“This is one of the most ambitious books that I’ve read recently. Jeremy Eichler looks at four composers—Strauss, Shostakovich, Britten, and Schoenberg—who were witness to some of the most shocking events of the 20th century. These are events like the Holocaust, the terror in the Soviet Union, and the bombing of Coventry and he looks at how they are reflected in their music. How did these composers incorporate them or address them through music? The book then looks at how music can be a medium of memory. These composers were there, they were able to have an immediate reaction. By nailing it, we, coming a lot later, can get close to those events by listening to the music. In essence, the music is almost like a time portal: it cuts through the decades—centuries, even, by now—to bring you back to an experience, which, in these cases, was truly terrifying.” Read more...
The Best Nonfiction Books: The 2023 Baillie Gifford Prize Shortlist