Music at the Limits is the first book to bring together three decades of Edward W. Said's essays and articles on music. Addressing the work of a variety of composers, musicians, and performers, Said carefully draws out music's social, political, and cultural contexts and, as a classically trained pianist, provides rich and often surprising assessments of classical music and opera.
Music at the Limits offers both a fresh perspective on canonical pieces and a celebration of neglected works by contemporary composers. Said faults the Metropolitan Opera in New York for being too conservative and laments the way in which opera superstars like Pavarotti have "reduced opera performance to a minimum of intelligence and a maximum of overproduced noise." He also reflects on the censorship of Wagner in Israel; the worrisome trend of proliferating music festivals; an opera based on the life of Malcolm X; the relationship between music and feminism; the pianist Glenn Gould; and the works of Mozart, Bach, Richard Strauss, and others.
Said wrote his incisive critiques as both an insider and an authority. He saw music as a reflection of his ideas on literature and history and paid close attention to its composition and creative possibilities. Eloquent and surprising, Music at the Limits preserves an important dimension of Said's brilliant intellectual work and cements his reputation as one of the most influential and groundbreaking scholars of the twentieth century.
These penetrating discussions of music, performance, culture, and human nature are refreshing, enlightening, and definitely not to be tossed aside as yesterday's journalism.
This fine collection by one of the most perceptive music critics of the last half-century is highly recommended.
Engaging in his writing about performances.
[Said] was a thinker of great fervency, and it can make for exciting reading.
Rachel Beckles Willson
[Said's] pieces will reward rereadings for many years to come.
Entertaining... marked by tremendous enthusiasm and a depth and breadth of insight that is rare among writers on any subject.
ForewordPrefaceAcknowledgmentsPart I: The Eighties 1. The Music Itself: Glenn Gould?s Contrapuntal Vision2. Remembrances of Things Played: Presence and Memory in the Pianist's Art3. Pomp and Circumstance (on Musical Festivals)4. On Richard Strauss5. Die Walkre, Aida, X6. Music and Feminism7. Maestro for the Masses (review of Understanding Toscanini)8. Middle Age and Performers9. The Vienna Philharmonic: The Complete Beethoven Symphonies and Concertos10. The Barber of Seville, Don Giovanni11. Glenn Gould at the Metropolitan Museum12. Giulio Cesare13. Bluebeard's Castle, Erwartung14. Extreme Occasions (on Celibidache)15. Peter Sellars's Mozart16. Andras Schiff at Carnegie HallPart II: The Nineties 17. Richard Strauss18. Wagner and the Met?s Ring19. Opera Productions (Der Rosenkavalier, House of the Dead, Doctor Faust)20. Style and Stylessness (Elektra, Semiramide, Katya Kabanova)21. Alfred Brendel: Words for Music (review of Alfred Brendel's Music Sounded Out: Essays, Lectures, Interviews, Afterthoughts)22. Die Tote Stadt, Fidelio, The Death of Klinghoffer23. Uncertainties of Style (The Ghosts of Versailles, Die Soldaten)24. Musical Retrospection25. The Bard Festival26. The Importance of Being Unfaithful to Wagner27. Music as Gesture (on Solti)28. Les Troyens29.Child's Play (review of Maynard Solomon's Mozart: A Life)30. 32 Short Films About Glenn Gould31. Bach's Genius, Schumann's Eccentricity, Chopin's Ruthlessness, Rosen's Gift (review of Charles Rosen's The Romantic Generation)32. Why Listen to Boulez?33. Hindemith and Mozart34. Review of Michael Tanner's Wagner35. In the Chair (review of Peter Ostwald's Glenn Gould and the Tragedy of Genius)36. On Fidelio37. Music and Spectacle (La Cenerentola and The Rake's Progress)38. Review of Gottfried Wagner's He Who Does Not Howl with the Wolf: The Wagner LegacyAn Autobiography39. Bach for the MassesPart III: 2000 and Beyond 40. Daniel Barenboim (Bonding Across Cultural Boundaries)41. Glenn Gould, the Virtuoso as Intellectual42. Cosmic Ambition (review of Christoph Wolff's Johann Sebastian Bach: The Learned Musician)43. Barenboim and the Wagner Taboo44. Untimely Meditations (review of Maynard Solomon's Late Beethoven)Appendix: Bach/BeethovenIndex