Melvin Berger Henry Leland Clarke - Essay

Henry Leland Clarke

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Melvin Berger has presented his readers with the story of fourteen leading composers of the century [in Masters of Modern Music]. He has selected Stravinsky, Schoenberg, and Bartók to represent "Musical Explorers"; Richard Strauss, Sibelius, Hindemith, Prokofiev, Copland, and Britten, "Music in the Main Stream"; Gershwin, Richard Rodgers, and Menotti, "Music for the Many"; and John Cage and Vladimir Ussachevsky, "The New Music." All fourteen were born before the outbreak of World War I, and there is not a French, Yankee, or black composer among them. Within these limitations his list has been well chosen, despite a few possible objections. Surely, for instance, Webern should be added to the first three men, as one of the "composers who have pointed out the new directions of modern music."… [The author] has followed the present trend of placing Hindemith only among those "composers who have carried forward the musical traditions of the past." In addition, certain statements in the text raise the question of whether Richard Strauss and Sibelius are modern enough to be included at all. (p. 70)

In any case, the composers chosen are attractively presented. Each is introduced by a striking incident or characterization, which brings him close to the reader at the outset. The style is readable and especially appealing to the young person looking for a guide. One result of this format is that it makes the work suitable as a novel but...

(The entire section is 418 words.)