I recently got hooked on Amazon Prime’s TV series Mozart in the Jungle. It’s a comedy about the dysfunction behind the mythical New York Symphony Orchestra featuring Malcolm McDowell and Bernadette Peters. I noticed that it was based on a book, and now having read it, I find it extremely difficult to write this review.
It has nothing to do with the difficulty of the book. This book is straightforward and honest. Perhaps uncompromising would be a better word.
Blair Tindall is a veteran of the New York classical music scene. She’s played for the New York Philharmonic, has served time in the orchestra pits of Broadway, and has even recorded on film scores. She spent a year in her youth in Vienna, which inspired a life and career in classical music. She learned the oboe, and she fought hard to live her dream.
This book is one part personal memoir, one part history of the development of classical performance in the United States, one part commentary on the state of the business / art of classical music, one part condemnation on that same business / art, and one part cathartic sucker punch to a world that pisses on those with passion for it. And yet, Tindall pulls it all off without malice. Or maybe that’s just diplomacy.
For me, the road not travelled is this road. In another life, I’d have stuck with my music schooling and, in my head at least, ended up being a conductor. I’ve always known that this path wouldn’t have worked out for me. This book is a scary look at what might have happened in the unlikely event it did. I don’t know how to review that except to say that this is enlightening and jaw-dropping in ways I never thought possible.
I’ve officially added this book to my list of favorites. I’ve never read any kind of fiction novel or collection of poetry — Shakespeare or otherwise — that had this effect on me. Some of what’s here has always been suspected or even known on some level, but to have it delivered by an insider who can hand it to you without the refinement and glamor… it’s shaken me to the core and makes me violently ill, spiritually speaking. It truly makes me appreciate my trips to the Dallas Symphony Orchestra in completely new ways, and it makes me appreciate the music I listen to in pretty much every genre in new ways as well.
For all of you in Europe that have classical music as part of your everyday culture and lifestyle, where it truly is the music of the people, please continue to appreciate it as you have and share it where possible. For my American brethren with an interest… read this book if you’re so inclined, and give it a serious think. It’s guaranteed to change your entire perspective.
To think somebody thought this book should be a comedy. At least I can say that the writers know and love the music. That comes through.