JOHN MAUCERI, the founding director of the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, is a musician, arranger, writer and educator who has hosted the world’s leading opera companies and symphony orchestras. For 18 years, Mosseri worked with Leonard Bernstein in several of Bernstein’s premieres. He has championed the work of musicians banned by Hitler, especially those who have found refuge in Hollywood, and who have written and performed music for operas, musicals, and films. His new book, The war on music: reclaiming the 20th century, This is a critical survey – and rethink – of classical music in the 20th century. Also, in its own way, a manifesto and a cri de coeur Which proposes to make contemporary classical music more popular and alive.

Presenting the history of classical music from the late 19th to the 21st century, starting with what to admire in the music of Brahms and Wagner, Moseri serves as a scholarly guide with an easy to understand and very readable account. It explains the specific elements of Wagner’s “Total Art” as well as the context in which Stravinsky created it. The Sacred du Printemps (1913) and Schoenberg’s leading atonal composition. Mosseri wants to insult the story in which he has to choose between Brahms and Wagner or Stravinsky and Schoenberg and show respect for each other’s work.

With special attention to the detrimental effects of the dictatorial regimes of Hitler, Mussolini, and Stalin, and the equally pressing effects of the Cold War, Moser has described in successive chapters how the Flood of the 20th century destroyed classical music. He also notes the rise of so-called avant-garde music, a kind of counter-argument, which Mosseri sees as more popular with critics, educators and thinkers than ticket-buyers. Collectively, these political and cultural movements are the main actors in what Mosseri calls the “war on music.”

Mauceri says that in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, opera and symphonic music were among the most popular forms of entertainment. Greatly composed by Mozart, Puccini, Verdi, Handel and Wagner – this tradition was adopted by World War I and ended around 1924, but is still performed around the world today. After that period, the rise of the Nazi party led to the banning of many of the major musicians of the time, as their music was considered “degenerate” or they were Jewish (mostly both). Many Jewish musicians fled Europe, ending up in Hollywood, where they continued to write symphonic or orchestral music, creating scores for the film. At the same time, the music that critics, musicians, and orchestra directors considered new and suitable for commission and performance were atonal, minimalist, or electronic music – according to Moserie, none of them proved popular.

It’s hard to name a great opera or symphony by a composer of the 20th century, Mosseri asked, how is that? Why were there so many great musicians in Austria, Germany and Italy in the 19th century and no one since? The answer? While the Nazi and Fascist regimes diminished talent, they remained in those regimes and tarnished the working musicians. In the same way, musicians living in the Soviet Union were obliged to create socialist-realistic works that were accepted by the authorities but not by the wider world. Meanwhile, artists banned by the Nazis continued to make music, but those who went to Hollywood and wrote for films were removed for sale, and when they continued to create orchestral symphony, they were considered old-fashioned. In contrast, Wagner’s music, adopted by Hitler, was saved from exile by the efforts of his daughter, who had fled the Nazis.

Mosseri argues that the net result today is that audiences for opera and symphonic music are dwindling, and the companies offering them are not only financially challenging, but also leaning towards hit songs such as Classical Canon (Beethoven, Bach, etc.). ) Again, almost no works from the 20th century are on display.

In the broadest sense, Mauceri is right. Just as good as Philip Glass On Einstein Beach (1976) or John Adams Nixon in China (1987) At the time it seems that they never changed their predecessors. But it is still a matter of speculation as to why the popularity of opera and classical music has waned, and why it has not done so well in the past in the 20th century. According to Mosseri’s observations, the music that received critical acclaim was modernist, minimalist, experimental, experimental, electronic, autonomous, and drone work, which he called “avant-garde” – and was often performed by French conductor Pierre Boulez.

To begin to reclaim 20th-century orchestral music, Moserie asked the following question: “If you put aside the undisputed preference given to the avant-garde, the next wave, and the constant rehearsals to which intellectual attention is drawn, what does the rest look like?”

