Professor pulls readers in to composer’s career, life
“Marc Blitzstein: His Life, His Work, His World” is the latest biography written by Howard Pollack, a professor at the Moores School of Music, and tells the story of one of the most underappreciated composers of the 20th century.
Over the course of the book, Pollack explores the composer’s life, his political leaning and his constant struggle to fully achieve musical success.
Pollack’s research takes center stage, allowing readers to explore Blitzstein through firsthand accounts of those surrounding him, which immerses readers into the artist’s life. From his roots in Philadelphia to his tragic and violent death, the biography comes together to create a detailed painting of the composer.
Readers get a fleeting grasp on a flamboyant, opinionated man who brought joy to the lives of those around him. They are presented a man who works and writes in a constant attempt to reach his genius, including the triumphs and downfalls of his musical career.
The author presents Blitzstein’s struggles and uses his letters to bring readers inside the composer’s mind, which is filled with aspirations and insecurities. This is one of the many aspects of the book that brings out its more compelling qualities.
The book is filled with musical jargon that may be confusing to a layperson. and is an intimidating 600 pages of content, but Pollack seems to know his target audience and does not compromise to reach a lowest common denominator.
But doesn’t bar Pollack from reconstructing the gripping story of Blitzstein’s life in a truly engaging way. He manages to sweep readers into Blitzstein’s life and musical works as he brings them into a moment in Blitzstein’s relationship with his first wife then quickly to the middle of Blitzstein’s ballet rendition of the biblical epic of Cain and Abel.
Pollack strikes a balance with Blitzstein’s life between enriching prose and quotes from letters and words of those that knew him. While it does not always come across as a traditional narrative, “Marc Blitzstein: His Life, His Work, His World” still manages to bring readers into the composer’s life through its animation on a subject that could have easily been rendered listless in the wrong hands.