Celebrating Classical Music Month with Exciting Page Turners

As part of our ongoing celebration of Classical Music Month in September, we’ve pulled together a list of books that commemorate the great composers of the past through to the celebrated contemporary composers of today. Then we’ve sprinkled in some page turners that highlight the incredible artistry that defines classical music. Whether you enjoy reading about Beethoven, Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff or John Williams, or you’re looking to share your love of classical music with young learners and listeners, below are our favorites for music lovers of all ages. If you purchase your books or kindle online, you can support the Symphony every time you make a purchase through AmazonSmile.

Know Before You Go!

Below are books from or about composers whose work Pacific Symphony will perform during its 2022-23 season.

Pyotr Tchaikovsky

When Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky died of cholera in 1893, he was without a doubt Russia’s most celebrated composer. Drawing extensively on Tchaikovsky’s uncensored letters and diaries, this richly documented biography explores the composer’s life and works, as well as the larger and richly robust artistic culture of nineteenth-century Russian society, which would propel Tchaikovsky into the international spotlight.

CONCERT: Want to enjoy Tchaikovsky’s music? Join us at the concerts below.

Tchaikovsky Spectacular on September 4, 2022
Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto on October 20-22, 2022
Nutcracker for Kids! on December 3, 2022
Tchaikovsky & Strauss on February 23-25, 2023
Tchaikovsky’s Fourth on February 26, 2023
Tales from Italy on April 30, 2023


Beethoven: Anguish and Triumph

This magnificent biography of Ludwig van Beethoven peels away layers of legend to get to the living, breathing human being who composed some of the world’s most iconic music. Jan Swafford (Brahms and Mozart) mines sources never before used in English-language biographies to reanimate the revolutionary ferment of Enlightenment-era Bonn, where Beethoven grew up and imbibed the ideas that would shape all of his future work. Swafford then tracks Beethoven to Vienna, capital of European music, where he built his career in the face of critical incomprehension, crippling ill health, romantic rejection, and “fate’s hammer,” his ever-encroaching deafness. More than a decade in the making, this will be the standard Beethoven biography for years to come. 

CONCERT: Want to enjoy Beethoven’s music? Join us at the concerts below.

Beethoven & Boléro on September 22-24, 2022
Bach & Beethoven with George Li on October 9, 2022
Respighi & Beethoven with Shunta Morimoto on January 22, 2023
Mozart & Beethoven with Drew Petersen on April 23, 2023


Johannes Brahms: A Biography

Proclaimed the new messiah of Romanticism by Robert Schumann when he was only 20, Johannes Brahms dedicated himself to a long and extraordinarily productive career. Making unprecedented use of the remaining archival material, Jan Swafford offers richly expanded perspectives on Brahms’s youth, his difficult romantic life–particularly his longstanding relationship with Clara Schumann–and his professional rivalry with Lizst and Wagner. Judicious, compassionate, and full of insight into Brahms’s human complexity as well as his music, Johannes Brahms is an indispensable biography.

CONCERT: Want to enjoy Brahms’ music?

Join us for Brahms Symphony No. 4 on October 23, 2022


Clara Schumann: The Artist and the Woman

This absorbing and award-winning biography tells the story of the tragedies and triumphs of Clara Wieck Schumann (1819–1896). At once artist, composer, editor, teacher, wife, and mother of eight children, she was an important force in the musical world of her time. To show how Schumann surmounted the obstacles facing female artists in the nineteenth century, Nancy B. Reich has drawn on previously unexplored primary sources: unpublished diaries, letters, and family papers, as well as concert programs. Highlighting aspects of Clara Schumann’s personality and character that have been neglected by earlier biographers, this candid and eminently readable account adds appreciably to our understanding of a fascinating artist and woman.

CONCERT: Want to enjoy Clara Schumann’s music?

