FIRST AND LAST LOVE by Vincent Sheean


Email this review


There can be no surfeit of music for Vincent Sheean, who brings a lifetime of listening to this ruminating reminiscence in which grand opera is the heart of his heart. A Chautauqua boyhood was the pebble that broke into ever-widening rings of listening experience in Chicago, New York (the golden twenties at the Met), Europe...Mr. Sheean has the gift of offering immediacy of personality and performance in his recollection of onstage glories (Lehman's Marschallin, Garden's Melisande, Chaliapin's Boris receive top honors) and offstage friendships (there is a charming view of Lotte Lehman, so warmly regarding and regarded). Reflections of an imperfect Wagnerite compare the evocation of Leider to the vocalization of Flagstad and confine the response of Hitler to the Wagnerian myth rather than the music. The listener takes hold of sociological phenomena here with the Nazi emulation of Siegfried, the Italian embrace of opera, the Viennese enchantment with waltzes. More serious concern with the obscure essence of music's power dallies with and throws over William James' pragmatic criteria of response in action for an invitation to the realm of beauty. Mr. Sheean's aptitude for enamoration is again evident in the emotional glow; he is at his best throwing bouquets, not without discernment.

Publisher: Random House