OPERAS OF VERDI: Volume 3, From Don Carlos to Falstaff, by Junan Budder (Oxford, $39.95). The final volume of Budder's monumental trilogy is also (by 20- odd pages) the longest, though it deals only with four operas, compared to the 24 divided between the two earlier volumes. This is quite proper, considering the special interest of Don Carlos, Aida and particularly those two miraculous works of old age, Otello and Falstaff, the increasing complexity of the composer's style, and the special interest in and extensive documentation of the operas' origins. Budder's treatment, mingling biographical material with a highly detailed musical analysis, is magnificent--thorough, balanced and readable. All three volumes can be recommended to interested readers, but this one most of all.
LEOS JANACEK: A Biography, by Jaroslav Vogel, revised and edited by Karel Janovicky (Norton, $24.95). Although born in 1854, Janacek was one of the most original and interesting composers of the 1920s, producing four major operas, two string quartets, the Glagolitic Mass, the Sinfonietta and the Concertino on which his fame chiefly rests after the normal age of retirement. The personality behind these fascinating works was a complex one, responding to one of history's major changes (centering on World War I) in a nation, Czechoslovakia, that was agonizingly at the heart of the process. This study, produced under the auspices of the Czechoslovak government, is remarkably free of the distortions that might have resulted from such patronage. It can be recommended as the best treatment of the man and the most thorough discussion of his music, available in English.
RICHARD STRAUSS: The Staging of His Operas and Ballets, by Rudolf Hartmann (Oxford, $39.95). From the opening photo (an unusual color depiction of the composer's villa) to the colored death mask on its final page, this is most obviously a picture book, with subject matter as rich as it is specialized. The composer of Elektra, Rosenkavalier, Ariadne auf Naxos and Die Frau ohne Schatten was a man of the theater as well as a man of music, and the visual elements carefully embodied in his theatrical work have been well-served by a variety of designers whose work is preserved here. But in this picture book, the text is as significant as the illustrations. Hartmann, an acquaintance of Strauss and a leading authority (perhaps the leading authority) on the staging of his works, has thought long and carefully about the special challenges involved in such staging, and his remarks, while particularly interesting to other specialists, should also have some value for all opera fans who relate to it as a visual art.
HAYDN: A Documentary Study, by H.C. Robbins Landon (Rizzoli, $37.50). This attractive volume may be taken as an appendix, supplement and drastic condensation of Landon's massive, definitive, five-volume Haydn: Chronicle and Works, whose completion is one of the major events of our time in music scholarship. Accessible to a much less specialized readership, it is lavishly illustrated with photos (mostly in color) of the composer, his associates, and scenes that were familiar to him. The brief biography accompanying the pictures draws extensively on original documents, many of which are quoted in detail though, naturally, less detail than the magnum opus.