Join us for Clara Schumann’s Legacy on November 6, 2022


Gustav Holst: The Man and his Music

Gustav Holst’s “Planets” suite has become established as one of the classics of twentieth-century orchestral music. Biographer Michael Short’s access to Holst’s letters and diaries, as well as his close work with Holst’s daughter Imogen, have resulted in the most detailed book on the composer’s life and music yet. This book includes an analysis of Holst’s musical style and a substantial reference section.

CONCERT: Want to enjoy Holst’s music?

Join us for The Planets on November 17-19, 2022


Rachmaninoff and His World

This volume represents one of the first serious explorations of Rachmaninoff’s successful career as a composer, pianist, and conductor, first in late Imperial Russia, and then after emigration in both the United States and interwar Europe. Shedding light on some unfamiliar works, especially his three operas and his many songs, the book also includes a substantial number of new documents illustrating Rachmaninoff’s celebrity status in America.

CONCERT: Want to enjoy Rachmaninoff’s music

Join us for Rachmaninoff: Symphonic Dances on December 1-4, 2022


Messiah: The Composition and Afterlife of Handel’s Masterpiece

In the late summer of 1741, George Friderick Handel composed an oratorio set to words from the King James Bible, rich in tuneful arias and magnificent choruses. Jonathan Keates recounts the history and afterlife of Messiah, one of the best-loved works in the classical repertoire. He relates the composition’s first performances and its relationship with spirituality in the age of the Enlightenment and examines how Messiah, after Handel’s death, became an essential component of our musical canon. An authoritative and affectionate celebration of the high point of the Georgian golden age of music, Messiah is essential reading for lovers of classical music.

CONCERT: Handel’s Glorious Messiah on December 4, 2022


Gustav Mahler

A best-seller when first published in Germany in 2003, Jens Malte Fischer’s Gustav Mahler has been lauded by scholars as a landmark work. Fischer explores Mahler’s early life, his relationship to literature, his achievements as a conductor in Vienna and New York, his unhappy marriage, and his work with the Metropolitan Opera and the New York Philharmonic in his later years. He also illustrates why Mahler is a prime example of artistic idealism worn down by Austrian anti-Semitism and American commercialism. Gustav Mahler is the best-sourced and most balanced biography available about the composer, a nuanced and intriguing portrait of his dramatic life set against the backdrop of early 20th century America and fin de siècle Europe.

CONCERT: Mahler 9 on January 12-14, 2022


Ottorino Respighi: His Life and Times

This is the first English language biography of Ottorino Respighi, the most performed Italian composer of the twentieth century. Best known for his so-called Roman trilogy, (Fountains of Rome, Pines of Rome and Roman Festivals), this book documents the story of his rise to fame and offers a fascinating insight into the active lifestyle of an internationally renowned musician, who made an important contribution to the revival of interest in early music.

CONCERT: Want to enjoy Respighi’s music

Join us for Respighi: Ancient Airs and Dances, Suite No. 1 on January 22, 2023


Sergey Prokofiev Diaries

1907–1914: Prodigious Youth
1915-1923: Behind the Mask
1924-1933: Prodigal Son

An inexhaustibly rich portrait of a vibrant artistic culture on the edge of war and revolution, Prokofiev’s Diaries are both a dramatic illumination of a great composer’s creativity and an indispensable contribution to our understanding of musical modernism. They constitute an essential and entertaining reference for all lovers of Prokofiev’s music.

CONCERT: Want to enjoy Prokofiev’s music? Join us at the concerts below.

Prokofiev: Suite from Romeo and Juliet on February 2-4 & 5, 2023


Mendelssohn: A Life in Music

A masterful blend of biography and musical analysis. Readers will discover many new facets of the familiar but misunderstood composer and gain new perspectives on one of the most formidable musical geniuses of all time.

CONCERT: Want to enjoy Mendelssohn’s music?

