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TEXT & ACT: Essays on Music and Performance (Englisch) Taschenbuch – 7. September 1995

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Music lovers who have watched the "authenticity" (period instrument) wars of the 1980s and 1990s could be excused for forgetting that Richard Taruskin is a musicologist and professor by trade, not a professional critic. For it is as an essayist and critic (if not a professional gadfly) that he has made a real impact on American musical culture. Indeed, in early-music circles, and even in the marketing of period-instrument performances by record labels, the word authentic has been abandoned almost entirely--and this is due largely to Taruskin's impassioned arguments (and his ability to get them published in places like The New York Times).

Text & Act is a collection of Taruskin's most important (or, at least, most inflammatory) essays and articles on the subject of authenticity in the performance of 18th- and 19th-century music. These are the pieces that got Taruskin a reputation for being a flame-thrower; many fans of what is now called HIP (historically informed performance) have gotten the idea that Taruskin is the enemy of everything HIP stands for. They should have a look at this book: they'll see that he actually applauds many of the HIP movement's achievements. (In fact, Taruskin was himself a Baroque cellist and a founding member of the New York period-instrument orchestra Concert Royal.) What he skewers mercilessly are the pretensions and a few of the assumptions on which HIP was originally based and that it used to market itself.

Readers will also see why Taruskin has deeply infuriated so many people. He regularly makes inflammatory (if not downright insulting) statements at the outset of an essay and then backpedals in the middle. He quotes a statement by another writer or musician, draws implications from that statement that are far more extensive than the speaker apparently intended, and then demolishes those implications and often mocks the unwitting speaker. Especially in his introduction (which I recommend you skip until you've read the rest of the book), he continues to fight battles that he has already won, even as he seems to brag of his triumphs.

Nevertheless, Taruskin's main points are persuasive. They may even seem obvious, but all too many musicians seem to have forgotten them. "Authenticity" in the sense of a faithful re-creation of the composer's intentions and preferred conditions of performance is simply not an achievable goal. We can't know the composer's real intentions (he or she is almost certainly dead), and re-creating original performance conditions is unfeasible (we can't spend the equivalent of the unlimited budget Louis XIV had for his operas, and there are no more French nobles trained in Baroque dance to do the ballets), if not impossible (there are no more 14-year-old boy sopranos to sing Taverner's masses or Bach's soprano solos). There's no point in having as a goal a performance that would please the composer--again, the composer is (as a rule) dead. What's important is a performance that pleases us, the people performing and listening to the music now. So for anyone who wants to understand the early-music revival of the late 20th century and the debates surrounding it, this book is indispensable. Just don't be surprised if you want to smack the author every so often. --Matthew Westphal


Superlative value...presents virtually all Taruskin's major writing on performance criticism. Early Music He is the most devastatingly acute of the growing band of critics and philosophers who question the whole idea of authentic performance practice. Music Magazine A splendid and heartening book. Music Magazine ...the most devastingly acute of the growing band of critics and philosophers who question the whole idea of authentic performance practice. Taruskin has been engaged in a war of words, every blow and counter-blow of which is recorded in this entertaining and wonderfully stimulating book. I found this a splendid and heartening book. BBC Books Another one from Taruskin, 'the most devastatingly acute of the growing band of critics and philosophers who question the whole idea of authentic practice. A splendid and heartening book' BBC Music Magazine

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Taruskin's Sturm und Drang. 8. September 2010
Von Anna Shlimovich - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Taschenbuch
This rather earlier book of the famous, and now perhaps also infamous, musicologist Richard Taruskin is an excellent read on many subjects of music. The book was published in 1995, it is a collection of essays, and although it is already quite radical on many points, it is not yet as extremist as Taruskin's later writings. In 1995 there are still 6 years before Sep 11, and life is peaceful, beautiful and prosperous. Taruskin tells us that "A humanist has been defined as one who rejects authority but respects tradition." At that moment, he still finds it "so dispiriting, and ultimately sinister" when rhetoric is taking the opposite track "respecting authority and rejecting tradition" - exactly a position he takes himself some 13 years later, i.e. today.

