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Beginning with some exclusivist generalizations about choral music ("". . . most social form of musical activity. . . best kind of experience for a full understanding of music. . . the one branch of musical performance in which the not especially gifted individual may take part with a maximum of pleasure to himself and a minimum of inconvenience to his neighbors""), this is a feeble and sometimes haphazard history of music-making and -makers. Chapter I is devoted to definition and well-meaning promotion of amateur participation, but reveals its professional bias in saying ""The two things that matter are to be able to sing in tune and to be able to read at sight."" Also discouraging are instances of syntactical and informational imprecision: on pre-Renaissance ""Foundations"" no mention of the kind of competitive contrapuntal acrobatics that evolved in the Franco-Flemish school; on the development of polyphony the misstatement that ""In church music, where the texts were supposedly familiar, [the indistinguishability of the words] did not matter much""--when in fact that very beclouding of religious texts was the source of more than a little disapproval from the office of the Pope; in 17th century ""Cross Currents"" the unexplained announcement that the ""rubato style was added to the emotional possibilities. . . "" (and there is no glossary of musical terms to clue in the neophyte); on 19th and 20th century trends, disproportionately little on Brahms, Mendelssohn, Mahler, Britten, Kodaly, Stravinsky; and most critical of all is the absence of an appropriate (not merely nominal) index. Nevertheless there is plenty on Handel and Hayden and Bach and whole chapters on madrigal, oratorio, and the British school, and whenever the book integrates music with cultural history it assumes new scope more consistent with the erudition of its author than with the relative stasis of its subject. As the chronicle of choral composition and performance that it's committed to be, however, the whole lacks the intellectual vitality of Dr. Young's recent Great Ideas in Music (1969, p. 1163, J-471).

Pub Date: Jan. 6th, 1970
Publisher: Abelard-Schuman