'Musical conversation gravitates towards two composers to whom Bostridge has returned again and again: Schubert and Britten. Here he is in his element, mixing technical detail with interpretative thoughts. . . His loving meditation on both teases out new connections between Britten and Tchaikovsky, and Schubert, and his flatmate Schober. . . Many of these essays were written, he says, as an exercise to loosen up his writing. It works. . . Bostridge's early formal style is freed in the journalistic furnace of his later pieces.' ( Sunday Telegraph)
This is a consistently lively, learned, urbane and passionate book, once opened not likely to be closed until you have read it all. ( Choice ***** BBC Music Magazine)
The first and most impressive chapter examines the rise of music as an escape from our "disenchanted", secular world . . . But Bostridge is too much the inquiring spirit to leave music simply "ineffable and transcendent". Within a few pages he is turning the popular understanding of those two great Baroque contemporaries, Bach and Handel, on their heads. (Neil Fisher The Times)
These are the thoughts of a profoundly engaged artist, dealing with everything from the personal stresses of staying vocally fit to the politics of the profession, from niceties of interpretation to the cut-and-thrust of musicological debate. And when gown and mortar-board are thrown away he's an engaging writer - provocative, astringent, capable of arresting insights. (Michael Church Independent)
Bostridge writes particularly well about Handel throughout the book, in the assorted articles and reviews that make up its remainder, because he, perhaps uniquely, is in a position to combine an 18th-century historian's depth of contextual understanding with an insider's knowledge of how this music works vocally. . . In particular, his essays on Schubert's great song cycles Die schöne Müllerin and Winterreise are revelatory (linking the latter, for example, with the world of Samuel Beckett) . . . Reading this sparkling collection leaves one keen for more, in less truncated form. (Adam Lively Sunday Times)
Ian Bostridge is one of the outstanding singers of our time, celebrated for the quality of his voice but also for the exceptional intelligence he brings to bear on the interpretation of the repertoire of the past and present alike. Yet his early career was that of a professional historian, and A Singer's Notebook takes a look at the multifaceted world of classical music through the eyes of someone whose career as a singer has followed a unique trajectory. Consisting of short essays and reviews written since 1997, some in diary form, it ranges widely over issues serious (music and transcendence) and not so serious (the singer's battles with phlegm), while inevitably discussing many of the composers with whom Bostridge has become identified, such as Benjamin Britten, Henze, Janacek, Weill, Wolf, and Schubert, composer of the Winterreise with which Bostridge has become so associated.
Ultimately it returns to the theme of his earlier work on seventeenth century witchcraft - what place can there be for the ineffable in a world defined by an iron cage of rationality?
Including a foreword by the eminent sociologist, Richard Sennett, A Singer's Notebook is an intriguing glimpse into the mind and motivation of one of Britain's best loved musicians.
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