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Marc Blitzstein: His Life, His Work, His World [Hardcover]

Howard Pollack

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Book Description

Sept. 15 2012
A composer of enormous musical innovation and influence, Marc Blitzstein remains one of the most versatile and fascinating figures in the history of American music, his creative works running the gamut from operas, ballets, musicals, and film scores to orchestral works, chamber pieces, and art songs. As an open homosexual and a prominent leftist, Blitzstein constantly pushed the boundaries of acceptability in mid-century America in both his music and his life. Award-winning music historian Howard Pollack's new biography is the first to put Blitzstein's music on equal footing with his politics, theatrical innovation, and other aspects of the composer's life. Pollack covers Blitzstein's life in full, from his childhood in Philadelphia to his violent death in Martinique at age 58. The author describes how this student of contemporary luminaries Nadia Boulanger and Arnold Schoenberg became swept up in the stormy political atmosphere of the 1920s and 1930s and throughout his career walked the fine line between his formal training and his democratic principles. Indeed, Blitzstein developed a unique sound that drew on everything contemporary, from the high modernism of Stravinsky and Hindemith to blues, jazz, and musical comedy, and that profoundly influenced his younger friend Leonard Bernstein. Pollack captures the astonishing breadth of Blitzstein's music - from politically controversial Broadway operas like The Cradle Will Rock and No for an Answer, to the patriotic Airborne Symphony, to such masterpieces as the opera Regina, to lesser known early pieces, film scores, and chamber works. A fearless artist, Blitzsteinadapted Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill's The Threepenny Opera during the heyday of McCarthyism and the red scare, and with Weill's widow Lotte Lenya, turned it into an off-Broadway sensation. Beautifully written, drawing on new interviews with friends and family of the composer, and making extensive use of new archival and secondary sources, Marc Blitzstein presents the most complete biography of this quintessentially American composer.

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Review


"This comprehensive book about the life and music of the sadly neglected composer Marc Blitzstein is, as well, an invaluable guide to the workings of American arts during the composer's lifetime." --Edward Albee, playwright


"Marc Blitzstein was a friend, from the moment we first met in 1946 until he died eighteen years later. Now he lives again in Howard Pollack's pages. As a composer he was one of a kind, with his whistleable tunes encased in wise formality, and his bodily presence, so happy and so sad." --Ned Rorem, composer / author


"A timely and invaluable study of a composer we need to know more about. I marvel at Howard Pollack's capacity--as with his biographies of Copland and Gershwin--to digest and synthesize a wealth of information, copiously gathered." --Joseph Horowitz, author of Classical Music in America: A History


"A strong biography." Playbill


"A brilliantly researched new biography." --Jewish Daily Forward


"Beautifully written, drawing on new interviews with friends and family of the composer, and making extensive use of new archival and secondary sources, Marc Blitzstein presents the most complete biography of this important American artist." --Newreads


"Now, Pollack has made Blitzstein happen, just as he succeeded in his comprehensive studies of Gershwin and Copland." --Jewish Herald Voice


"[An] exceptionally researched, detailed, and important study of this fascinating, complex, and still relatively unknown composer who well deserves a book of this quality." --Notes


"In this comprehensive, sensitive, and beautifully written biography, Howard Pollack scrutinizes every part of Blitzstein's complex personal as well as public life, sustaining his well-deserved reputation as our foremost biographer of American classical composers." --Judith Tick, Matthews Distinguished University Professor, College of Arts, Media, and Design, Northeastern University


"Pollack has already told us everything we need to know about Copland and Gershwin. Now he scrutinises Blitzstein in the context of his entire cultural and political scene in fascinating and impeccably researched detail." --Peter Dickinson, Emeritus Professor of Keele and London Universities


"A thorough biography." --DC Theatre Scene


"Now, Pollack has made Blitzstein happen, just as he succeeded in his comprehensive studies of Gershwin and Copland". --Jewish Herald Voice

26 "Beautifully written, drawing on new interviews with friends and family of the composer, and making extensive use of new archival and secondary sources, Marc Blitzstein presents the most complete biography of this important American artist." Newreads



"The fluidity of prose, moving between established fact and new interviews and critical ideas, is remarkable, making for a book that is rivaled only by Pollack's biography of Aaron Copland...A momentous achievement indeed...Highly recommended." --Choice


"An eventful and rewarding voyage of immersion into the life and work of an important American composer." --New Music Connoisseur


About the Author

Howard Pollack is John and Rebecca Moores Professor of Music at the University of Houston and author of John Alden Carpenter: A Chicago Composer; Aaron Copland: The Life and Work of an Uncommon Man; and most recently, George Gershwin: His Life and Work.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  6 reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing contribution to American music history Dec 17 2012
By Jack C - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
At a brisk 500 pages, Howard Pollack has done it again. In addition to his comprehensive biographies on John Alden Carpenter, Aaron Copland and George Gershwin (as well as a wonderful early book on Harvard composers), Pollack has created a true masterpiece with "Marc Blitzstein: His Life, His Work, His World." What I love most about Pollack's work is his ability to appeal to both scholars and laymen alike: his assessment of Blitzstein's contributions to American music as well as his social conscientiousness during an integral time in American history is impressive and masterfully crafted. Pollack's portrayal of Blitzstein, a significant composer who has, unfortunately, fallen into obscurity amidst our rapidly changing society, makes us contemplate what other American treasures have been cast into the shadows of our all-to-quickly depleting cultural memory. We can only hope that Howard Pollack continues writing books about other forgotten gems of American music, but regardless of his subject, Pollack's work is not to be left unread: it's just too darn good.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Top drawer! Jan. 21 2013
By RdRydngHd - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Wonderful biography about a gifted composer, written by a gifted biographer. I always want more photographs in biographies, but that's just me...
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If you don't really know Marc Blitzstein this is for you Feb. 19 2013
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
No matter how well you think you know Marc Blitzstein or how much you like his music, you will find out so very much in this book and come to love and respect him even more for his wonderful contribution to music.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Required Reading Dec 29 2012
By Daron A. Hagen - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
As one who has spent a lifetime musically trawling the same professional and aesthetic waters as Blitzstein (music-theater, the Curtis connection, the unstable tonality gambit, and so forth) he has served as an example (both positive and negtaive) for me over the years. In light of that, from Eric Gordon's wonderful book to this irresistable and crucial one by Howard Pollack, I've followed the literature about MB closely.

This book should be required reading for every young composer thinking about a career writing music theater, any artist devoted to the proposition that good art can effect positive social change. (Blitzstein was a shining example of that.) It should also be required reading for contemporary conductors, who sometimes abrogate the normal order of things by directing the creative efforts of the living composers with whom they collaborate. (Blitzstein brooked none of that.)

I find it an essential addition to the literature, and am grateful to Howard Pollack and to Oxford for creating it and bringing it out.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars title Oct. 6 2012
By C. Davis - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A superb full biography of the artist: both good life-drama & top-of-the-ladder musical scholarship. A first-rate companion to Eric Gordon's biography of Blitzstein of thirty years ago

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