When considering 20th century orchestral music, Mausseri suggests that we are looking in the wrong place. He argues that in fact there are great musicians of the 20th century – some who were banned by the Nazis (Cornegold, Vail and Schoenberg), some who wrote for music theater (Gershwin and Vail) and some who wrote for film (and, more recently, for video games). “An important part of the puzzle of 20th century classical music is the designated place for film music,” writes Moseri. In the current repository, he will add famous film composers such as Max Steiner, Bernard Herman, Miklos Rosa, Franz Waxman, Dmitry Tyomkin, Nino Rota, John Williams, Hans Zimmer, Danny Elfman and Hildur Goodnadotier. Mosseri placed Elfman and Zimmer in a lineage that began with Strauss and Wagner as composers of “the most heard symphonic music in history.”

Moserie asked and answered many of the questions that arose from his argument about the development of music in the 20th century. Musicians and compositions banned by the Nazis were “immediately accepted after the war, not really officially endorsed?” It provides a number of answers, including the ongoing Semitism, the anti-communist fervor of the 1950s, and the Cold War and the Oedipal and Darwinian campaigns to embrace the old and accept the new (even if the new is not popular).

If European musicians have been left out as part of a musical repertoire, Mosseri asks, what replaced them? The answer is simple: nothing. The music created for the film has been dismissed as “not real music” because it was created quickly, on demand and to serve on-screen gestures or actions, while theatrical music like Wells is ridiculed as a “sale”. One list of Maussery’s other attacks is that such music was never heard in concert halls, created for Hollywood producers who are uneducated in music and often written for audiences who don’t understand music.

In the late 20th century, new music, sometimes confusing, mechanical, drone-like, or filled with noise, remained intellectually more interesting than enjoyable, so listeners rejected it – and with it, classical music as well. The net effect, as Mosseri observed, was that around 1924, great and popular classical music was artificially discontinued. As evidence, he mentions that, when the New York Metropolitan Opera and the Berlin Philharmonic hosted their millennial concerts in 2000, they made almost no performances. 20th century work.

While Hitler, Mussolini, and Stalin had clearly waged a war on music (and Mao also suppressed Western classical music during the Cultural Revolution), I’m not sure if Avant-Garde is equally responsible for rejecting the orchestra. Music like Mauceri will make us believe. By rejecting contemporary classical compositions as jazz audiences leave the swing or fans of current music cling to classics, listeners who are addicted to the “new shock” or bathed in the balm of the old have to be blamed. Rock

It is equally difficult to say whether Mauseri’s therapeutic prescription for classical music will actually work. I’ve attended an evening of movie music at the Hollywood Bowl that has boasted a larger and more diverse audience in Disney Hall, but those shows are one-off rather than continuous. Whether or not the orchestra that promotes musicians for film or video games will do better than classical performances or whether works written for film, TV or video games will be as memorable and popular as Beethoven, Bach, or Handel’s Symphony. The operas of Mozart, Verdi, and Puccini are obscure (and there is enough reason to be skeptical).

At the end of the book, Mosseri provides profiles of four musicians with whom he had personal relationships – Vail, Cornegold, Schoenberg and Paul Hindmith – describing them as “whose music has cast both shadow and light on my life, promoting the search and discovery process [this book]. ” His argument, I think, would have been that if this experience had been integrated into the narrative, it would have been a more personal and less formal attempt by Tom. Likewise, I wish Mosseri had provided a playlist (either available in the appendix or on the music streaming service) of the book that seemed most appealing to Mosseri in the 20th century.

Still, Moseri deserves admiration for what he has accomplished The war on music – A readable introduction to classical music and valuable insights into the artists that the Nazis banned. Whether you agree with the author or have a flaw in his argument, his book forces readers to ask important questions about the music played by the orchestra in the Symphony Hall and how we can further engage and expand their audience. Arguing that classical music can be revived by contemporary listeners, Moseri ends on an optimistic note because “[w]Accepting the music we already love without guilt can benefit everyone. […] It is yours and it is yours, so it is great. ”


Tom Techols is an award-winning journalist and best-selling author – just Google him.