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Recollections from My Life

An Autobiography by A.B. Marx

Stephen Thomson Moore, Editor
January 20, 2017

274 pp.

12 illustrations

ISBN: 978-1-576476-249-1

6 $70.00

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Although Marx is not often acknowledged as such, he remains Western music�s single most influential theorist, as the person who gave Sonata Form its name and codified its elements. Sonata Form is used by academics for formal analysis, by performers for interpretive guidance, and by amateurs and professionals alike for an orientation to the formal structure of countless works. Above a certain level of proficiency, there is not a single musician in the Western Classical tradition who does not know Sonata Form: they know Marx�s legacy, if not his name.

Further awareness of Marx as a man is especially important. The naming of Sonata form, and the discussion of its elements, was not an act of mere taxonomic description. It was invested with convictions about music that Marx was among the very first to hold, and which we continue to value: for instance, that a composer�s formal choices are not made just by convention, but with intention, and that the way in which a work unfolds is itself meaningful; or that music of any era reflects the aesthetic priorities of its age. Those convictions, in turn, spring from Marx�s vigorous intellectual engagement with the world around him, its thinkers, its writers, and its politics. Without knowing more about Marx�s mind, all these important underpinnings of our beliefs about music, and musical form, remain unexamined. This translation provides a unique opportunity to read Marx in his own words.

His Recollections from My Life was published in 1865, Marx�s last book to appear during his lifetime, and have not been republished either in the German original, nor in any translation. Our translation with annotation and commentary will make available to English-readers this important view of music in Germany during the time of Beethoven, Mendelssohn and other familiar names from the concert hall.


Stephen Thomson Moore, Editor: Tom Moore holds degrees in music from Harvard and Stanford and studied traverso with Sandra Miller. He is presently Head of the Sound & Image Department of the Green Library, Florida International University, Miami, Florida. Before moving to Miami he was a freelance translator from Portuguese, Spanish, French, German, and Italian, doing scientific and technical translation in a wide variety of subject areas. His translation from the Italian of Why We Like Music, by Silvia Bencivelli, was published by Music Word Media in 2012. From 2004 to 2007, he was visiting professor of music at the University of Rio de Janeiro (UniRio), where he co-directed the early music ensemble, Camerata Quantz. On traverso he has recorded with Kimberly Reighley and M�lomanie for Lyrichord (USA), and with Le Triomphe de l'Amour for Lyrichord and A Casa Discos (Brazil). He participated as flutist and interviewer for the CD released in Oct. 2006 marking ten years of music for flute by Sergio Roberto de Oliveira. Dr. Moore writes about music for Flute Focus, Flute Talk, Flutist Quarterly, BrazilMax, Musica Brasileira, 21st Century Music, Opera Today, and other journals. He contributes a composer interview to each quarterly issue of Sonograma, published in Barcelona, and has been the CD Review Editor for Early Music America since 2008. He has also sung professionally with the Symphonic Chorus of Rio de Janeiro, including performances of the Mahler symphonies no. 2 and 8 under Karabtschevsky, and with Concert Royal and Pomerium Musices of New York.


