Music at the Limits
Edward W. Said
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Music at the Limits is the first book to bring together three decades of Edward W. Said's essays and articles on music. Addressing the work of a variety of composers, musicians, and performers, Said carefully draws out music's social, political, and cultural contexts and, as a classically trained pianist, provides rich and often surprising assessments of classical music and opera.
Music at the Limits offers both a fresh perspective on canonical pieces and a celebration of neglected works by contemporary composers. Said faults the Metropolitan Opera in New York for being too conservative and laments the way in which opera superstars like Pavarotti have "reduced opera performance to a minimum of intelligence and a maximum of overproduced noise." He also reflects on the censorship of Wagner in Israel; the worrisome trend of proliferating music festivals; an opera based on the life of Malcolm X; the relationship between music and feminism; the pianist Glenn Gould; and the works of Mozart, Bach, Richard Strauss, and others.
Said wrote his incisive critiques as both an insider and an authority. He saw music as a reflection of his ideas on literature and history and paid close attention to its composition and creative possibilities. Eloquent and surprising, Music at the Limits preserves an important dimension of Said's brilliant intellectual work and cements his reputation as one of the most influential and groundbreaking scholars of the twentieth century.
for the nineteenth century, but Chopin, Schumann, Liszt, and well before them Beethoven and Mozart, all of whom grew up on the Well-Tempered Clavier. Chopin ‘idolized’ Bach; Beethoven was inspired in his third-period works by the preludes and fugues; Liszt and Schumann returned to Bach’s work for pointers on how to redistribute piano music contrapuntally in various registers. Rosen’s interest in Bach’s presence in Romantic music is an implicit refutation of Glenn Gould’s charge that all those
can be seen to have sired a whole generation of aesthetic children, from Mozart, through Chopin, to Wagner, Schoenberg, and beyond. Gould’s performing style, his writing, his many videos and recordings testify to how well he understood the deep structure of Bach’s creativity, and show also his consciousness of how his own career as virtuoso had a serious intellectual and dramatic component as well—which was to carry on that kind of work in performances of Bach and other composers who were, in a
been left unperformed, until July 7, 2001. Barenboim is head of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, as well as the Berlin State Opera, whose orchestra he was leading on tour in Israel for the three consecutive concerts presented in Jerusalem. He had originally scheduled a performance of Act One of Wagner’s opera Die Walküre for the July 7 concert, but had been asked to change it by the director of the Israel Festival, which had invited the German orchestra and Barenboim in the first place. Barenboim
situation, is worth making. During the heated Knesset debate a year ago as to whether Israeli high school students should or should not have the option to read Mahmoud Darwish, many of us took the vehemence with which the idea was attacked as a sign of how closed-minded orthodox Zionism was. In deploring the opponents of the idea that young Israelis would benefit from reading a major Palestinian author, many people argued that history and reality couldn’t be hidden forever, and that censorship of
believe that it was Glenn Gould’s death in 1982 that impelled Edward to write seriously about music. The realization that Glenn Gould’s early demise ended an eccentric pianist’s brilliant career compelled Edward to probe deeply into Gould’s life and musical achievements. He indulged himself in listening to every recording of Gould that he could get hold of and read everything written about and by him. He also saw all the films made of Gould’s recordings and those that were made about him. Gould