NONFICTION

Absolutely on Music: Conversations

with Seiji Ozawa. Knopf. Nov. 2016. 352p. tr. from Japanese by Jay Rubin. ISBN 9780385354349. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9780385354356. MUSIC
COPY ISBN
Beginning in November 2010, Japanese novelist Murakami (Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage) held a series of informal conversations with renowned conductor Ozawa. The transcriptions of these talks, with commentary by Murakami, reveal a probing and perceptive interviewer who teases out of Ozawa fascinating anecdotes about his career and the classical music scene in general. Ozawa was an assistant conductor under both Herbert von Karajan and Leonard Bernstein before assuming the directorship of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and his perspectives on conductors and performers, and the differences among orchestras in Japan, America, and Europe are enlightening. The book unfolds at a leisurely pace; quite a bit of material is devoted to dissections of various vintage recordings, in which the two friends discuss details of interpretation and performance practice. The best of these musings deals with Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 1, in which Ozawa analyzes the work in the context of Mahler's life and the societal decline of fin-de-siècle Vienna. Little-known aspects of Ozawa's musical persona are also revealed, such as his passion for Chicago blues and his love of teaching string quartet literature to young musicians.
VERDICT Recommended for lovers of classical music and fans of Murakami. [See Prepub Alert, 5/23/16.]

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