Nicholas Kenyon explores the enduring appeal of the classical canon at a moment when we can access all music—across time and cultures
“At its lively best when Kenyon’s own passions are laid bare, . . . his belief, above all, in the power of music to unite individual and community.”—Fiona Maddocks, The Observer
Immersed in music for much of his life as writer, broadcaster and concert presenter, former director of the BBC Proms, Nicholas Kenyon has long championed an astonishingly wide range of composers and performers. Now, as we think about culture in fresh ways, Kenyon revisits the stories that make up the classical tradition and foregrounds those which are too often overlooked. This inclusive, knowledgeable, and enthusiastic guide highlights the achievements of the women and men, amateurs and professionals, who bring music to life.
Taking us from pianist Myra Hess’s performance in London during the Blitz, to John Adams’s composition of a piece for mourners after New York’s 9/11 attacks, to Italian opera singers singing from their balconies amidst the 2020 pandemic, Kenyon shows that no matter how great the crisis, music has the power to bring us together. His personal, celebratory account transforms our understanding of how classical music is made—and shows us why it is more relevant than ever.
“Nicholas Kenyon is an amiable and enthusiastic guide to a thousand years of classical music.”—Neil Fisher, The Times
“A typically wise and thoughtful book, which manages to combine a wealth of unexpected information with an immensely readable style – it should grab anybody, whatever their level of musical knowledge.”—Sir Simon Rattle, music director, London Symphony Orchestra
“What better moment to ponder the question of where music has been, where it might be headed and the existential issue of what meaning it may hold? The Life of Music ponders these questions with wit and a depth of information.”—Deborah Borda, president and CEO, New York Philharmonic Orchestra
“Nicholas Kenyon brings a lifetime of listening and wisdom to his encyclopaedic survey of the Western classical music canon. In a narrative of breadth and critical acumen, The Life of Music traverses a millennium of music-making with stopping points along the way to ponder its past, present and future.”—John Adams, composer
‘As critic, author, broadcaster, and administrator, Nicholas Kenyon has seen the art and life of music from every possible angle, and the breadth of his experience is evident on every page of this hugely absorbing volume. He also brings to bear keen insight, an aversion to dogma, and a wisdom steeped in humility. Classical music has a tendency toward grandiose rhetoric: Kenyon unfurls the entire monumental story in unwaveringly human terms.’—Alex Ross, music critic at The New Yorker and author of The Rest is Noise
“Nick Kenyon takes us to the very heart and soul of music, by surveying the past, he gives us hope for the future.”—Gustavo Dudamel, artistic and music director, Los Angeles Philharmonic
About the Author
Nicholas Kenyon is Managing Director at London’s Barbican Centre. Formerly, he was Director of the BBC Proms and Controller of BBC Radio 3. He is a music critic and the author of books including Simon Rattle: From Birmingham to Berlin.