A composer who lovingly cradles the head of Beethoven's corpse when his remains are exhumed half a century after his death
A fifteenth-century German poet who sings of the real-life Dracula
A dream of the devil that inspires a virtuoso violin piece Unlike many music books that begin their histories with the seventeenth or eighteenth centuries, Beethoven's Skull takes the reader back to the world of ancient Greece and Rome, progressing through the Middle Ages and all the way into the twentieth century. It also looks at myths and legends, superstitions, and musical mysteries, detailing the ways that musicians and their peers have been rather horrible to one another over the centuries.
- ISBN-13: 9781510712713
- ISBN-10: 1510712712
- Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing
- Publish Date: November 2016
- Page Count: 304
- Dimensions: 9 x 6.1 x 1.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.05 pounds
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2016-09-26
- Reviewer: Staff
The 19th-century Austrian composer Anton Bruckner was obsessed with his music idols: there are accounts of him cradling and kissing Beethovens skull after it was exhumed from a Vienna cemetery. This bizarre anecdote provides the title for Rayborns unusual and diverting tour through musical history, from ancient Greece to the modern era. At his best, Rayborn, himself a musician, combines historical anecdotes and factoids into meaningful vignettes, as when he observes the consequences of Russian composer Sergey Prokofiev dying on the same day as Josef Stalin. The Communist leaders state funeral swamped the composers memorial and commandeered all available fresh flowers in Moscow, leaving organizers with only paper flowers and potted plants for Prokofievs farewell. Rayborn has a lighthearted tone that many readers will enjoy. However, when there are few facts around an historical event hes intent on developing, Rayborns own speculation feels thin. For example, he suggests with little evidence that the tale of the pied piper of Hamelin is based on a nobleman, Count Nicholas von Spiegelberg, who took a band of youngsters to colonize lands east of Germany. The target readership for this volume includes both trivia buffs and classical music fans, for whom this book will be an enjoyable source of well-researched material and quirky anecdotes. (Nov.)