If one name stands out among musicologists writing today, that name is Joseph Kerman. Eminent, wide-ranging, and wonderfully readable, Kerman's writing on musicology, opera, Beethoven, and Elizabethan music has informed and inspired an extensive audience both in America and abroad.
There is much to interest both the general reader and the musicologist in this collection of twenty essays. Included are several notable pleas addressed by Kerman to his professional colleagues in an effort to get them to adopt a more critical orientation for their work. Other essays range from a moving account of William Byrd as a spokesman for the beleaguered Elizabethan Catholic minority to a discerning analysis of Beethoven's well-known obsession with the key of C minor. The controversial tenets of Kerman's classic Opera as Drama (1956) are reaffirmed in essays on Don Giovanni, The Magic Flute, Tristan und Isolde, Ernani and I Lombardi.
Kerman's legacy to a younger generation is here, too: in an exemplary writing style, he offers challenging models for a humane and historically informed music criticism. An added gem is the Preface, which provides an intellectual and anecdotal road map of the place of the essays in Kerman's academic and public expeditions.
Joseph Kerman has been at the very center of musicology for almost four decades. This overview of his work will be warmly received and greatly valued.
Joseph Kerman is Professor of Music at the University of California, Berkeley. He is a founding editor of the journal 19th-Century Music and author of several books, most recently Contemplating Music (1986).
"Rarely does one encounter in a single volume such a masterful and graceful display of intellectual virtuosity. Kerman's skill in illuminating musical texts, interpreting meaning, and fashioning historical insights vindicates his reputation as one of the few genuinely significant figures of our time in the study of music. The authoritative range, clarity, and elegance of the essays in this book make it both indispensable and delightful."—Leon Botstein, Director, American Symphony Orchestra
"Reading through the book is a bit like being invited to dinner with a good number of old friends, some acquaintances good to get to know a bit better, and a few strangers definitely worth meeting for the first time. Above all there is the host, willing to be expansive on what many of the people in the room have meant to him in the course of his varied life. It is invidious to deliver judgment: one simply feels honored to be there."—John Deathridge, co-author of The New Grove Wagner
"Joseph Kerman has in recent years become a kind of bellwether for musicological writing, one who has offered the discipline various kinds of programmatic challenges and then shown us how to meet them. He presents—in essay after essay—exactly the kind of music criticism he has been urging us all to write. There are so many examples of graceful, insightful, humane, even funny ways to get 'out of analysis' and into understanding musical meaning."—Ruth Solie, editor of Musicology and Difference
ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award in the Symphonic Books category, ASCAP