TOSCANINI: MUSICIAN OF CONSCIENCE
Published June 27, 2017, USA; July 28, 2017, UK
Italian translation (Milan: Il Saggiatore) released in October 2018
US and UK paperback editions published in November 2018
This new biography of the man who was, arguably, the most influential classical performing musician of the twentieth century, replaces Sachs's 1978 biography of the Maestro. It is based on thousands of documents, recorded conversations, and other materials that were unavailable four decades ago but have since been put at the author's disposal. This book is likely to remain the definitive account of the ninety-year life and sixty-eight-year career of the great conductor - an account not only of his work and its impact but also of his turbulent personal life and his principled stand against Fascism and Nazism.
The New York Times Book Review, front page, lead article (Robert Gottlieb), July 2, 2017: "The trajectory of Toscanini's artistic path constitutes the main body of Sachs's biography, and he gives us an extremely thorough chronicle of his activities and achievements…. Sachs's account is persuasive and compelling in the important ways. He also gives us the man, with all his contradictions."
The New York Times Book Review, Editors' Choice / Staff Picks (top of the list) from the Book Review, July 9, 2017.
Alex Ross (music critic of The New Yorker), @alexrossmusic, June 16, 2017: "Can a 944-page biography be spellbinding? Yes, when the subject is Toscanini and the author knows his subject as well as Sachs does." June 30, 2017: "Harvey Sachs's biography of Toscanini is on the cover of Sunday's @nytimesbooks, and deservedly so."
The New York Review of Books (Tim Page), November 9, 2017: "Sachs's lifelong studies… have paid off in his gigantic and extraordinary new book. Indeed, I cannot think of another biography of a classical musician to which it can be compared: in its breadth, scope, and encyclopedic command of factual detail it reminds me of nothing so much as Robert A. Caro's The Power Broker…. Those who read Toscanini: Musician of Conscience will be rewarded… with stories about everything from the history of Italy and the rise and fall of fascism to sexual experiences and backstage opera gossip from one hundred years ago. But a master narrator is required to make them come to life, and that is what Sachs has now proven himself to be…. one of the great merits in Sachs's criticism is its lack of dogmatic insistence. He is not here to win old arguments, but rather to state his considered thoughts, generously and thoroughly, and let the reader take it from there…. 'Whatever you may think about Toscanini's interpretation of a specific work,' the Cleveland Orchestra's George Szell once observed, "that he changed the whole concept of conducting and that he rectified many, many arbitrary procedures of a generation of conductors before him, is now authentic history.' This is certain, and never before has that history been told so well."
The Economist (UK), June 24, 2017: "Harvey Sachs has written the definitive biography of this great, and colourful, character…. Drawing on an enormous range of evidence, Mr Sachs paints a vivid picture of the great conductor…. Mr Sachs also uses Toscanini's life as a window onto a wider discussion of musical and historical themes…. Mr Sachs's writing style is precise, fluent and gripping."
The Los Angeles Review of Books (Simon Williams), October 19, 2017: "…a major achievement, chronicling Toscanini's life from his school days in the Parma Conservatory to his death almost 80 years later. Sachs's lively, engrossing narrative effectively captures Toscanini's magnetic and complicated personality, displaying a sure grasp both of the musical world over which Toscanini held such sway during an epoch of unprecedented change and of the political and social order that underwent catastrophic collapse during the conductor's lifetime and was still in the process of reconstituting itself at his death in 1957…. Harvey Sachs's new biography of Toscanini stands as the preeminent work on the conductor, a superbly written and immaculately researched volume with which all future discussions of this eternally controversial figure will have to grapple."
The New Yorker (David Denby), July 10 & 17, 2017: "a detailed, sobersided, but very engaging and at times gripping chronicle of music and society."
The Wall Street Journal Books section, front page, lead article (USA; Lloyd Schwartz), August 18-19, 2017: "…compelling…. fully humanizes the Great Man…. Mr. Sachs is a lucid informer, providing all sorts of interesting details…. More important, Mr. Sachs rises to each climactic turning point, creating moving narratives…. Mr. Sachs's necessary, authoritative biography reinforces… a portrait of a complex, flawed, but noble human being and a towering artist."
The Gramophone (UK; Rob Cowan), August 2017: "without doubt the most engaging, the best written and certainly the most comprehensive Toscanini biography yet to be published, sympathetic without being in any sense hagiographic."
BBC Music Magazine (UK; Max Loppert), June 2017: "'Monumental' is surely the mot juste to describe the book's length… but equally the combination of thoroughness, clarity, psychological perspicacity and deep human feeling which distinguishes every page.… For all its massiveness the book proves unputdownable. It offers an in-depth portrait of an utterly extraordinary man simultaneous with a panoramic cultural and political history of his near-century of life and a no less wide-ranging analysis of all the areas of music and theatre over which he gained such staggeringly complete command.… Sachs's Musician of Conscience subtitle precisely indicates the underlying theme of his magisterial achievement."