However, in those glorious past days, he is more preoccupied with musical, not political dilemmas, and his erudition is astounding. The book touches on many issues. I liked his essay on modern vs traditional approach in interpretations; he provides a marvelous excursion in the past, speaking of enormous liberties conductors like Richard Strauss, Hans Pfitzner, Willem Mendelberg were taking with the score, in particular, with Beethoven. He gives a lot of credit to Toscanini, who was the first one to play "com'e scritto", whatever it meant for the Maestro, however. He notes that the speedy tempos of Toscanini were lauded during his days by German and Austrian audiences, and that future conductors, as Furtwangler and Scherchen, are already examples of the Glacial Shift theory, according to which performances have been getting steadily slower.

Taruskin's favorites are clearly defined. He prefers Nicholas McGegan in Handel, Nicolaus Harnoncourt in Bach, and in Mozart, he esteems Frans Bruggen, Malcolm Bilson and John Eliot Gardiner. His rage and fury are targeted on Christopher Hogwood's Beethoven, while he praises much Roger Norrington in the same First Symphony. Along the lines of his argument, Taruskin tells interesting stories of Prokofiev, Stravinsky, Schubert, their famous expressions and dialogs with their teachers, which make it somewhat an entertaining read, although in no way Taruskin's writings are an easy read - his vocabulary is extensive, and his constructions are rather complex.

I also liked very much the chapter "Resisting the Ninth" - an essay on Beethoven's Symphony No. 9. Taruskin reviews in particular the recording under the baton of Roger Norrington, but he gives extensive background on this opus, and to my amazement, I learned that in the 19th century this symphony was viewed as "eccentric, unconnected, and incomprehensible; the fourth movement of it so monstrous and tasteless, and inits grasp of Schiller's Ode so trivial" - this all is according to Louis Spohr, a musician who played for the composer conducting. Then Fanny Mendelshon, whose brother dicrected it in Dusseldorf premier in 1836, wrote that the symphony was "in parts abominable...a burlesque". Taruskin explains that the only musicians who embraced the Ninth without reservation were those "whose own aesthetic program it could seem to validate", i.e. Wagner, and later Brahms in his First Symphony, Frank, Bruckner, Mahler. This chapter is truly full of the most interesting facts and ideas, and is marvelously written.

Taruskin's essays on Mozart was also valuable. Naturally, he is dismayed by commercialization of Mozart and by sentimental approach to his art. It was personally intriguing for me to find that Taruskin sees Mozart as a tragic figure, which is quite close to my own view on Mozart's music, that it is not at all cheerful as it is frequently served to the "faceless mass" (per Taruskin), but rather that his music is full of melancholy. Taruskin's essay does not mention Salieri specifically, but he concedes that Mozart's music was more complex that his contemporaries, and was viewed as brash and overspiced for an average listener. "Too many notes, my dear Mozart, and too beautiful for our ears." - complained Emperor Joseph II at a rehearsal of Die Entführung aus dem Serail.

Perhaps the most controversial idea expressed in the book is concerning Bach. Taruskin claims that "Anyone exposed to Bach's full range knows that the hearty, genial, lyrical Bach of the concert hall is not the essential Bach. The essential Bach was an avatar of a pre-Enlightened - and when push came to shove, a violently anti-Enlightened - temper. His music was a medium of truth, not beauty. At the truth he served was bitter. His works persuade us - no, reveal to us - that the world is filth and horror, that humans are helpless, that life is pain, that reason is a snare."

However, this seems to reflect on the author's inner ideas about life, and ironically such views made him come to his later conclusions, expressed in "The Danger of Music". I think everyone has her own Bach, and to view the glass is as half-full, one can retort by saying that Bach music is full of hope and vigor, its intrinsic beauty persuades us that humanity is also genius and bliss, that life is creation, that reason ultimately prevails over horror, that inspiration is divine. That to me seems to be the ultimate conclusion of Bach, but not an intermediary means he uses to show filth and horror, only to bring the listener to the enlightened end, which is the magic of music. But as with everything, each man worships his own Bach and tends to his own garden.

