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If Scruton wants to expand classical music’s audience, he must step away from his professorial lectern.

The joys and challenges of classical music.

In his latest, Scruton (Aesthetics/Birkbeck Coll. London; Where We Are: The State of Britain Now, 2018, etc.) continues many of the arguments he laid out in Understanding Music (2009). Many of the chapters were previously published in journals and books or delivered as lectures. He begins with the premise that we “live at a critical time for classical music.” In the past, “our musical culture had secure foundations in the church, in the concert halls and in the home….We no longer live in that world.” The author argues that young people today must be taught to discriminate, to recognize “good taste and bad taste in music.” The first part of the book does little to welcome novice listeners with open arms. Those familiar with musical composition or performance will be better equipped to appreciate the topics covered. If, however, listeners are unfamiliar with “diatonically tonal” or “semi-closure on the tonic,” they will be greatly challenged to appreciate Scruton’s discussions of music and cognitive science, music and the moral life, or the philosophy of music. The second section of the book, though still flavored with academese, does a better job of reaching out to serious readers looking to be educated and informed. For Scruton, no “composer is more relevant to us” than Franz Schubert, who could innovate and “enhance the dramatic power and emotional intensity of the whole.” The author is especially good in his discussion of 18th-century composer and harpsichordist Jean-Philippe Rameau, “who advanced the cause of music drama,” and the modern English composer Benjamin Britten, “whose reputation continues to grow both in his home country and around the world.” Scruton’s discussion of film music is illuminating since many listeners become “acquainted with the symphony orchestra through film music.” At the end, he offers a misguided criticism of “the Rock scene” as “a wilderness of repetition, in which nothing new is harvested because nothing new is sown.”

If Scruton wants to expand classical music’s audience, he must step away from his professorial lectern.

Pub Date: Nov. 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4729-5571-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Bloomsbury Continuum

Review Posted Online: Aug. 12, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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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

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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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