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Review

Volume 11 • Number 1

Spring 2004


 

 

A. Peter Brown's Symphonic Compendium

by Melanie Lowe

A. Peter Brown. The First Golden Age of the Viennese Symphony: Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, and Schubert. The Symphonic Repertoire, Volume II. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2002. xxvii, 716pp.

In a venture as selfless as it was ambitious, the late musicologist A. Peter Brown took it on himself to address the lack of a broad-based, single-author study
of the symphony. A single volume at inception, the project ultimately expanded to a five-volume series titled The Symphonic Repertoire, two volumes of which Brown completed before his untimely passing in March 2003. Volume II, The First Golden Age of the Viennese Symphony, and volume IV, The Second Golden Age of the Viennese Symphony, are now published. Brown drafted volume III, The European Symphony, ca. 1800–ca. 1930, which is in the final stages of preparation for publication. Hopefully, a generous scholar will realize volume I, The Eighteenth-Century Symphony, for which Brown left some sketches of content and organization, and perhaps another can assemble and edit volume V, The Symphony in Europe and the Americas in the Twentieth Century, originally planned by Brown as a symposium. The symphonic repertoire as Brown conceived it is in essence the symphonic canon—that body of orchestral works, widely understood as symphonies though not always titled "Symphony" (e.g., tone poems and character pieces)—that receives regular concert and recorded performance. His monumental study was not intended to be "a history in the narrative sense, since it does not attempt to place a large number of symphonies under a covering hypothesis" (p.xv). Rather, The Symphonic Repertoire is a compendium of sorts: a "synthesis of ideas" Brown "accumulated" during a scholarly and teaching career that spanned more than three decades (pp.xx–xxi).

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