'Diaologues and conversations', review of Simon P. Keefe, 'Mozart's piano concertos: dramatic dialogue in the age of enlightenment' and Mara Parker, 'The String Quartet 1750-1797: four types of musical conversation'
Early Music, 31, (1), . (doi:10.1093/earlyj/XXXI.1.131).
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Style history is back. Once considered the very raison d'itre
of musical scholarship, the study of the history of compositional
styles has in recent decades been eclipsed by a
massive expansion of musicological practice to include
social history, analysis of all kinds, and, of course, performance
practice. Yet the two books here are both—though
each in its own way—histories of style. Mara Parker's The
string quartet, 1750-1797: four types of musical conversation
is a bold attempt to challenge a commonplace of the socalled
'Classical style', using as a tool the conversational
quality of the string quartet, immortalized by Goethe's
famous remark on its four 'reasonable' members. Simon
Keefe's Mozart's piano concertos: dramatic dialogue in the
Age of Enlightenment also takes communication, conversation
and dialogue as the starting point for a micro-study of
one fascinating aspect of Mozart's style: dialogue in the
piano concertos. Both books depend on a thorough contextualization
of the term 'style'. One book falls short of its
ambitious goals, the other succeeds with aplomb
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