Join us for Mendelssohn: Symphony No. 3 “Scottish” on March 16-18, 2023


Mozart: The Reign of Love

From the acclaimed composer and biographer Jan Swafford (Brahms and Beethoven) comes the definitive biography of one of the most lauded musical geniuses in history, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

At the earliest ages it was apparent that Wolfgang Mozart’s singular imagination was at work in every direction. He hated to be bored and hated to be idle, and through his life he responded to these threats with a repertoire of antidotes mental and physical. Whether in his rabidly obscene mode or not, Mozart was always hilarious. He went at every piece of his life, and perhaps most notably his social life, with tremendous gusto. His circle of friends and patrons was wide, encompassing anyone who appealed to his boundless appetites for music and all things pleasurable and fun.

CONCERT: Want to enjoy Mozart’s music? Join us at the concerts below.

Tao Plays Mozart on March 16-18, 2023
Symphony No. 34 on April 23, 2023


George Gershwin: An Intimate Portrait (Music in American Life)

“More thorough biographies than Walter Rimler’s slender volume exist … but for those of us interested less in the technical details of Gershwin’s music and its performance than in the comet called George Gershwin that blazed briefly across American skies, Mr. Rimler is the astronomer of choice.” The Wall Street Journal

CONCERT: Want to enjoy Gershwin’s music? Join us at the concerts below.

Join us for The Roaring ‘20s on May 11-13, 2023
Rhapsody in Blue on May 14, 2023


Just for Fun!

Below are books about composers and Classical Music ranging from old-world favorites to music trivia to classics from the Silver Screen.

Ennio Morricone: In His Own Words

Opening for the first time the door of his creative laboratory, Morricone offers an exhaustive and rich account of his life, from his early years of study to genre-defining collaborations with the most important Italian and international directors, including Leone, Bertolucci, Pasolini, Argento, Tornatore, Malick, Carpenter, Stone, Nichols, De Palma, Beatty, Levinson, Almodóvar, Polanski, and Tarantino. In the process, Morricone unveils the curious relationship that links music and images in cinema, as well as the creative urgency at the foundation of his experimentations with “absolute music”. Throughout these conversations with De Rosa, Morricone dispenses invaluable insights not only on composing but also on the broader process of adaptation and what it means to be human. As he reminds us, “Coming into contact with memories doesn’t only entail the melancholy of something that slips away with time, but also looking forward, understanding who I am now. And who knows what else may still happen.”


Debussy: A Painter in Sound 

One of the most revered composers of the twentieth century, Claude Debussy (1862–1918) achieved the unheard of: he reinvented the language of music without alienating the majority of music lovers. Debussy drove French music into entirely new regions of beauty and excitement at a time when old traditions threatened to stifle it. Yet despite his profound influence on French culture, Debussy’s own life was complicated and often troubled by struggles over money, women, and ill health. Here, Stephen Walsh, acclaimed author of Stravinsky, chronicles both the composer himself and the unique moment in European history that bore him. Walsh’s engagingly original approach is to enrich a lively biography with analyses of Debussy’s music: from his first daring breaks with the rules as a Conservatoire student to his achievements as the greatest French composer of his time.


Absolutely on Music: Conversations 

In Absolutely on Music, internationally Haruki Murakami sits down with his friend Seiji Ozawa, the revered former conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, for a series of conversations on their shared passion: music. Over the course of two years, Murakami and Ozawa discuss everything from Brahms to Beethoven, from Leonard Bernstein to Glenn Gould, from Bartók to Mahler, and from pop-up orchestras to opera. They listen to and dissect recordings of some of their favorite performances, and Murakami questions Ozawa about his career conducting orchestras around the world.

Culminating in Murakami’s ten-day visit to the banks of Lake Geneva to observe Ozawa’s retreat for young musicians, the book is interspersed with ruminations on record collecting, jazz clubs, orchestra halls, film scores, and much more. A deep reflection on the essential nature of both music and writing, Absolutely on Music is an unprecedented glimpse into the minds of two maestros.


The Joy of Music by Leonard Bernstein 

This classic work is perhaps Bernstein’s finest collection of conversations on the meaning and wonder of music. This book is a must for all music fans who wish to experience music more fully and deeply through one of the most inspired, and inspiring, music intellects of our time. Employing the creative device of “Imaginary Conversations” in the first section of his book, Bernstein illuminates the importance of the symphony in America, the greatness of Beethoven, and the art of composing. The book also includes a photo section and a third section with the transcripts from his televised Omnibus music series, including “Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony ” “The World of Jazz ” “Introduction to Modern Music ” and “What Makes Opera Grand.”


