Review by Choice Review
Ratner looks at familiar 19th-century pieces from a new perspective. He explores the nature of the 19th-century sound palette, how composers use it as a distinctive compositional element, and how these aspects of sound contrast with classical usage. He includes quotes from relevant contemporary theorists and composers to support his points. Part 1 studies 19th-century orchestration. The perspective is fresh and engaging, although Ratner does not break new ground here. In Part 2 he describes his system of "rhetorical reduction" designed to capture the important elements of the music. Parts 3 and 4 apply these principles of reduction to 19th-century period structures and forms. Ratner compares pieces of Schubert, Chopin, Schumann, Liszt, Brahms, Mahler, and others with their rhetorical reductions. These comparisons highlight how the composers obscure, distort, and interrupt the syntax with elements of sound. Yet, the composers never entirely lose traditional, 18th-century syntax. The analyses are wide-ranging, penetrating, and convincing. Easily readable, with basic introductions to each section and many accessible examples, this book should be a welcome addition to all libraries. C. Cai; Kenyon College
Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.