Overall, this is a great book to learn a lot, while keeping in mind that even in 1995, the author was already criticized of his blunt, if not offensive language, and of his "tired neo-Marxist attempt to make music slave of history"; yet I still adore his passion in this book; he is very opinionated and controversial, but never boring. The book is bigger than any review of it. Recommended.
5 von 5 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
Authentic scholarship 9. August 2001
Von Bernard Hughes - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Taschenbuch
A fascinating book, which holds together very cogently for a book of essays. Ignore the Introduction - or at least read it after the rest of the book. In any case it is full of petty squabbling and point-scoring from the heart of Academia-ville which is unworthy of the rest of the book. Professor Taruskin arguments are persuasive and convincing, and emerge with great force. If they get a bit repetitive after a while that must be partly because all these essays were originally published as stand alone pieces. Mr Taruskin's style can irritate in such large doses, from needlessly obscure vocabulary and convoluted sentence construction to some leaden sarcasm, but it is never unreadable. He is at his best making brilliant insights drawing together disparate musical strands to tell us fascinating things about our modern musical culture. There is also a passion about, and love for, the music in question which shines through all the pieces. Like all the best revelatory insights Taruskin's main point has a simplicity and obviousness which can blind the reader to the fact that what he is saying is both radical and true, and he was the first person to stand up and say it. Bravo.
5 von 7 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
Not Just For Early Music Bashing 22. März 2002
Von Jeremy Baguyos - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Taschenbuch
The "mainstream" vs. "authentic" debate was settled years ago. The working relationship between the two groups is more amiable, today. Perhaps because, "Text and Act" by Richard Taruskin pointed out that both "mainstream" and "authentic" movements shared the same false assumptions (musical truths can be derived through manuscripts, critical editions, and selected primary documents), pursued the same unattainable goals (faithful reproductions of composer intent and composer circumstance), and interpreted music through the same modernist bias (rejection of 19th century tempos via objective neoclassism). "Text and Act" was written with an axe to grind against the early music movement, but if the mainstream musicians and concertgoers look beyond the verbal combat, they too will glean some understanding of their own interpretations of Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, and other avatars of the Western Art Music Tradition. Lastly, Taruskin's broad perspective offers a rounded view of the standard repertoire and their composers which does well to fill in the gaps left by both "authentic" and "mainstream" musicians who tend to look at repertoire on a case-by-case basis and make musical decisions based on selective scholarship. Keep a Webster's handy and enjoy the author's invectives.
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opinion masquerading as scholarship 27. April 2005
Von Maddy Evil - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Taschenbuch
Taruskin's contribution to the "authenticity" debate needs no introduction: indeed, his central point - that using documents does not mean an "authentic" performance has been achieved - is clearly important. Yet it also happens to be a rather obvious, even basic, one, and the credibility of his arguments are lacking in light of the following -

1. Apparently, HIP [historically informed performance] is not aiming to recreate the past but is instead only interested in the 'shock of newness' [p.79]. Thus, the 'Brüggens and Bilsons' are "authentic" not through 'historical verisimilitude' but by being 'a true mirror of late twentieth-century taste' [p.166]. Unfortunately for Taruskin and his disciples, this proposition is too simplistic. If the sole aim was to pander to the ideal of what's in and what's new, why bother with any documents at all? (After all, Wendy Carlos and the Swingle Singers etc managed to create 'new' performances of Bach, WITHOUT such slavish recourse to documents). When sources as prescriptive as Quantz ('Versuch einer Anweisung die Flöte traversiere zu spielen', 1752) and Starke ('Wiener Piano-Forte-Schule', 1819-21) etc are consulted, it is somewhat illogical to argue that a brand new performance style has been created. [The fact that they may sound brand new to us is a totally separate issue.] It is quite obvious that no performance of today can completely recreate the past, but unfortunately that DOES NOT justify his argument that they are merely - 'new'. They are - in fact - a hybrid. To draw a non-musicological parallel, reconstructed Viking longhouses - based on, for example, the extant remains of the houses of Skallaholt and Isleifstadhir in Stöng (Iceland) - are SURELY not 'new' houses just because they use 21st-century thatch and turf, because they do not feel and smell the same to us as they would have done to Viking inhabitants, or because it is a contemporary concept to reconstruct historical houses. They do not, for example, have central heating, fitted carpets or a TV set.

