Music & Silence Audio Cassette – Audiobook, Nov 2001
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Rose Tremain deserves a hallelujah chorus dedicated to her alone. A decade after the appearance of Restoration, with its superb evocation of the British baroque, comes her glorious and enthralling Music and Silence. Like the earlier novel, this one is a treasure house of delights--as haunting as it is pleasurable and teeming with real and imagined characters, intrigues, searches, and betrayals. The vivid scenes loop in and out, back and forth, like overlapping and repeated chords in a single, delicious composition.
The year is 1629, and King Christian IV of Denmark is living in a limbo of fear for his life and rage over his country's ruin, not to mention his wife's not-so-secret adultery. He consoles himself with impossible dreams and with music, the latter performed by his royal orchestra in a freezing cellar while he listens in his cozy chamber directly above. Music, he hopes, will create the sublime order he craves. The queen, meanwhile, detests nothing more. The duty of assuaging the king's miseries falls to his absurdly handsome English lutenist, Peter Claire, who resigns himself to his (so to speak) underground success:
They begin. It seems to Peter Claire as if they are playing only for themselves, as if this is a rehearsal for some future performance in a grand, lighted room. He has to keep reminding himself that the music is being carried, as breath is carried through the body of a wind instrument, through the twisted pipes, and emerging clear and sharp in the Vinterstue, where King Christian is eating his breakfast.... He strives, as always, for perfection and, because he is playing and listening with such fierce concentration, doesn't notice the cold in the cellar as he thought he would, and his fingers feel nimble and supple.Other stories, each of them full of fabulous invention, intertwine with these musical machinations. There is the tale of the king's mother, who hoards her gold in secret; the tormenting memory of his boyhood friend, Bror; and the romance between Peter Claire and the queen's downtrodden maid, Emilia. And while the author paid meticulous mind to her period settings, her take on desire and longing has a very modern intensity to it, as if an ancient score were being performed on a contemporary (and surpassingly elegant) instrument. --Ruth Petrie --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From Publishers Weekly
As she proved in Restoration, Tremain can write literary historical novels whose period details encompass the social and intellectual currents of their time and place. This dazzlingly imaginative, powerfully atmospheric work is set mainly in 17th-century Denmark. One of the protagonists is English, however, and Tremain captures the sensibilities of natives of both countries. British lutenist Peter Claire arrives in Copenhagen in 1629 to join the orchestra of King Christian IV. Depressed after a doomed love affair with a soulful Irish countess, Peter finds his melancholy mood mirrored by that of the king, who is beset by both financial and marital crises. That fruitless wars and profligate spending by the Danish nobility have depleted the country's coffers is the king's public woe; privately, his heart is anguished by the behavior of his consort, Kristen Munk, who despises her own children, keeps her spouse from her bed and is carrying on with a German mercenary. Recognizing in Peter's handsome countenance a resemblance to a lost childhood friend, Christian declares that Peter is the "angel" who will help solve his personal and national problems. Tremain's complex plot is built in small increments. Excerpts from the brazenly selfish Kirsten's diary alternate with the points of view of dozens of others, including Kirsten's lady-in-waiting Emilia Tilsen. Kirsten deems Emilia irreplaceable and prevents her from openly acknowledging her feelings for Peter. Love--requited and thwarted, healthy and perverted, damaging and healing--is one theme of the novel, represented by six pairs of lovers. Love is inextricably tied to the power to enslave; perhaps it's a form of enchantment, of which another manifestation is music. Tremain builds her narrative via alternating voices blending like the solos of musical instruments. Threading irony among its many leitmotifs (Christian IV, for example, who understands that music can "lead to the divine," subjects his musicians to brutal living conditions), the narrative sweeps to a dramatic crescendo, with several characters in mortal danger and the prospect of tragedy everywhere. Yet it ends in felicitous harmony, a triumph of storytelling by a master of the art. 9-city author tour. (Apr.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Top Customer Reviews
Peter, the English lutenist, finds himself cast as the King's "angel" when King Charles becomes moody and distressed by his personal loneliness and the impending poverty of his kingdom. At the same time Charles is perilously besotted with the charms of an adulterous Kirsten. Not particularly kingly, Charles IV is rather a sad lump, much in need of aid in any form; he receives this help through the gracious character of Peter Claire.
