American Piano Trios: A Resource Guide.
This book had its genesis over thirty years ago, when the author was the pianist of the American Arts Trio at the University of West Virginia. At that time, faced with the need to find works by American composers to perform, Arno P. Drucker began to collect information on American piano trios in a computer database, which has now grown to the present bibliography listing 589 compositions. Arranged alphabetically by composer, entries include biographical and contact information (address, telephone and fax numbers, E-mail address, and Web site), followed by a list of works. For each work, Drucker provides the date of composition, duration, publisher, and dedication; he also lists one or two libraries owning a copy and provides discographic information.
Drucker lists only composers who were born in the United States or became naturalized citizens; among the latter included in the guide are Ernst Bloch and Sergey Rakhmaninov. In the introduction, Drucker states that he has listed works for piano, violin, and cello, as well as some works for that combination with orchestra, voice, or electronic instruments (p. xiii). He has attempted a comprehensive listing, however, for only the standard combination; unfortunately, he does not give criteria for his selection of the other works.
The information given for each composer varies greatly. Most of the biographical sketches are based on entries in either Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians (the bibliography cites the seventh edition [New York: Schirmer Books, 1984] rather than the eighth [New York: Schirmer Books, 1992]) or The New Grove Dictionary of American Music (4 vols. [London: Macmillan, 1986]) and may therefore be out of date. There does not seem to be any relationship between the number of trios by a particular composer and the amount of biographical information included. For example, Frederic Rzewski receives over a page of biographical coverage even though only one unpublished trio is listed in his entry. More useful is Drucker's inclusion of composers' comments on their own trios or those of others; these often provide valuable insights into historical context and style.
Two appendixes and a bibliography complete the volume. The first appendix lists ensembles currently performing piano-trio literature, giving personnel, address, and telephone and fax numbers for each. The information in the second appendix, "Classical Music Web Sites," is, of course, ephemeral, and seems of little relevance to the rest of the volume; if these Web sites were used in compiling the guide, they should have been listed in the bibliography.
A title index would have greatly increased the usefulness of the volume. It would also have been helpful to have the works for piano trio with orchestra, voice, or electronic instruments listed separately and more completely. In the main portion of the book, running headings of composers' names would have aided the user; I often found myself getting lost when trying to find specific entries. Drucker, who has presumably examined and played many of these works, might also have enhanced the value of this guide by adding his own comments on technical and interpretive matters.
There is a great deal of information in this volume that will be useful to those who want to explore the repertory of piano trios by Americans. More thoughtful organization might have made the book even better.
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|Article Type:||Book Review|
|Date:||Jun 1, 2000|
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