The following titles have recently become available from Toccata Press…
The Life and Music of a Norwegian Composer
Arvid O. Vollsnes
Composer Studies (non-ISSN series)
Extent: 368 pages
Size: 16.4 x 24.1 cm
Published: March 2014
Composition: Royal octavo ~ Illustrations ~ LoW ~ Irgens-Jensen as Poet ~ Bibliography ~ Discography ~ Index of Irgens-Jensen's Music ~ General Index ~ Sampler CD of Irgens-Jensen’s Music
The Norwegian composer Ludvig Irgens-Jensen (1894-1969) was one of the towering creative figures of his native land, although his dignified and powerful music does not receive the attention its quality deserves, either at home or abroad. The success of his dramatic symphony Heimferd (‘Homecoming’) in 1930 brought him national fame, but the post-War triumph of modernism, coupled with his personal modesty, pushed Irgens-Jensen's tonal music into the shadows: its contrapuntally based textures and its modally tinged harmonies were seen as things of the past. But a growing number of recordings is reminding listeners that he was one of the most distinguished and distinctive voices in twentieth-century music – a figure of international importance, writing music of striking nobility and strength of purpose with some meltingly lovely melodic lines.
Arvid O. Vollsnes' Ludvig Irgens-Jensen: The Life and Music of a Norwegian Composer is the first discussion in English of this profoundly decent man and his life-enhancing music. A review of the original Norwegian publication of this book in Aftenposten, the main Norwegian daily paper, described it as ‘a gripping biographical portrait. As well as Irgens-Jensen's life we get a broad picture of Norwegian musical life from the 1920s to his death in 1969’.
A CD of extracts from Irgens-Jensen's works has been prepared to accompany the English edition to provide readers with an introduction to his highly individual and immediately appealing sound-world.
A Musician Divided
André Tchaikowsky in his Own Words
Edited by Anastasia Belina-Johnson
Foreword by David Pountney
Musicians on Music No. 10 (ISSN 0264-6889)
Extent: 434 pages
Size: 16 x 24 cm
Published: November 2013
Composition: Royal octavo ~ Recordings of André Tchaikowsky's Music ~ André Tchaikowsky's Recordings ~ Index of Tchaikowsky's Music ~ General Index ~ CD of André Tchaikowsky in recital
André Tchaikowsky was only 46 when he died. But his brilliance as a pianist had made him a familiar figure on the world’s concert platforms – and he made the headlines after his death when he left his skull to the Royal Shakespeare Company for use in performances of Hamlet. Yet for all his facility at the keyboard Tchaikowsky’s real passion was composition, and at the time of his death he had all but finished his magnum opus, an opera based on Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice. Its premiere at the 2013 Bregenz Festival seems set to bring Tchaikowsky the composer the fame in the 21st century that escaped him in the twentieth.
The internal conflict between pianist and composer compounded an already complex character. A Polish Jew, Tchaikowsky had survived the Holocaust hidden by his grandmother in a Warsaw cupboard, and it was she who gave the young Andrzej Krauthammer the name Tchaikowsky to help fool the Nazis. Already an outsider as a Jew and deeply ambivalent towards his family, Tchaikowsky was also a homosexual – yet another disruptive element in a troubled personality.
The diaries Tchaikowsky kept between 1974 and his death chronicle the struggles that ran through his life. Debt kept driving him back to the concert platform when his true wish was to find the time to compose. Relationships came and went, undermined by his insecurity – although Tchaikowsky generated fierce loyalty among his friends. His spirited writing reveals him to have been astonishingly well read, familiar with the literatures of a number of European languages, and he details the joys and vicissitudes of his life with striking candour.
The diaries – an autobiography in all but name – are introduced and annotated by Anastasia Belina-Johnson, who also provides a chronology of Tchaikowsky’s life and a survey of his music.
A CD – a private recording of an informal recital in Australia – allows the reader to hear the voice behind the words and experience Tchaikowsky’s remarkable musicianship.
Martinů's Letters Home
Five Decades of Correspondence with Family and Friends
Edited by Iša Popelka
Translated by Ralph Slayton
Musicians in Letters No. 3 (ISSN 0960-0094)
Extent: 245 pages
Size: 16.4 x 24.1 cm
Published: March 2013
Composition: Royal octavo
The 121 letters collected here document Martinů’s life in his own words, beginning as a student in Prague and Paris, following his flight from Nazi-occupied France and charting his triumphs in American exile; the last letter is dated shortly before his death in 1959. They are addressed to his family and friends back home in the village of Polička, on the Czech-Moravian borders south-east of Prague. Kept at a distance by the German occupation and then by Communism, Martinů was never to return to Polička but, in a letter to the mayor, written as an gesture of solidarity after August 1938, he proudly described himself as ‘its native son who is far from his home but who constantly returns – if only in his thoughts – with gladness – to that dear land – the most beautiful on earth’.
The letters provided a detailed commentary on Martinů’s life and music, his contacts with some of the leading musicians of the day, his dices with death (narrowly escaping the Nazis and surviving a dangerous accident), his interaction with leading writers, and his concern with the practicalities of a composer’s life – not least, the location of his scores and performing material and the payment of his royalties – made much more complicated by his life in exile and the precarious position of his music with the Communist authorities after the Second World War. The individual who emerges from these pages is a simple man, in the best sense of the word, more concerned with the well-being of others than himself and accepting both adversity and triumph with remarkable calmness of mind. And an unusual appendix – the first-ever publication of a sequence of Martinů cartoons – reveals an impish sense of wit.