Then there is Emilie, Kirsten's lady, who wins Peter's heart at their first meeting. But this is not an easy romance, as Queen Kirsten has chosen Emilie as her most trusted lifetime companion. When Kirsten is inevitably banished from the Court for her outrageous misdeeds, she takes Emilie to live in the country as well, now Kirsten's only friend and solace. A durable soul with misplaced loyalty, Emilie becomes an unknowing pawn to the selfish woman's whims.
Will the King find happiness and riches sufficient to support his faltering economy? Will Peter and Emilie be forever lost to one another through Kirsten's machinations? By design, the novel moves from place to place, scene to scene, with seemingly unrelated characters. They are, in fact, all moving toward the resolution of the carefully woven plot, and precise detail lends an appealing ambience to the Court. The answers fall gracefully in line in this meticulously manicured maze where the author remains in control throughout.
The tales of the various personalities in this novel are expertly woven and while there is hate and destruction, there is also kindness, true love and some sweet (albeit late) revenge. The reviewer who wrote that this was the stuff of fairy tales has it right. Although this is a fairy tale, it is so well written that the reader can hear the sweet calm of the chamber players' music, can smell the virgin forests in which King Christian and his dear boyhood friend, Bror learn about life and loyalty, and can rejoice in the few moments of true passion in this novel. A wonderful tale of old, very well written, with an excellent story
The book's central character is Peter Claire, an English lutenist, who, in 1629, arrives at the palace of King Christian IV of Denmark to join the royal orchestra. Things are not quite what Peter expected, however, and he is more than surprised when he learns the king requires his orchestra to perform in a freezing cellar, among a group of squawking hens, while the orchestra's exquisite music floats up to the Vinterstue via a series of trapdoors and pipes.
Although Peter Claire is the central figure in this novel, there are many others whose stories are no less important. One of these stories belongs to Kirsten Munk, wife of Christian IV and the "almost Queen" of Denmark. Kirsten despises music and chooses to spend her time either dreaming of the Swedish Count Otto or frolicking with him, whichever the case may be.
Kirsten's favorite lady-in-waiting, Emilia Tilsen, also plays a very important role in this magical book, for Emilia Tilsen and Peter Claire fall in love at first sight on the grounds of Rosenborg, the palace that Christian built for his unfaithful wife. But will Peter's and Emilia's love be allowed to blossom or will it wither on the vine? When the adulterous Kirsten is banished from court, she takes Emilia with her, thus jeopardizing the young girl's future happiness with the English lute player.
Music and Silence is also the story of the beautiful Irish countess, Francesca O'Fingal, a Bologna-born Italian beauty whose husband, Johnny, is the subject of a metaphorical subplot. We learn his story from Francesca via her notebook, aptly named, "La Dolorossa.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
I am very happy with the book I have purchased though Amazon. It arrived on time and it was in good condition , as advertised. Thank you.Published 10 months ago by Anamaria
This book weaves together separate stories of people who rise and fall from power, who have tremendous voice and then none, and vice versa. The book is lyrical, lovely ... Read morePublished on Jan. 6 2014 by Kellie Garrett
I loved reading this book. It is thoughtful,sexy and divine all at once. I found myself underlining bits of insightful wisdom and wishing the story and characters could go on... Read morePublished on Feb. 26 2002 by Lois Minsky
Rose Tremain has developed into a first-rate historical novelist. <Restoration,> which she wrote a decade earlier, was her first strictly historical novel and <Music and... Read morePublished on Aug. 4 2001 by Bruce Kendall
Setting the stage in a cellar in the midst of 17th century Denmark, a somewhat deranged monarch assembles some of Europe's best musicians to entertain him year round. Read morePublished on Aug. 4 2001 by An 11-year old reader
I am not really sure why i like this book so much. It is an interesting setting, 17th centurty Denmark, and i always enjoy a good flash of a unique historical setting. Read morePublished on June 23 2001 by Yogi Trout Bear
I would never read a novel in "historical romance" genre, which is what I assumed _Music and Silence_ was when I first saw it in paperback while living in the UK last... Read morePublished on June 7 2001