PositiveThe Wall Street Journal... a new biography, deeply researched and beautifully illustrated, with much to recommend it ... Ms. Bloemink uses \'infamous\' and \'notorious\' as though they were sometimes complimentary terms (they are not) and she is forever undecided as to whether Virgil Thomson’s last name includes a \'p\' (it doesn’t) ... the author sometimes seems to want to turn Stettheimer into a tidy 21st-century urbanista, and in so doing takes on a dubious omniscience ... Stettheimer’s playfulness is sometimes weighted down by Ms. Bloemink’s solemnity ... It is to Ms. Bloemink’s credit that she rarely gets pulled away from telling a story for very long. Nor does she ever seem to hate her subject, which has become an annoying academic conceit in recent years. Moreover, her best criticism is very good indeed ... At such moments Ms. Bloemink not only guides us toward seeing Stettheimer but almost to \'hearing\' her as well.
RaveThe Washington Post... admirable ... The central figure in Swafford’s book is Mozart, of course, but the author is a skilled enough storyteller to create the world he lived in. For those of us given to looking back on other times as tidy, aristocratic and pretty much everything that the 21st century isn’t, Swafford offers a sharp corrective ... This is an excellent book on Mozart for both musicians and the general reader. The story is told in a lively, knowing style, without written-out musical examples but shot through with unfailingly erudite and impassioned discussion of the composer’s work. Only toward the end do we feel the huge absence that would be left by Mozart’s death — and Swafford’s evocation of the moment the composer knew he was dying is appropriately terrifying.
Andrew J Bacevich
PositiveThe Washington PostBacevich is not looking for agreement — this is neither an evangelistic credo nor a sort of Conservatism for Dummies. Rather, it is a collection of diverse thinkers generally inclined toward the causes of order and tradition, and the best articles have a solidity that can seem a bracing tonic for the present chaos ... Every writer gets only one spot, and I am sorry that Bacevich has chosen to represent Whittaker Chambers by the \'Foreword in the Form of a Letter to My Children\' ... An essay by Richard John Neuhaus follows a torturous path to its flabbergasting final sentence ... There isn’t a great deal of humor in the book — no H.L. Mencken, Tom Wolfe or P.J. O’Rourke, all of whom managed to be very funny while espousing their own idiosyncratic conservatisms. Yet Bacevich himself has a certain playfulness. I particularly enjoyed his capsule biography of the brilliant and disorganized Willmoore Kendall.
PositiveThe Wall Street Journal... [a] fine new book ... Today...the sheer labor it took Ms. Carlos to create Switched-On Bach is all but impossible to imagine. Ms. Sewell is particularly good on those days ... Wendy Carlos: A Biography is a happy rarity among academic arts books—a grounded, thoughtful, appreciative study that maintains focus on its subject and her milieu, all the while paying the reader the courtesy of elegant prose.
RaveThe Washington Post... engaging and authoritative ... Some of the stories Rosenberg tells are familiar, even comfortable ... But in general, this is far from a triumphalist study. Rosenberg painstakingly examines wartime jingoism in the United States ... This is not only valuable and fair-minded history but an unceasingly engaging series of tales. My favorite section is the examination of the anti-German hysteria (the word is not too strong) that overtook the United States during World War I, which has rarely, if ever, been examined in such detail.
MixedThe Wall Street Journal... the sort of literary biography that used to be enormously popular, a sympathetic narrative in the manner of Van Wyck Brooks ’s anecdotal volumes on the 19th-century New England authors or Nancy Milford’s Zelda, aimed at a general audience but welcoming to all but the highest brow ... Mr. Morris’s book is essentially a day-to-day timeline of Stein’s return to the United States in 1934 after a 30-year absence ... [Morris’s] writing is brisk and breezy, and he seems eager to tell his stories in as entertaining a manner as possible ... not necessarily a book for the Stein scholar. There is little original research here and no new theories are advanced. Mr. Morris seems content to take us through the trip chronologically, relying closely upon the press coverage of the time (which, to his credit, he magnifies and makes new, vignette after vignette). Stein once expressed regret that the general public was more interested in her life than in her creations. Gertrude Stein Has Arrived may not change the situation, but one may hope that some readers find spark in this lively book and investigate further.
PositiveThe Washington PostJohn Clubbe has written a thoughtful cultural history that takes into account the times in which Beethoven lived and worked—and they were times of revolution ... Clubbe knows his 19th-century history ... A chapter on the creation of \'Fidelio,\' Beethoven’s only opera and an ode to human freedom, is especially comprehensive.
RaveThe Washington PostAn ideal composer biography should combine several qualities: a deep knowledge of the artist’s life and milieu, fortified by a reexamination of all available sources; an intimate understanding of the composer’s personality (and, when possible, some affection for it, too); and an ability to speak of the creative work in a manner that will edify both scholars and the general public, and take us all back to the music. Alan Walker’s Fryderyk Chopin: A Life and Times manages this hat trick very well indeed ... This is now the best biography of Chopin—meticulous, scholarly and well-told. Whatever the composer’s shortcomings as a person, his music grows only more moving.