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Susan Au

(b Tianjin, China, Feb 4, 1903; d Searsmont, ME, July 12, 1983). American poet, dance critic, and librettist. Following his education at Harvard and the University of Vienna, he studied dance in Vienna at the Hellerau-Laxenburg school, a center of Ausdrucktanz, or expressive dance. He performed and choreographed in Germany, but returned to the United States in 1935 when the Nazis came to power. In New York City he renewed his acquaintance with composers Aaron Copland and Virgil Thomson, whom he had met in Europe. Through their good offices, he was appointed dance critic of the periodical Modern Music in 1936. His association with Copland also included the writing of three opera libretti, though only one, The Second Hurricane (1937), was actually produced on stage. From 1943–5 he temporarily replaced Walter Terry, who was doing military service, as dance critic of the New York Herald Tribune....


Robert Bledsoe

(b Portsmouth, Feb 7, 1812; d Gad’s Hill, nr Rochester, June 9, 1870). English writer. He wrote the libretto for John Hullah’s ‘operatic burletta’ The Village Coquettes, produced at St James’s Theatre in December 1836, while his first novel, The Pickwick Papers, was appearing in monthly instalments. References to opera in his novels are infrequent, but he often attended performances at Covent Garden and Her Majesty’s Theatre, and in letters praised Mario, Grisi, Lind and Viardot (especially as Fidès in Meyerbeer’s Le prophète). In Paris he was moved to tears by a performance of Berlioz’s version of Gluck’s Orfeo in November 1862 (with Viardot in the title role) and, a few months later, by Gounod’s Faust. As editor of the journals Household Words and, later, All the Year Round, he published articles about music from time to time, and in 1869 published in All the Year Round...


Gerald Bordman

revised by Jonas Westover

(b New York, NY, Sept 8, 1896; d New York, NY, July 30, 1983). American lyricist and librettist. He studied at Columbia University, where he was a contemporary of Lorenz Hart and Oscar Hammerstein II, and served in the US Navy before becoming director of publicity and advertising in 1919 for the Goldwyn Pictures Corporation (from 1924 known as Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer or MGM). He wrote verse in his spare time, and was asked by Jerome Kern to supply the lyrics for Dear Sir (1924). He also worked with Vernon Duke, Jimmy McHugh, and Ralph Rainger. But he is best remembered for the numerous songs he wrote in collaboration with arthur Schwartz , beginning in 1929 with the revue The Little Show (with “I guess I’ll have to change my plan”). Other collaborations with Schwartz include Three’s a Crowd (1930) and The Band Wagon (1931, containing the hit “Dancing in the Dark”). Their professional relationship extended over a period of more than 30 years to the production of the musical ...


Erik Wahlström


(b Helsinki, Jan 20, 1896; d Nikkilä, Sept 23, 1961). Finnish poet, critic and composer. He studied composition with Furuhjelm and Melartin at the Helsinki Music Institute (1915–20). His début as a composer was at a students' concert in spring 1917 with a piano suite, described by a critic as ‘extremely daring harmonically’. Critical reaction was frankly hostile after another concert (4 May 1920) when six songs by Diktonius were performed after much trouble with the musicians. The rigid conservatism of Finnish musical life led Diktonius to approach Schoenberg with a view to becoming a pupil, but Schoenberg declined, replying in a letter that he too was conservative. Diktonius found release in a poem published in his collection Hårda sånger (‘Hard songs’) beginning:

One spring I went out into the world

to polish off Skryabin

send that ninny Debussy sprawling

rap the knuckles of Schoenberg...


Adelyn Peck Leverett

revised by Christopher Fifield

(b Königsberg [now Kaliningrad], Nov 14, 1804; d Berlin, Jan 10, 1892). German conductor, composer and journalist. He studied the piano, singing and composition in Königsberg, made several long journeys throughout Germany, during which he met Weber in Dresden, and completed his studies with Ludwig Berger, Bernhard Klein and Zelter in Berlin, where his first opera, Rolands Knappen, was produced successfully in 1826. At the same time he became a co-editor of the Berliner allgemeine Muzikzeitung, for which he wrote a spirited defence of the beleaguered Gaspare Spontini. Over the next two decades he built a solid reputation as a conductor of opera, holding theatre posts at Königsberg (1828), Leipzig (1829–32), where he taught counterpoint to the young Schumann, Hamburg (1832), Riga (1834–43), and Cologne (1844–8). He organized the first music festival of the Russian Baltic provinces in Riga (...


