Don’t Fence It In

May 27, 2009

AmericanJazzMan It is a peculiarly modern, and startling, experience to stumble online upon something that you have published in the past and pretty much forgotten about. I did so this morning when I came upon a review I had written four years ago of a history of classical music in the United States. Despite the fact that I recall its having been cut cruelly, for space considerations, just before publication, I find that I still stand squarely behind its main argument about the spaciousness of classical music. And I think the fight against letting our view of it become too narrow is still one worth waging.

At the same time, I hasten to acknowledge the usefulness of some of the data included in the book under review. For example, the mind still boggles at this fact: On Christmas Day 1909, Oscar Hammerstein’s Manhattan Opera presented Tosca and Tales of Hoffmann in New York, Faust and Aïda in Philadelphia, Le Jongleur de Notre Dame, Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci in Pittsburgh, and Mignon and Le Caïd in Montreal!

Où, indeed, sont les neiges d’antan?

UPDATE: Almost as though in response to the plea above for a broader approach (which would also be a deeper one) to our heritage, I have coincidentally just received an e-mail alert from the Society for American Music of an upcoming conference hosted by “The Exile Society and the Friends of the Schwenkfelder Library & Heritage Center” on “Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century Sacred Vocal Music In PA German Culture.” We live in a time when many groups, large and small, are delving into the true variety that the American musical culture involves. Looking only at the big, endowed institutions of the carriage trade falsifies the picture crucially.

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