Virgil Thomson: Composer on the Aisle

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W. W. Norton & Company, 1997 - Biography & Autobiography - 605 pages
In the first full-scale biography of a dominating figure in twentieth-century American music, Anthony Tommasini tells the richly textured story of Virgil Thomson's experiences as a composer, influential critic, and gay man. Writing with exclusive, full access to Thomson's papers and from extensive interviews and research, he recounts: . Thomson's early years in turn-of-the-century Kansas City's strange mixture of antebellum racial divides...his first steps in the arts, guided by a troubled older man, himself a closeted homosexual in a time when disclosure could destroy a life... the crystallizing of his musical ambitions as an often-contentious student of Nadia Boulanger's in Paris...his pioneering collaboration with Gertrude Stein on Four Saints in Three Acts...his rivalry with fellow composers such as Aaron Copland...how he settled personal scores and advanced his own agenda during his reign on the New York Herald Tribune as America's most important, and best, music critic...his lasting impact on, and sometimes troubled interactions with, younger composers such as Leonard Bernstein, John Cage, Paul Bowles, Ned Rorem, and Philip Glass...and through it all the unending struggle to write, and win an audience for, music that spoke directly and simply to the life of his time.

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VIRGIL THOMSON: Composer on the Aisle

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A generally informative biography of the influential American composer that suffers, paradoxically, from its author's intimacy with his subject. Tommasini was teaching at Boston's Emerson College when ... Read full review

Virgil Thomson: composer on the aisle

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Thomson was a prominent musical figure who won a Pulitizer Prize for music, reigned as music critic of the New York Herald Tribune for 14 years, and wrote, with Gertrude Stein, Four Saints in Three ... Read full review

Contents

This Business of Being Baptists
13
Virgil Acquires a Mentor
28
A Lovely War
55
Loneliness in Pleasure at Harvard
74
Virgy Thomson in Paris
93
The Man Who Would Not Fight
109
Maurice
139
Four Saints Are Never Three
152
The Trib
319
Pacific Street
353
What Is the Question?
378
Politics and Prizes
401
Roger
430
Its a Soft Egg Baby
453
A Lord a Genius a Millionaire and a Beauty
476
Making Young Friends
504

American Music Agitators
173
The Flowers of Friendship
196
Contacts and Contracts
218
A Knockout and a Wow
240
The Commando Squad
267
Who Does What to Whom and Who Gets Paid
296
The Absence of the Presence
524
All My Long Life
546
Notes
573
Index
585
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