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men sural music

Men of Music

Men of Music: Their Lives, Times and Achievements is a volume of mini-biographies and evaluations of famous classical music composers, written by Wallace Brockway and Herbert Weinstock, and originally published by Simon and Schuster in 1939. Revised and expanded editions appeared in 1950 and 1958, and the book has gone through seven printings, the most recent being a 1967 softcover edition.

The book gained a certain amount of fame because the authors were chosen by the publishing firm itself. They were chosen precisely because they were not professional music critics, and would therefore be able to avoid the highly technical jargon that layman readers might find on album liner notes, in publications, and today, on classical music websites.

Some of Brockway and Weinstock's opinions, however, were, and have always been, controversial, as noted by Time Magazine in their 1939 review of the original edition. Among them are the evaluation of:

  • Tchaikovsky as "the greatest symphonist of the nineteenth century after Beethoven" (bypassing Brahms, who is often given that honor by critics, but receives a less favorable evaluation in this book)
  • of Franz Liszt as "the greatest musical failure of the nineteenth century"
  • of the Ode to Joy in Beethoven's Ninth as a "cataclysmic anticlimax" (because of the difficulty involved in singing it well)
  • and of Beethoven's now well-loved Symphony No. 6, the Pastoral, as "just plain dull".

Men of Music also reflects the musical evaluations of the era in which it was published, as well as the authors' own prejudices. As examples, the only baroque composers covered are Bach and Handel; Antonio Vivaldi is left out of the book, along with any mention of his best-loved work, The Four Seasons. Gustav Mahler is also notably missing from the volume, as is Antonin Dvorak, composer of the enormously popular New World Symphony.

References

  • Brockway, Wallace and Herbert Weinstock Men of Music (Simon and Schuster, 1939, rev.ed, 1950)
  • Time Magazine Online Archive Article Outline of Musicians
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