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Recollections from My Life: An Autobiography by Adolph Bernhard Marx. Translation by Stephen Thomson Moore, introduction and notes by R. J. Arnold. (Lives in Music Series, no. 14.) Hillsdale, NY: Pen- dragon Press, 2016. [xxi, 230 p. ISBN 9781576472491 (paperback), $70.] Illustrations, bibliography. Adolph Bernhard Marx (17951866) was nearing the end of an illustrious ca- reer as a music theorist, journalist, critic, biographer, and composer when he wrote his Erinnerungen: Aus meinem Leben in late 1864. Undertaken while he was recuperating from illness, the pro- ject offered him an opportunity to re- flect on successes, failures, hopes, and disappointments, and to ponder deeply the life experiences that informed his outlook and self-knowledge. As he de- scribes in an afterword, dated 4 March 1865, the effort gave rise to impressions so vivid that it seemed he was living his life a second time (p. 229). The document that resulted, pub- lished by the Berlin firm of Otto Janke in 1865, comprises two volumes of six- teen chapters each. Marx begins as one might expect, with childhood images and accounts of personal development involving family, friends, school, music lessons, and the like, but eventually the chronological thread loosens, especially in the second volume, where the suc- cession of chapterswith titles such as The Mendelssohn House, Travel and Recreation, The Wide World, and Friedrich Wilhelm IVsuggests something more akin to an album of snapshots (pictures of my past [p. 229]) than a cohesive autobiographical narrative. Exercising a phenomenal memory, in language that is sometimes more spon- taneous than polished, often verbose, and nearly always colorful and engag- ing, Marx presents himself as a tire- lessly wide-eyed observer, a shrewd and inquisitive portraitist, an avid limner of cities and landscapes, and an active par- ticipant in the cultural life of his times, eager to enjoy the artistic and intellec- tual companionship of contemporaries. He takes due pride in his stature and accomplishments, but the spotlight shines brightly on the author himself only on special occasions, most notably when he describes the hugely successful 1843 performance of his oratorio Mose in Erfurt (p. 207). Otherwise, instead dwelling extensively on his own achieve- ments, he invites us to join him as spec- tators in a ramble through the stations of his career and to see through his eyes the people, places, and events that impressed or influenced him most deeply. Prominent names pass in re- view, including E. T. A. Hoffmann, Robert Schumann, Niccol Paganini, Angelica Catalani, Ignaz Moscheles, Friedrich Kalkbrenner, and Franz Liszt; facets of artistic activity in early nine- teenth-century Berlin come into sharp focus, most notably in the realms of opera, spoken theater, and ballet. Marx also expounds in revealing detail on his acquaintance with two major figures of the time: Gaspare Spontini, whose tenure as music director in Berlin was marked by turbulence and ultimate dis- grace, and Felix Mendelssohn, with whom he enjoyed, for at least a time, a warm working relationship. Marxs reminiscences naturally con- centrate on the urban environments in which he flourished. Yet some of the most heartfelt, evocative passages in the book concern memories of escape to the countryside. Displaying a finely tuned, romantic sensitivity to the nat- ural world, his commentary on days spent wandering through Thuringia, and eventually as far south as Inns- bruck, includes passages that leap off the page as fragments of a veritable pas- toral symphony in prose. Given the scarcity of biographical material on Marx in any language, Stephen Thomson Moores translation of the Erinnerungen makes a welcome addition to Pendragons Lives in Music series; its value is enhanced by the con- tributions of Moores collaborator, R. J. Arnold, who provides not only a wealth of explanatory footnotes but also an in- formative introduction that supplies historical perspective and cultural ori- entation. Arnold observes that the very concept of a musicians autobiography was still a novel idea in Marxs day, in- spired by a belief that ones inner life ought to be at least as important as the events that take place externally (p. x). He classifies Marx as a thoroughgoing Hegelian (p. xvi), noting his groping towards, grasping of, and eventually subservience to, big underlying ideals and inner convictions (p. xv); and he identifies the authors endeavor as a powerfully human work enriched by a constant intertwining of the personal and the professional, of the scholarly and the subjective (xix). In translating the textno easy task, given Marxs propensity for long sen- tences, complex constructions, and occasional recourse to fragmentary syntaxMoore often models elements of his sentences on the original German. This approach has merit to the extent that it helps capture the fla- vor of Marxs writing, but it can take the reader on a bumpy ride: I had met Franz Liszt in the unforgettable days, when he visited Berlin as a virtuoso, and in a series of concerts, which he could have easily multiplied by a factor of ten, put Berlin into an ecstasy, which, before or after, it had never seen the like of (pp. 21112). Some sentences may require rereading before their meaning becomes satisfactorily clear: Good old Naue! He stands be- fore me; one of those characters, who, versatile, encourage, benevolently and helpfully, where they can, but never bring the kernel of their life to matu- rity, because the first rudiment re- mained undeveloped and the power to develop has been lost (pp. 2223). Other sentences yield their message only reluctantly: for example, Wherever I looked around me in the arts, everywhere I could see that for the masters as the basis of the writing and thinking one found the highest degree of veracityin as much as everyone was given to look at the truth (p. 194). Some misfire altogether for one reason or another: The costliest item how- ever, was a patronage that I would re- ceive that the conclusion of my stay in Halle (p. 63; the chief culprit here is the second that, which should read at). Off-kilter word choices and outright mistranslations underscore the impres- sion of a translation in the rough, or perhaps a translation still in progress. The word Fahrzeuge should perhaps be more appropriately translated as vessels than vehicles where the con- veyances in question are small fishing boats (p. 12). In Marxs description of Napoleons foot soldiers, the adjectives kleinern and gedrungern are more plausi- bly translated as shorter and stockier than smaller and more oppressed (p. 15). Typographical slips stand out, includ- ing numerous instances in which a wrong word supplants the correct one through the addition or deletion of one or more letters: ally for alley (p. 13), Theses performance for These performances (p. 106), He had spent her youth for She had spent her youth (p. 145), Good for God (p. 182), lead for led (p. 217). Acci- dents of this sort naturally elude detec- tion by a Microsoft Wordtype spell- check, but an alert copyeditor could scarcely have missed them. Likewise dif- ficult for a copyeditor to have over- looked are the many cases, strewn liber- ally throughout the text, of the intru- sive comma: An officer turned to us and asked, what the matter was (p. 16); The roadway was covered with Prussian soldiers, who had lain down, in order to offer the smallest target to the bullets (p. 36). In the latter exam- ple, enclosing who had lain down with commas confusingly suggests that the phrase in question is nonessential. Without the commas, the sentence would have relayed the authors mean- ing with perfect clarity. Clearly, something has gone wrong with Pendragon and the Recollections, as if the translators typescript had some- how been snatched from his hands and pushed into production prematurely without the benefit of editorial over- sight or proofreadinga recipe for trouble. Whatever the cause for the vex- ations that beset this publication, its scores of imperfections, however dis- tracting or puzzling, only rarely hinder comprehension. On the whole, they do not compromise the usefulness of this volume as a rough-hewn, provisional translation of Marxs text. What does compromise its usefulness is the absence of an index. Moore ad- dresses this lacuna in a Translators Note on Indexing that occupies the last page of the book (p. 230). Ob- serving that most, though not all, re- cently published books were born digi- tal, and are transmitted digitally through much of their life, he argues that the ease and facility of keyword searching for electronic texts mean that an extensive index created in addition to a scholarly text is a redundancy. But even for texts that are searchable elec- tronically, the claim of redundancy rings hollow, resting as it does on an impoverished understanding of the purposes served by an index. Although a keyword search may indeed facilitate the retrieval of a single particular piece of information, even a rudimen- tary index does more by offering a handy overview of a books contents and a quickly accessed key to its intel- lectual, aesthetic, or scholarly points of view. At its best, an index may serve as a primary guide to our interaction with a book and a wide-open, always available point of entry into the realm of thoughts, ideas, names, titles, and places that circulate within its covers. It would be good if this books lapsesthe ragged edges of the transla- tion, the typographical mishaps, and the lack of an indexproved to be aberrations and not a harbinger of di- minished standards in the domain of scholarly publication. It would be good also if we could look forward to a re- vised edition of the book in which its lapses were suitably addressed. Floyd Grave New Brunswick, New Jersey

“Floyd Grave”
Notesx, December 2018