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Child Composers and Their Works: A Historical Survey.

Child Composers and Their Works: A Historical Survey. By Barry Cooper. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2009. [vii, 216 pp. ISBN 978-0-8108-6911-0. $65.00]

This volume is an attempt to fill an enormous void in historical musicology studies: the works of child composers. The author in his introduction is quite detailed and precise about what he feels this "virgin field" is. He is not talking about music written by adults for children, or children's music concerned with pedagogy in the classroom. The purpose of this book is to provide preliminary research for more extensive studies of musical compositions written by children in the past. As he narrows his topic, he is not including music by children from non-Western cultures (there have already been some case studies in this area). He indicates that he is focusing on works by children younger than sixteen, apart from whether or not they eventually became famous as adult composers (as many of them did), but calls for a thorough examination of these works not as "early" or "juvenilia" compositions, but fully-fledged mature compositions of their time periods and genres.

Mozart, of course, is the most famous example of a child composer, and is usually held up as the child composer par excellence. Chapter 2 describes how Mozart seemed to start a trend towards the development of more child composers in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Chapter 3 examines the marginalization of children's compositions from the past, indicating that very little attention has been given to them in most music history texts. The questions as to why and how this topic was ignored are explored in this chapter. Chapter 4 is a short theoretical section on how children gain competence and originality in music composition, citing a few examples such as Chopin and Beethoven. Chapter 5 comprises the heart of the book, where much of the compiled research is tabulated and discussed. There are tables here listing the length of entries for child composers in The New Grove Dictionary(2001), child composers' ages at first reported composition, child composers with more than one publication before the age of sixteen, and child composers who have produced a major work. Some interesting names of child composers include: age 3-8 category, Henry Purcell, Samuel Wesley, Frederic Chopin, Sergei Prokofiev; age 9-11 category, Carl Maria von Weber, Franz Schubert, Franz Liszt, Edward Elgar; age 12-13 category, Dominico Scarlatti, Giuseppe Verdi, Charles Ives, Sergei Rachmaninoff; and age 14-15 category, Fanny Mendelssohn, Nadia Boulanger, Claudio Monteverdi. The following chapters (6-9) then provide biographical and musical information on known child composers from the past: Chapter 6 details child composers born before 1700; Chapter 7, child composers between 1700 and 1800; Chapter 8, child composers between 1801 and 1850, and Chapter 9, child composers between 1851 and 1900. These biographies list each of the compositions by the child composer, any published research, and any sound recordings of these works. A substantial bibliography and composer index are included.

According to the biography, the author is a well-known authority on Beethoven, and his completed first movement of Beethoven's unfinished Tenth Symphony has attracted much interest. He was a child composer himself at age seven. This book provides an impetus for serious research on the compositions of child composers of all time periods and genres.

Bradford Lee Eden

University of California, Santa Barbara
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Author:Eden, Bradford Lee
Publication:Fontes Artis Musicae
Article Type:Book review
Date:Apr 1, 2011
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