Reading for Me

The Books I Have Read…..Just for Me

#31: Music in the 18th Century (John Rice)

on June 30, 2013

Obviously this book is not recommended for everyone. A volume in the new Norton History series Western Music in ContextMusic in the 18th Century addresses the music of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven. In an interesting approach, Rice groups music of the era geographically, giving major attention to the cities of Naples, Vienna, and Paris as well as others. A large amount of discussion is given to the historical and political events that shaped the music. A companion anthology is also available for each volume in the series.

I found Rice’s text to be extremely readable while maintaining its scholarly status. However, I did find the use of theoretical terms developed by Robert Gjerdingen (2007) to be unnecessarily confusing to the text. I found it humorous that Rice defends his inclusion of the material with the following statement:  “Readers need to keep in mind, however, that this terminology and the theory on which it rests are quite new and their usefulness still subject to debate.” (p. 35) That red-flag statement seemed to say, “I’m not sure there’s any validity to this discussion, but I’m going to include it to show how smart I am.” When Rice strictly spoke from a historical and musical point of view, the text was strong and filled with lots of insightful commentary; the theoretical discussions should have been avoided in the present text.

I look forward to reading the remaining volumes in the series that is edited by Walter Frisch. I’ll just need a little time to recover before diving into Joseph Auner’s Music of the 20th and 21st Centuries. A more thoroughly review of the present volume will appear on my professional blog, Collaborations, on Thursday, July 11, 2013.


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