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Here we are at the “Lexicon of Musical Invective: Critical Assaults on Composers Since Beethoven’s Time,” written and edited by Nicolas Slonimsky and published in three or four editions over the years. Mine is from the University of Washington Press.

It’s an infamous and funny book, a collection of seemingly wrongheaded reviews of musical masterpieces. It would appear to lambaste the critical profession. But it’s really more than that — including a record of how certain pieces and composers were received in their own time; a record of how new music has always been a test to contemporary ears; and also a record of the once colorful language used by critics to describe their aural experiences.

Slonimsky himself cherished the latter, and regretted its disappearance, as you will see from his inscription in my copy (the second photo). I think he meant it. (Slonimsky, age 93, spoke and performed at my graduation from the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore. Along with a few other students, I also had dinner with him at the time. This is when he inscribed the book, I believe.)

The photos show the cover; the page with Slonimsky’s inscription; the title page; the table of contents (which lists the prefatory essay, “Non-Acceptance of the Unfamiliar,” an important contribution to critical aesthetics); and two randomly sampled pages presenting invective aimed at Prokofiev and Brahms (they’re funny).

Click on photos for larger views.

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