Marc Blitzstein: His Life, His Work, His World (Howard Pollack)

A composer and lyricist of enormous innovation and influence, Marc Blitzstein remains one of the most versatile and fascinating figures in the history of American music, his creative output running the gamut from films scores and Broadway operas to art songs and chamber pieces. A prominent leftist and social maverick, Blitzstein constantly pushed the boundaries of convention in mid-century America in both his work and his life.

Award-winning music historian Howard Pollack's new biography covers Blitzstein's life in full, from his childhood in Philadelphia to his violent death in Martinique at age 58. The author describes how this student of contemporary luminaries Nadia Boulanger and Arnold Schoenberg became swept up in the stormy political atmosphere of the 1920s and 1930s and throughout his career walked the fine line between his formal training and his populist principles. Indeed, Blitzstein developed a unique sound that drew on everything contemporary, from the high modernism of Stravinsky and Hindemith to jazz and Broadway show tunes. Pollack captures the astonishing breadth of Blitzstein's work--from provocative operas like The Cradle Will Rock, No for an Answer,and Regina, to the wartime Airborne Symphony composed during his years in service, to lesser known ballets, film scores, and stage works. A courageous artist, Blitzstein translated Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill's The Threepenny Opera during the heyday of McCarthyism and the red scare, andturned it into an off-Broadway sensation, its "Mack the Knife" becoming one of the era's biggest hits.

Beautifully written, drawing on new interviews with friends and family of the composer, and making extensive use of new archival and secondary sources, Marc Blitzstein presents the most complete biography of this important American artist.

Based on new interviews with friends and family of the composer
Makes extensive use of new archival and secondary sources
Features discussion of musical sketches and manuscripts

"This comprehensive book about the life and music of the sadly neglected composer Marc Blitzstein is, as well, an invaluable guide to the workings of American arts during the composer's lifetime." --Edward Albee, playwright

"Marc Blitzstein was a friend, from the moment we first met in 1946 until he died eighteen years later. Now he lives again in Howard Pollack's pages. As a composer he was one of a kind, with his whistleable tunes encased in wise formality, and his bodily presence, so happy and so sad." --Ned Rorem, composer / author 
"In this comprehensive, sensitive, and beautifully written biography, Howard Pollack scrutinizes every part of Blitzstein's complex personal as well as public life, sustaining his well-deserved reputation as our foremost biographer of American classical composers." --Judith Tick, Matthews Distinguished University Professor, College of Arts, Media, and Design, Northeastern University
"Pollack has already told us everything we need to know about Copland and Gershwin. Now he scrutinises Blitzstein in the context of his entire cultural and political scene in fascinating and impeccably researched detail." --Peter Dickinson, Emeritus Professor of Keele and London Universities
About the Author: 

Howard Pollack is a professor at the John and Rebecca Moores School of Music, University of Houston. He holds a Bachelor of Music degree in music history from the University of Michigan and a Master of Arts degree and Ph.D. in musicology from Cornell University. He has taught at the University of Houston since 1987.

Pollack has published widely in the field of American music, including six books: Walter Piston (1982); Harvard Composers: Walter Piston and his Students, from Elliott Carter to Frederic Rzewski (1992); John Alden Carpenter: A Chicago Composer (1995); Aaron Copland: The Life and Work of an Uncommon Man (1999); George Gershwin: His Life and Work (2006); He also co-edited German Literature and Music: An Aesthetic Fusion (1890-1989) (1992).

Hardcover: 648 pages; 38 photos; 6-1/8 x 9-1/4; ISBN13: 978-0-19-979159-0

Click to hear samples of Blitzstein's music.


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