2. R.e: the supposed fraudulent claim of the likes of the Hanover Band to having presented Beethoven's music 'in a form he would recognise' [p.204-5]. In addition to the point made above (i.e. Beethoven would perhaps 'recognise' a Stein or Walter piano above a Yamaha synthesizer, etc) one further observation must be made. Taruskin claims that this statement implies that other performances cannot also be 'in a form he would recognise' - but they do NOT say this. They do NOT say that others are unable to attempt similar reconstructions and in fact, they do NOT even say that other performers SHOULD TRY to attempt similar reconstructions!! Neither Taruskin nor any of his flock have provided a concrete example of an early music group who claim that their version of the work in question - AND THEIRS ALONE - is THE correct rendition, down to the last breath, fermata and accent (bravo chaps!). However, I'd be delighted for someone to offer Taruskin a helping hand here...

3. In order to substantiate his arguments, Taruskin peppers his points with invented facts and contradictions. The Tallis Scholars, for example, are cited as contributing to the modern obsession with countertenors [p.165] - this in spite of the fact that by near-unanimous agreement, their overriding characteristic is actually their use of...SOPRANOS. Taruskin then continues his countertenor-revolution hypothesis by citing Gothic Voices. But hang on a minute...their complete discography [21 CDs to date] has NO SINGLE EXAMPLE OF A COUNTERTENOR [the top voice is either a contralto or a tenor, and in some rare cases a soprano]. Compare this error with p.352, where he does indeed notice (congratulations, Mr Taruskin) that the top vocalist is - in fact - MARGARET Philpot (i.e. a WOMAN). And yet another careless contradiction (just how many are there?) - compare his comments on indicated tempo markings in Brüggen's Beethoven performances on p.164 and p.229...

4. Taruskin's aesthetic preference for "traditional" performances (despite occasional attempts to look balanced) is so obvious that we can conclude only this: 'Text and Act' is simply a ragged apologia for conventional interpretations. One example will suffice: Taruskin praises the 'air of excitement' about Beethoven performances which are - even by his own admission - 'scrappy studio' versions, such as those of Scherchen and Liebowitz. Indeed, he finds - 'anything' - preferable to Hogwood's, 'all cloaked up in the mantle of authenticity' [p.226-7]. In addition, anyone who is still unsure about Taruskin's aesthetic leanings need only hear his renditions of Medieval and Renaissance music made with the Columbia University Collegium Musicum between 1970-75 (available via Minstrel Records); for whilst these can certainly be considered as "authentic" in his understanding of the word (i.e. as a reflection of late twentieth-century taste), it is patently clear that they are far removed from "authentic" (as it is normally understood), with their Orff-inspired orchestrations and beefy warbling.

It is this final point which undoubtedly highlights the main issue here. If you hate "authentic" performances, you will obviously find his arguments wonderfully persuasive. If, however, you do not hate "authentic" performances, you will find his arguments far too extreme to convince entirely. It's certainly fabulously entertaining (e.g. 'sew that into a sampler and hang it on the wall', p.231) - but is it scholarship...? That, ladies and gentlemen, is for you to decide.

Sirven a mi nombre todos mucho o poco, pero no ay hombre que piense ser loco...
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Great Book, but E-version Terrible 15. Januar 2014
Von Widge - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verifizierter Kauf
This is a great book and wonderful read. The loss of stars was because the Kindle version is listed as having page numbers, which is incorrect. This made it very difficult to find the location of my assigned class readings. If I had bought the paperback version of this book, I would have given it five stars.
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