(b Moscow, /30 Oct/Nov 11, 1821; d St Petersburg, 28 Jan/Feb 9, 1881). Russian novelist. Son of a doctor, he was for a short time a military engineer. His first novel Poor Folk was published in 1846. Arrested in 1849 as a member of the Petrashevsky socialist group, he was condemned to death, reprieved at the place of execution, and sent to Siberia. During his penal servitude in Omsk (1850–54), Dostoyevsky underwent a profound spiritual crisis, and became deeply religious, seeing the Orthodox Church as the fullest expression of Christianity. In 1859 he received an amnesty and returned to St Petersburg. From then on he lived by writing. He suffered from epilepsy, was a compulsive gambler, and was constantly in debt. From 1867 to 1871 he lived abroad to escape his creditors. He was twice married, the second time (1867...


Manuela Schwartz and G.W. Hopkins


(b Paris, Oct 1, 1865; d Paris, May 17, 1935). French composer, critic and teacher. Dukas was not only an influence on many French 20th-century composers and others such as Zemlinsky and Berg, but also remains important in his own right. His reputation rests on only a small number of compositions, notably the Piano Sonata, Ariane et Barbe-bleue, the ballet La Péri and L'apprenti sorcier. Dukas's influence as a critic, from 1892 to 1932, can be compared with Debussy's; his informed opinions reveal great sensitivity to the musical and aesthetic changes that took place during the period. With his high ideal of craftsmanship, Dukas was extremely self-critical and he destroyed a number of his compositions.

Dukas was the second son in a family of three children. His mother was a fine pianist and had a strong influence on him in the early years of his life, but she died giving birth to his sister when he was only five years old. His father, Jules Dukas, remained a central figure until his death in ...



(b Villers-Cotterêts, Aisne, July 24, 1802; d Puys, nr Dieppe, Dec 5, 1870). French dramatist and novelist. By his own account the least musical man of his acquaintance, unable to tune a violin after three years of lessons, Dumas’s place in the history of 19th-century music remains contradictory. At a purely social level, he was prominent in the music-loving literary community in 1830s Paris, both as contributor and member of the editorial board on Schlesinger’s Revue et gazette musicale (1835–8). He was present at many of the defining moments of French musical Romanticism, from the première of Berlioz’s Lélio (1832) to the imaginary performance of Beethoven by Liszt pictured in Josef Danhauser’s famous painting, ‘Souvenir de Liszt’ (1840). Having moved to Paris in 1822, Dumas earned his reputation overnight with the success of Henri III et sa cour at the Théâtre Français (...


Christopher Smith

(b Paris, July 27, 1824; d Marlyle-Roi, Nov 27, 1895). French dramatist Known as Dumas, fils, he was the illegitimate son of Alexandre Dumas père. His direct contribution to musical Theatre was less than that of his father, but his .La dame aux camélias formed the basis of one of the most popular operas ever. In 1844 he embarked on a passionate liaison with Alphonsine Plessis, a noted demi-mondaine born in 1824 who preferred to be called Marie Duplessis. The couple soon parted, and on 3 February 1847 she died. Dumas composed some verses in her memory and then, in 1848, published the novel La dame aux camélias which, with its accent of truth, immediacy of emotion and clever use of realistic detail, started the process by which a brief affair would be transformed into a great tragic love story that has acquired the status of myth. Dumas next fashioned a drama of the same name out of his novel, and its first performance, on ...


John Covach

(b Bad Kreuznach, April 8, 1897; d Cologne, Dec 15, 1972). German composer, theorist, and critic. He studied at the Cologne Conservatory with Bölsche, von Othegraven, and Abendroth (1919–24) and then undertook musicological studies with Bücken, Kahl, and Kinsky at Cologne University (1924-30), taking the doctorate in 1931. From 1925 to 1969 (except for the years 1933–44) he wrote programme notes for the Gurzenich concerts, from 1927 he worked with Westdeutscher Rundfunk, and from 1930 he served as music specialist on the Kölner Stadtanzeiger. During the period 1935–45 he lived in obscurity as an editor on the Kölnische Zeitung. He returned to Westdeutscher Rundfunk in 1945, becoming director of the late-night music programmes (1948–65) and of the Studio for Electronic Music, which he founded in 1951 and headed until 1962. From 1965 to 1971 he held a professorship at the Cologne Musikhochschule, where he directed the electronic music studio....