names are just mentioned in passing) and theory information; consequently the amounts assumed and taught tend to vary unevenly with the context. All orchestrated by Dr. Young's audible British accent, serf-conscious quips, reflective aphorisms. . . and fine, fluent scholarship.

Pub Date: Nov. 13th, 1969
Publisher: David White