The Film Music of John Williams

From the triumphant “Main Title” in Star Wars to the ominous bass line of Jaws, John Williams has penned some of the most unforgettable film scores—while netting more than fifty Academy Award nominations. This updated and revised edition of Emilio Audissino’s groundbreaking volume takes stock of Williams’s creative process and achievements in music composition, including the most recent sequels in the film franchises that made him famous. Audissino discusses Williams’s unique approach to writing by examining his neoclassical style in context, demonstrating how he revived and revised classical Hollywood music. This volume details Williams’s lasting impact on the industry and cements his legacy as one of the most important composers in movie history. A must for fans and film-music lovers alike.


Scoring the Screen: The Secret Language of Film Music

Today, musical composition for films is more popular than ever. In professional and academic spheres, media music study and practice are growing; undergraduate and postgraduate programs in media scoring are offered by dozens of major colleges and universities. And increasingly, pop and contemporary classical composers are expanding their reach into cinema and other forms of screen entertainment. Through extensive and unprecedented analyses of the original concert scores, this book is the first to offer both aspiring composers and music educators a view from the inside of the actual process of scoring-to-picture.


Younger Learners

Below are books for school-aged children, designed to explore the worlds and music of classical music composers.

Bravo! Brava! A Night at the Opera: Behind the Scenes with Composers, Cast and Crew

This book teaches elementary school children what opera is by asking “Who writes the words?”, “Who makes an opera happen? “Who is backstage?” These questions and more are answered with easy-to-understand explanations and illustrations. Ages 8-11


Mozart: 59 Fascinating Facts For Kids

Author Andrew Gibbs gives you a comprehensive list of facts about Mozart, explaining the important accomplishments and events in his life. Reading a complete biography can be daunting for a youngster, but Gibbs presents Mozart’s life in 59 easy-to-understand segments. Ages 9-12


Fifty Famous Composers for Kids of All Ages

This book explores the stories of twenty-five male composers and twenty-five female composers and how they came to be famous. Perfect for music teachers and music lovers, this book was written to help both young and adult readers enjoy classical music. Ages 10+


Share with Young Learners

Below are books designed for sharing your love of music with little music learners.

I Love Classical Music (My First Sound Book)

This wonderful book has a button on every spread, which triggers one of six captivating sounds that introduces a memorable piece from some of the most beloved compositions of western classical music. An incredibly simple but utterly fascinating interactive book with sounds bound to enchant young readers and ignite an early love of classical music! Includes pieces from Mozart, Vivaldi, Strauss, Schubert, Tchaikovsky, and Paganini! Ages 1-2


Allegro: A Musical Journey Through 11 Musical Masterpieces

Meet Allegro, an ordinary boy who can’t stand practicing the piano. Those black dots on the page drive him crazy―until the music itself whisks him away on a breathtaking journey. With the press of a button hear Grieg’s Morning Mood, Dvořák’s New World Symphony, Debussy’s Claire de Lune, and seven more! Ages 1-3


The Story Orchestra Series

Vivaldi’s Four Seasons in One Day
Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker
Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty
Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake
Saint-Saëns’ Carnival of the Animals
Mozart’s Magic Flute
Grieg’s In the Hall of the Mountain King

This series brings classical music to life for children through gorgeously illustrated retellings of classic ballet, opera, and program music stories paired with 10-second sound clips of orchestras playing from their musical scores. With The Story Orchestra keyboard sound books, children can play the famous melodies themselves with the sound of a real grand piano. Ages 2-5


Wild Symphony

Children and adults can enjoy this timeless picture book as a traditional read-along, or can choose to listen to original musical compositions as they read–one for each animal–with a free interactive smartphone app, which uses augmented reality to play the appropriate song for each page when a phone’s camera is held over it. Ages 3-6


The Nutcracker: A Young Reader’s Edition of the Holiday Classic

To sweeten the anticipation, prolong the joy, or just to establish a lovely tradition—settle in with this charming retelling of a young girl’s dreamy visit to the Land of the Sugarplum Fairy. The story is enhanced with magnificent color illustrations created especially for this edition by the late award-winning artist Don Daily. Ages 4-8

CONCERT: Join us for Nutcracker for Kids!


