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Alexander Goehr, Composing a Life
Teachers, Mentors, and Models
Categories: 21st Century, American, Art, British, Irish, Memoirs
Imprint: Lives and Letters
Publisher: Carcanet Press
Paperback (256 pages)
(Pub. Oct 2023)
eBook (EPUB) Needs ADE!
(Pub. Oct 2023)
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Alexander ('Sandy') Goehr is a leading British composer and teacher. Born into a Jewish musical family in Berlin in 1932, he arrived in England in 1933 with his father, Walter, a composer, conductor, and pupil of Arnold Schoenberg; and his mother Laelia, a trained pianist from Kyiv. Raised in Amersham, he attended Richard Hall's classes at the Royal Manchester College of Music. There he formed the 'Manchester School' – a group of young composers and performers including Peter Maxwell Davies, Harrison Birtwistle, and John Ogdon. He was introduced to Olivier Messiaen when his father conducted the first British performance of Turangalîla-Symphonie in 1953, and he later studied with Messiaen and Yvonne Loriod in Paris.
In the late 1950s and early '60s Goehr became known as a radical exponent of serial music. Since then, he has composed more than one hundred major works, including operas, orchestral and chamber pieces, and music for film, television, dance and theatre. He is Emeritus Professor of Music at Cambridge University and one of Europe's most important music educators. He has written and lectured extensively and his music is performed all over the world.
Jack Van Zandt (b. 1954), an American composer and Goehr's former pupil and assistant, has co-written this first comprehensive account of the life, creative foundations, and teachings of this great composer.
'Composing a Life - Goehr's collaboration with Jack van Zandt, the American composer-musicologist and his former pupil - is a fascinating study of musical transmission... The usual musician's reminiscences, little more than glorified name-dropping, are here replaced by a serious dialogue about musical influence, that mystery driving even a creative radical such as Goehr. Read this book if you care at all about how culture is transmitted and transformed.'
Fiona Sampson, The Spectator
'I'd happily recommend this book. For those unfamiliar with Goehr, you'll find a wonderful insight into what a composer's life can look like and see how they grow and develop as individuals. For those familiar with Goehr, it is a fascinating insight into his life which doesn't patronise but is ultimately honest and direct.'
Ben Lunn, Morning Star
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