A Life in Five Movements and A Short PlayBook - 2009
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Rita Dove tells the incredible but true story of the genesis of one of the masterworks of classical music - Beethoven's "Kreutzer" violin & piano Sonata, and how it very nearly became known to our world as the "Bridgetower" - after the young Black violinist who premiered it.
This novel in the form of a collection of poems covers epic times in music history - the swirling interactions between Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven, all while the French revolution broils and the eventual Napoleonic wars engulf Europe. Her poetic narrative carries us from the birth of Bridgetower in 1780, through the death of Haydn in 1809 and the incredible theft of Haydn's skull (She completes her nearly 200 page journey with its recovery, and eventual re-interment in 1954), then a capsule of Bridgetower's later years as a wandering scholar but fading celebrity. Her extensive notes on the poems sets their period and her sources well, while an appended chronology of historical events helps us put it all into perspective. Students of performance will want to read this hand in hand with Charles Rosen's "The Classical Style."
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