“[Mauceri’s] writing is more exhilarating than any helicopter ride we have been on.”—Air Mail
“Fluently written and often cogent.”—Barton Swaim, Wall Street Journal
John Mauceri offers a lively and passionate reassessment of classical music in the twentieth century, in which he argues that the history of music during the last century was shaped by its three major conflicts: World War I, World War II, and the Cold War.
The War on Music unlocks the mystery of why classical music seemingly produced so few eternal works after 1950, whereas other arts—popular music, Broadway, literature, painting, architecture, theater, cinema—have given the world myriad beloved and highly regarded masterpieces; why the composers considered the future of classical music in the 1920s disappeared from being performed after World War II; why the most heard symphonic scores of the century—music for Hollywood films—became the subject of brutal denigration and dismissal; why the avant-garde of the pre-World War I became the new lingua franca of the Cold War period in the West, and any music that veered from its requirements removed from being performed.
Mauceri follows the data to demonstrate how the politics of global wars used an artform that many might consider unimportant—classical music—as a potent and effective symbol, target, and weapon. Based on more than a half-century of music making and discovery, The War on Music is a plea to return the suppressed repertory—beautiful and unique expressions of humanity—to our concert halls and opera houses, much as the artwork stolen by the Nazis continues to be returned to its rightful owners.
“The great virtue of John Mauceri’s The War on Music is that it acknowledges what many writers on the subject know but can’t say: that something went badly wrong in music in the 20th century, and especially after 1945. . . . Fluently written and often cogent.”—Barton Swaim, Wall Street Journal
“Two world wars changed the course of music in the 20th century. Charting the malign influence of politics, from Hitler to Stalin, Mauceri shows how music became part of the weaponry of identity. Refugee composers lost their place in the mainstream and Mauceri argues for a re-evaluation of those forgotten and discarded.”—Richard Fairman, Financial Times, “Best summer books of 2022: Classical music”
“Conductor John Mauceri has released a study of the forgetting of so much classical music, especially music composed in America by refugees from Nazi-dominated Europe. A leitmotif of his work is how often not only music students but professors or professional musicians don’t even know the names (let alone the scores) of the composers who had been household names in Central Europe.”—Mark Almond, The Critic
“This is an illuminating, provocative and entertaining read, from an author with impeccable credentials.”—Mike Tilling, Yorkshire Times
“A well-founded, cogent, and forceful argument for a fresh look at all of the century’s great music, much of it written under extraordinary circumstances, and why we need to go back and listen.”—Jon Burlingame, author of The Music of James Bond
“A profound thinker and observer and an eminent American musician, John Mauceri brilliantly explores the contested terrain of twentieth-century classical music and adds a whole new dimension to our understanding of musical politics and musical repertory.”— Larry Wolff, author of The Singing Turk
“En garde! In his provocative new book The War on Music: Reclaiming the Twentieth Century—one that is certain to initiate heated and impassioned discussion—the prodigiously talented and multifaceted conductor and writer John Mauceri throws down a musical gauntlet as he endeavors to upend and re-examine some of the reigning assumptions of the history of post-war twentieth-century classical music. No matter how one responds to the thrust of John Mauceri’s sweeping musical worldview, one must salute him for his fervent, dauntless, and audacious engagement.”—Jonathan Cott, author of Dinner With Lenny: The Last Long Interview With Leonard Bernstein
“Mauceri’s brilliant The War on Music begins with the question, ‘Why do we not play the music Hitler banned?’ and then pulls back the curtain to answer it, in chilling detail.”— Robert Thompson, president, G. Schirmer