A Hundred Years of Music, by Gerald Abraham
A Hundred Years of Music, by Gerald Abraham. Revised Third Edition. Chicago: Aldine Publishing Company, 1964. [325 p., 8vo; $6.95]
Many of those who teach so-called "period" courses on Romantic music will welcome the reappearance, in a slightly revised third edition, of Gerald Abraham's A Hundred Years of Music. The hundred years to which Abraham refers is the century between the 1830's and the 1930's, though he comments briefly on the music of Britten, Henze, Harris, Blacher, Messiaen, Copland, Stockhausen, and Boulez.
In the republished preface to the first edition (1938), Abraham makes it clear that his approach to the subject ". . . has been that of the historian of musical style rather than that of the aesthetic critic." He thus neatly defines in advance of the fact the principal difference between his book and the other important book in English on the subject, Einstein's Music in the Romantic Era (1947). Einstein provides hundreds of striking insights into the sociology and philosophy of nineteenth century music while avoiding many of the basic issues of style-criticism. Abraham, on the other hand, spends much of his space offering neat and convincing explanations of such fundamental things as the importance of Bogen structures in Die Walküre, the deliberate thickness of Brahms's orchestration, the quasi-modality of certain Puccini harmonies, and so on.
While A Hundred Years of Music may do little to prick the imagination of the experienced scholar, it is an excellent textbook for the advanced undergraduate and the beginning graduate student. Its literary style is lean without being dull, its content analytical without being tedious.