“These five profiles give the clearest evidence of the central value of David Blum’s writings about music during his all too short lifetime. The extraordinary sensitivity that he makes so clear in his conversations with Yo-Yo Ma, Jeffrey Tate, Josef Gingold, Richard Goode and Birgit Nilsson gives evidence of a passion and a respect for beauty in music and the acknowledgment of the enormous discipline necessary to make a successful career, a career that is not only a few concerts in a period of time, but the dedication of a lifetime to a chosen commitment. I think music lovers and educators everywhere will be fascinated and truly informed by this book, as will anyone who wants to know how the quality of life in our time can be enriched.”
-Isaac Stern, legendary musician and benefactor of the arts.
“These highly original explorations of the lives and evolution of five outstanding but very different artists constitute to my mind a unique documentation of what it means to be a musician in the twentieth century and remind us how often it is that success is won against the odds. David Blum writes with incomparable subtlety, knowledge and intuition, a mode of intimate investigation which fascinatingly matches the gifts of the very musicians who are his topic. This indeed is an unforgettable performance in its own right which not only deepens our understanding of music but also of those who, at the highest level, bring music to life.”
-Donald Mitchell, author of Gustav Mahler and Benjamin Britten
“Blum was one of the most articulate of all contemporary writers on music. These extended portraits of five musical luminaries are all remarkable documents about remarkable people…Blum’s own personality is unobtrusive, yet his keen intelligence runs like a thread throughout.”
-Library Journal (February 2000)
“Blum never fawns over his subjects, and his deep musical acumen allows him to place Goode’s Schubert and Ma’s Bach in appropriate perspective. Would that the literature included similarly knowing, firsthand portraits of the great musicians of the 18th and 19th centuries; they would have helped alter the study of historical performance practice.”
-Choice (May 2, 2000)
“ These are eminently humane essays, beautifully written, taking the reader deep into the personality and art of each of the musicians, enhanced by Blum’s seasoned observations on music and the creative process. If you are not a music lover already, this is a book that could change you.
-Bill Parker, Minneapolis Star Tribune (January 2000)
"Of all the arts, music must be the most elusive to capture in words. The writer trying to pin down how a particular work - no matter how familiar - casts its spell over listeners grapples to reach a seemingly quixotic goal. And, particularly when faced with the unique alchemy of personality and technique that goes into performance, too often the result is either distressingly abstract, absurdly reductive, or glib and empty-headed puffery that could easily be interchangeable from one star to the next. What a welcome contrast David Blum's Quintet: Five Journeys Toward Musical Fulfillment offers. Blum, who died in 1998, led a versatile career that bridged his extraordinary talents as conductor and writer. Along with founding the Esterhazy Orchestra in New York, Blum authored Casals and the Art of Interpretation, a classic study of the cellist, and The Art of Quartet Playing, as well as a number of exceptionally in-depth profiles for The New Yorker and The New York Times.
Blum's profiles go beyond in-depth interviews and actually reveal several levels, including a beautiful sense of proportion and structure in themselves. You can read them as compact little biographies that unfold with leisured ease, as essays in the relation of self-knowledge to artistic mastery, and as dazzling commentaries on particular pieces seen from within the musician's mind. Utterly lacking in pretension or pedantic analysis, Blum's style goes well beyond truisms and gives us new insights into such works as Bach's Cello Suites, Schubert's last piano sonatas, or Tristan und Isolde. There's plenty of humor here, along with painful acknowledgment from the musicians of the terrors of insecurity. The humanity that Blum reveals gives his portrayals a far-ranging appeal, in a style one could only hope arts journalists might look to as a model."
About Casals and the Art of Interpretation
“The principles set forth here provide an invaluable fund of information of vital interest to all who are concerned with the art of interpretation… In writing this book David Blum has earned not only my respect but my heartfelt gratitude.”
“An amazing piece of work…of exceptional value to any musician. This book is a treasure.
-American String Teacher
About The Art of Quartet Playing: The Guarneri Quartet in Conversation with David Blum
“This is arguably the best book on the subject and one of the most important books on music issued in recent years.”