The Christian Science Monitor (USA; Jonathan Rosenberg), June 29, 2017: "Toscanini's significance as a superb artist and a key figure in the international arena is brilliantly captured in Harvey Sachs's absorbing biography…, a sweeping exploration of both aspects of Toscanini's life. In meticulous detail, Sachs, a music historian, considers the work of a conductor blessed with breathtaking musical ability while he also examines the life of an artist who grappled with dictators…. Sachs also allows the reader to encounter a range of fascinating figures with whom the conductor crossed paths: Puccini, Verdi, Mahler, Horowitz, and the relatives of Richard Wagner, along with diabolical characters like Mussolini and Hitler. The story is a feast for those drawn to music, culture, and politics….."
Commentary (USA; Terry Teachout), September 2017: "Toscanini: Musician of Conscience, Harvey Sachs's new biography, goes a long way toward defining what made Toscanini unique…. Clearly and attractively written… one of the most readable biographies of a conductor ever published…. Implicit throughout Sachs's book is the idea that Toscanini the man and Toscanini the musician were, as his subtitle suggests, inseparable—that, in other words, his conscience drove him to oppose totalitarianism in much the same way that it drove him to pour his heart and soul into his work."
Classic Music (UK; Philip Borg-Wheeler), August 22, 2017: "…vastly comprehensive, balanced and indispensable…. Sachs' own dedication to this force of nature has been fulfilled in a book which ranks among the best of 2017."
Literary Review (UK; Benjamin Ivry), July 2017: "To deal with the many aspects of Toscanini's talent, a magisterial biographer is required…. In this massive new study, Sachs reveals an eye for detail and human understanding, as well as a sense of priorities.… This is a patient, generous, invaluable biography of the kind that merits literary prizes…. Writing about music with knowledge, humanity, taste and discernment has become ever rarer. This is all the more reason to celebrate Harvey Sachs's achievement, as well as Toscanini's."
Gazzetta di Mantova (Italy; Stefano Albertini), October 7, 2017: "A definitve work… that has the distinction of combining seriousness and thoroughness of research with a brilliant writing style, which makes it read like a compelling novel and which will have the merit of rekindling public interest in the greatest conductor of the 20th century and, perhaps, of all time."
("Un'opera definitiva… che ha il merito di unire alla serietà e capillarità della ricerca una scrittura brillante che la fa leggere come un romanzo avvincente e che avrà il merito di riaccendere l'interesse del pubblico per il più grande direttore d'orchestra del XX secolo e, forse, di tutti i tempi.")
Classic Voice (Italy; Mauro Balestrazzi), online in August, 2017; in print in October: "…the most complete and probably definitive portrait of the great conductor…. it is as if [Sachs] had used a magnifying glass to bring situations and relationships with other characters into focus…."
("...il ritratto più completo e probabilmente definitivo del grande direttore.... è come se [Sachs] avesse usato una lente d'ingrandimento per mettere a fuoco situazioni e rapporti con altri personaggi....")
Kirkus Review (USA; starred review, pre-publication): "Sachs creates a well-rounded portrait of this admirable artist…. Music lovers will savor every evocative word. Sweeping yet meticulous, appreciative without eschewing critical judgments – like Toscanini himself."
Publishers Weekly (USA; starred review, pre-publication): "Sachs vibrantly and vividly narrates the sprawling tales of Italian conductor Arturo Toscanini's passionate life.… Entertaining and definitive…."
The Spectator (UK; Michael Tanner), August 5, 2017: "…magnificent biography."
National Review (USA; Jay Nordlinger), August 14 & 29, 2017: "Sachs is tremendously knowledgeable, tremendously authoritative. This is clear on virtually every page. He knows reams about music, the music business, Italy, and more…. Toscanini now has a great biography, written by Harvey Sachs."
ClassicsToday.com (USA; David Hurwitz), October 2, 2017: "Sachs' new biography looks to be the most authoritative work on Toscanini that we are likely to see…. a tremendous achievement for which both fans of the conductor and music lovers in general will be eternally grateful."
The New York Times Book Review, Editors' Choice / Staff Picks From the Book Review / Paperback Row, December 9, 2018: "…illuminating, exhaustive…. In Sachs's telling [Toscanini] emerges as a morally driven prodigy who spoke out against fascism and hate."
James Levine: "Harvey Sachs has devoted a considerable part of his working life to piecing together Toscanini's long, complicated, often dramatic existence, and this fascinating book is the culmination of that work. It will make an impact on every musician and every listener who cares about great music and how that music is performed."
Riccardo Muti: "Sachs examines not only the artistic aspects but also the political, social, and private aspects of the man whom many consider the greatest conductor of his time. A reading of this biography helps us to understand this inflexible man, this musician who was so severe, also with himself, this conductor who represents a legend of the musical world, past and present."
Antonio Pappano: "An astonishing story of how Toscanini became a musical giant.... The unbelievable detail in this book re-creates vividly the musical environment from the late 1800s onward."
Placido Domingo: "Arturo Toscanini was a gigantic figure in the history of musical performance.... Harvey Sachs's new biography is the most complete and involving story ever written about this amazing life."
The book received the Best History Prize in the 2018 Association of Recorded Sound Collections (USA) Awards for Excellence in the category Best Historical Research in Recorded Classical Music.
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