Mozart Finds a Melody

Based on a true story about the famous composer and his beloved pet starling, this enchanting tale celebrates inspiration in any form it takes. Ages 5-9

LISTEN ON THE RADIO

Pacific Symphony’s official classical radio station, Classical California KUSC is part of the most-listened-to network of classical music radio stations in America, serving more than 900,000 listeners each week from Nothern California to the Mexican border. 

Popular radio personality Rich Capparela hosts the Pacific Symphony broadcasts, which include fascinating interviews with Music Director Carl St.Clair, guest artists and Symphony musicians.

The performances are broadcast Sundays at 7 p.m on KUSC 91.5 FM.

2021-22 Broadcast Schedule

7/10/22Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto
7/17/22Beethoven & Rachmaninoff
7/24/22Saint-Saens’ Organ Symphony
7/31/22Verdi’s Otello
8/7/22 Yang Plays Rachmaninoff
8/14/22Mozart & Salieri
8/21/22Beethoven’s Piano Concertos
8/28/22Mozart & Mahler


Classical California KUSC
, located in downtown Los Angeles, serves communities throughout Southern California:

91.5 FM in Los Angeles and Orange County
88.5 FM in Palm Springs
91.1 FM in Thousand Oaks
93.7 FM in Santa Barbara
99.7 FM in Morro Bay/San Luis Obispo

Classical California KDFC, located in downtown San Francisco, serves the Bay area and other communities in Northern California:

90.3 FM in San Francisco
104.9 FM in San Jose
89.9 FM in Napa Wine Country
103.9 FM in Monterey
92.5 FM in Ukiah.

Listeners can also hear these stations streaming at  kusc.orgkdfc.com and on their smartphone apps.

Meet Michael Clive, Pacific Symphony’s program annotator

By Erica Sharp

“Sometimes as a joke I refer to myself as ‘your intrepid annotator,’” said Michael Clive, longtime program note writer for Pacific Symphony, in an interview last week. He had just arrived back at his Connecticut home and grabbed a cup of coffee, ready now for a chat on the phone.

Clive was referring to a Symphony Magazine piece written about his style of program note writing during his early years with Pacific Symphony. “The premise of that article is that program notes were taking a new direction. They were becoming less formal and more interesting.”

Though he had done some program book writing for regional orchestras as a volunteer when he was 23, Pacific Symphony was officially the first orchestra he wrote program notes for. After Clive’s fellowship at the National Endowment for the Arts for classical music writers, Joseph Horowitz, former artistic advisor of the orchestra, recommended that he contact the Symphony.

From the very start, he was encouraged to take chances in his writing.

“Every time I have written something and thought it was risky, they put it in,” he said. “I said you can take it out if you want, but they have left it.”

Clive obtained his masters of arts degree in music criticism at the Peabody Institute of The Johns Hopkins University in 1987. At the time he was enrolled at the university he had a job with an advertising agency in New York and was living what he described as “a very corporate” lifestyle.

Continue reading

Ticket deal for ‘Watts Plays Beethoven’

Dmitri Shostakovich

Readers of this blog will receive 20 percent off of their ticket purchase for ‘Watts Plays Beethoven’ by going here and entering the promo code “blog”.

The concert features the venerable André Watts as soloist in Beethoven’s “Emperor” Concerto and Shostakovich’s epic Tenth Symphony, one of the greatest of the 20th century. Carl St.Clair conducts. The orchestra is just back from its triumph at Carnegie Hall.

The concerts takes place at 8 p.m. on May 3-5 at Segerstrom Concert Hall in Costa Mesa.

