Notes 59.2 (2002) 339-340
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István Anhalt: Pathways and Memory. Edited by Robin Elliott and Gordon E. Smith. Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2001. [xx, 475 p. ISBN 0-7735-2102-X. $75.] Music examples, illustrations, index.
A native of Hungary who has lived in Canada since 1949, composer István Anhalt has held important teaching positions at McGill and Queen's Universities and received many honors. He receives a loving tribute from friends, colleagues, and students in this handsomely produced book which includes numerous photographs and musical examples. As co-editor Gordon E. Smith explains in the introduction, the stated goal of the volume is "to provide wide-ranging discussion about a major individual in Canadian music, as well as the multilayered contexts of his life and work" (p. xvii). The larger goal, implied by the scope of the project and the great care with which it has been carried out, must have been to stimulate interest in Anhalt's music among performers and scholars outside Canada.
On the whole, the authors of the volume have made their case for Anhalt very strongly, although—let it be said right away —one wishes that a compact disc had been included with the book. While it is easy to believe that this was not financially feasible, the absence of at least a discography is really hard to understand—until one realizes how embarrassingly short that discography probably would have been. Even some of Anhalt's most important works have either never been recorded or are not currently available.
This is to be regretted all the more, as William Benjamin makes a rather bold statement when he recalls that Anhalt's music struck him, when he first encountered it, "as a summons to look at music anew" (p. 219). This initial impulse led the Canadian music theorist and critic to embark on an in-depth study of Anhalt's music, resulting in a massive analytical essay on two of Anhalt's orchestral works. The essay is almost 150 pages long and takes up almost one-third of the present volume. Benjamin draws on a vast array of techniques ranging from serial and set analysis to an exploration of a wide range of cultural, philosophical, and aesthetic issues. Beyond illuminating the music as well as any analysis can hope to do, Benjamin's study is intriguing from a purely methodological point of view—especially the lengthy table 7.4, which fuses various methods of "note-counting" and a probing of symbolic content in a particularly stimulating way.
The remaining two-thirds of the book includes a great deal of biographical information. In part 1 ("Life Lines"), we learn about Anhalt's early life in Hungary, his time in a labor camp during World War II, his sojourn in Paris, and his emigration to Canada and distinguished career there. Since so much emphasis is placed upon Anhalt's dual identity (European and Canadian), his return to his native country for a brief teaching stint in the late 1960s might have been worth mentioning.
Part 2 ("Compositions") comprises four essays, the above-mentioned long study by Benjamin, and three shorter articles surveying Anhalt's chamber music, orchestral works, and his electroacoustic output, respectively. Speaking about the latter, electroacoustic composer David Keane states that Anhalt was the first classically trained composer to make use of Hugh Le Caine's studio in Ottawa—the first of its kind in Canada. Electronic music remained one of Anhalt's chief concerns from the late 1950s through much of the 1960s. In later years, Anhalt turned to the writing of operas, but the stage works are not represented in this section of the book. They are covered [End Page 339] briefly in the biographical chapters, and again in part 4, which contains samples from Anhalt's own writings. While Anhalt has written eloquently about his own music, and particularly about the operas, one misses the perspectives of the listener and the performer. Anhalt's own discussions tend to focus on plots and general conception. Music of the operas—evidently the most important...