Email this review


Having been amanuensis/biographer to Stravinsky and, as a conductor, an important interpreter of Webern, Craft does seem overqualified for some of the assignment writing collected here -- and he has the musician's disdain for criticism generally. He knocks it to bits, in fact, in a preamble; but then the ill-assorted, diminished pieces, when he fondly takes them up again, do properly correspond to the design of the book, which is more or less whatever he pleases to write on, or around, occasional musical themes. The topic expands from performances, live and recorded, to other forms of musical theater to social criticism of sorts; or, going the other way, interpretations take us back to composers and oeuvres, musicology and, ultimately, book reviewing. The idioms shift accordingly, and Craft stays in register -- snappy Broadway invective for Bernstein; exasperated lucidity in reaction to T.M. Adorno; diaristic dissolves of the Stravinskys. Sufficiently provoked, he slams back with an excursus complete with little bracketed numbers; bored, he will spurt cadenzas of descriptive journalistic evasion; best, in moments of truest engagement, he resorts to metaphor. One Renaissance piece ""sounds as if it were recorded by a coven with the microphone in the pot""; and of a certain tenor, "" 'aaaaaah. . .' a nightmare of a doctor's tongue depressor sticking in the throat."" Balance this against preoccupations with dotted eighth notes and creative evolution, and it evens out at a level for mid-adepts with no specific interest, but a general and informed curiosity.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1974
Publisher: Knopf