Miscellany

An inside look at James Levine’s lawsuit against the Metropolitan Opera….

The musicians of the Atlanta Symphony have a new contract, negotiated without rancor….

John Williams’ next “Star Wars” film will be his last….

Here’s a fresh idea for a classical concert — Poems While You Wait….

Several classical titles have been named to the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress, including Artur Schnabel’s complete recording of the Beethoven piano sonatas….

Zack Ferriday makes a strong case for ditching the term “Maestro”….

José Abreu, founder of Venezuela’s El SIstema, has died….

Rules for young conductors

For those of you who ever wonder what, exactly, a conductor does (and for those who are just curious), we offer you Rules for Young Conductors by the conductor and teacher Pierre Monteux. These won’t answer every question you might have about conducting, of course, but they will give you insight into some of the challenges and pitfalls of the profession. At the end, I append a video of Monteux in his 80s conducting the Chicago Symphony as evidence that he followed his own rules.

RULES FOR YOUNG CONDUCTORS

by Pierre Monteux

EIGHT “MUSTS”

  1. Stand straight, even if you are tall.
  2. Never bend, even for a pianissimo. The effect is too obvious behind.
  3. Be always dignified from the time you come on stage.
  4. Always conduct with a baton, so the players far from you can see your beat.
  5. Know your score perfectly
  6. Never conduct for the audience.
  7. Always mark the first beat of each measure very neatly, so the players who are counting and not playing know where you are.
  8. Always in a two-beat measure, beat the second beat higher than the first. For a four-beat bar, beat the fourth higher.

TWELVE “DON’TS”

  1. Don’t overconduct; don’t make unnecessary movements or gestures.
  2. Don’t fail to make music; don’t allow music to stagnate. Don’t neglect any phrase of overlook its integral part in the complete work.
  3. Don’t adhere pedantically to metronomic time — vary the tempo according to the subject or phrase and give each its own character.
  4. Don’t permit the orchestra to play always a boresome mezzo-forte.
  5. Don’t conduct without a baton; don’t bend over while conducting.
  6. Don’t conduct solo instruments in solo passages; don’t worry or annoy sections or players by looking intently at them in “ticklish” passages.
  7. Don’t forget to cue players or sections that have had long rests, even though the part is seemingly an unimportant inner voice.
  8. Don’t come before the orchestra if you have not mastered the score; don’t practice or learn the score “on the orchestra.”
  9. Don’t stop the orchestra if you have nothing to say; don’t speak too softly to the orchestra, or only to the first stands.
  10. Don’t stop for obviously accidental wrong notes.
  11. Don’t sacrifice ensemble in an effort for meticulous beating — don’t hold sections back in technical passages where the urge comes to go forward.
  12. Don’t be disrespectful to your players (no swearing); don’t forget individuals’ rights as persons; don’t undervalue the members of the orchestra simply because they are “cogs” in the “wheels.”

Listen to this: Rondo

As we discussed in a previous post on the Minuet, classical music doesn’t always have to be as hard as it seems to be. With some simple listening tips, the arcane (seeming) can often become clear.

Let’s take a look at the “rondo.” It is defined as a “musical form in which the first section comes back to frame episodes” (in “The Penguin Companion to Classical Music”). It’s sort of like a pop song, in which the chorus keeps coming back. The word “episodes” in this case just refers to the material in between the returns of the rondo main theme; the episodes are sections where the composers go on little musical adventures.

Rondos end up having forms like this: ABACABA, the “A” being the returning main theme and the other letters being episodes.

Let’s say no more, and listen to a rondo, the last movement of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 1. Here’s a map, with timings to the video above.

Section A: The main theme of this rondo is heard right at the beginning.

Section B: The first episode starts at 34″.

Section A returns at 2’06”. Notice the pre-echo of the theme before the return.

Section C (second episode) starts at 2’39”.

Section A returns at 4’18”.

Section B (the first episode varied) returns at 4’51”. It leads to solo piano cadenza at 6’23”.

Section A returns in the orchestra at 7:07. The rest is coda, or epilogue.