... 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.
... an encyclopedic, thoroughly researched chronicle of three periods during which classical music became a focus of ferocious public battles, with human lives seriously affected and even endangered ... Mr. Rosenberg writes lucid if not brilliant prose. His generic epithets (at one point, in successive paragraphs, he uses 'distinguished' to describe two very different figures) don’t help 'distinguish' the figures he’s describing for readers unfamiliar with them. There are 74 pages of endnotes, all of some interest, yet the surfeit of citations makes this exhaustive work feel exhausting. But these are minor quibbles about a riveting and illuminating book, with its painful stories about the ignorance, shallowness and unfounded hysteria that have recurringly shaped America’s music world—and more.
The subject of this book might at first seem obscure, even acknowledging that classical music once played a far more prominent role in American cultural life than it does today...Yet it’s remarkable how much Rosenberg’s detailed study applies to current events and cultural discourse. His examination turns on the tension between nationalism and universalism, without ever declaring in favor of either. Instead, Rosenberg, a Juilliard-trained musician, highlights how global events and international politics impact aspects of cultural life that seem far removed from such concerns. The author convincingly argues that art, and discourse around art, does not take place in a vacuum—and that the tension he describes will never be truly settled ... A clear-eyed and perspicacious work for classical music scholars and fans and anyone interested in the intersection of politics and culture.
Rosenberg smartly frames this history as a battle between a 'musical nationalism' that saw classical music as a projection of national diplomacy and influence, and a 'musical universalism' that emphasized its power to unite humanity. Rosenberg’s prose can be dry, but classical music aficionados will find much enjoyable lore from a time when the music was at the center of international rivalries.