Symphonic Program Music and Its Literary Sources Book 1: Avshalomov-Johansen

Author: Casler, Lawrence
This encyclopedic survey will serve as an indispensable reference for scholars and students interested in relationships between music and literature. After an extensive introduction that includes a history of program music and a discussion of the aesthetic issues peculiar to this genre, the book provides brief analyses of approximately 260 pieces of orchestral program music based on specific literary sources. Each entry consists of three sections: an account of relevant aspects of the composer’s life, an account of relevant aspects of the author’s life, and an account of the relationships between the music and the literary source. Appropriate musical quotations are used to illustrate these relationships. Up to the cut-off point of 1950, the discussions cover virtually every work that is likely to be encountered on recordings or in concert halls. Because of the book’s user-friendly format, the reader/listener can quickly locate each musical or literary work.


“This book is designed for a general concert-going audience of music enthusiasts who want to know more about the orchestral compositions they’re listening to but do not have considerable technical expertise in music. . . For their purpose this resource could not be more ideal nor more accessible. After a general introduction, the information on the specific compositions is organized alphabetically first by composer and then by title of composition/literary source. . . . The author skillfully keeps hold of the various intertwining threads, always with an eye toward his ultimate goal of enhancing the activity of listening.”
– Anne-Marie Reynolds,
Assistant Professor, School of Performing Arts,
SUNY Geneseo

“Dr. Casler’s book not only provides concertgoers with a great deal of illuminating information – about composers’ and poets’ biographies, about composition history, about relevant links between musical themes and literary characters or events – but also provides a valuable source book for students of music. It is a marvelous tour d’horizon: America, Germany, France, Latvia, Greece, the whole range of Western music is pondered here. . . . Casler’s writing is focused and often witty: for example, I remember with delight his discussion of Deems Taylor’s Jabberwocky, where he observes that Taylor quotes ‘bandersnatches of Parsifal and Die Meistersinger.’ I plan on telling my future students who are curious about program music to go first to Casler.”
– Daniel Albright, Richard L. Turner,
Professor in the Humanities,
University of Rochester