Ryding, Erik (S.) 1953-
RYDING, Erik (S.) 1953-
PERSONAL: Born September 11, 1953; married Rebecca Pechefsky (a harpsichordist and author).
CAREER: Writer, biographer, editor, and recording producer. Carnegie Hall, currently managing editor.
In Harmony Framed: Musical Humanism, Thomas Campion, and the Two Daniels, Truman State University Press (Kirksville, MO), 1993.
SIDELIGHTS: Rebecca Pechefsky and Erik Ryding, husband-and-wife authors of Bruno Walter: A World Elsewhere, demonstrate in their biography that "Bruno Walter was one of the twentieth century's most important and influential conductors," wrote Scott Warfield in Notes. Pechefsky, a professional harpsichordist, and Ryding, managing editor at Carnegie Hall, "have written a detailed, well-documented biography of a respected musician whose career as a conductor was long and successful," wrote George Jochnowitz in Midstream. Bruno Walter: A World Elsewhere is the first biography of the conductor in English and the second in any language, noted Allan Keiler in New York Review of Books. Ryding and Pechefsky "argue that the absence of any serious study of Walter's career in English since the publication of his autobiography in 1946 'is extraordinary . . . given the wealth of primary sources available, which could furnish material for a study many times the length of the current volume.' In view of Walter's pre-eminence as a conductor during the first half of the twentieth century," Keiler wrote, "one can hardly disagree with them."
Born Bruno Schlesinger in Berlin, Germany, Walter began his career as a piano prodigy but turned to conducting "after attending a concert directed by Hans von Bülow, and a performance of Tristan und Isolde opened his ears to the music of Richard Wagner and other progressive composers," Warfield wrote. Debuting as a conductor in 1894 at the age of seventeen, Walter led a performance of the light opera Der Waffenschmied to positive, even enthusiastic reviews. "A few days later, he conducted an emergency performance of the same work," Jochnowitz noted. "The original cast was not available for this unscheduled performance. Two of the singers who were called in at the last minute hadn't sung their roles in years. One of the reviews was quite hostile. Then another newspaper came to Schlesinger's defense. Controversy may be an even better source of publicity than praise. At the age of seventeen, Schlesinger had achieved fame and success."
"In rehearsal Walter would plead and cajole, holding out with unyielding stubbornness for what he wanted, but he would never raise his voice to insult musicians." To Keiler, "it is no surprise that fellow musicians, singers, and instrumentalists with whom he collaborated praised him with great affection."
Pechefsky and Ryding trace Walter's career from his early career at the Stadttheater to a series of similar positions, until he went to Vienna in 1901 to serve as Mahler's second-in-command at the Hofoper where he conducted for the next eleven years.
Walter became Generalmusik direktor in Munich in 1913, and "over the next nine years he contributed to a glorious musical era in that city's history," Warfield remarked. He accepted many invitations to guest conduct, including his American debut in 1923. Walter was an early victim of national Socialist abuse, and as the Nazis gained power, he was forced from Germany, Austria, and France, until he finally came to the United States in 1939. In the United States Walter associated with the Metropolitan Opera, the New York Philharmonic, and other major orchestras. A series of "now legendary recordings" for Columbia "crowned his career," Warfield wrote.
Pechefsky and Ryding "describe all of this and much more in Bruno Walter: A World Elsewhere," Warfield commented. "In addition to quoting liberally from the conductor's autobiography, his published letters, and other obvious sources, these authors are the first to make use of the Bruno Walter Papers (New York Public Library for the Performing Arts), a collection with over seven thousand letters." Warfield noted that "Their dedication to verifying statements and authenticating facts is evident in the mere handful of endnotes that discuss a few unresolved details or conflicting accounts of minor events." Even accounting for extensive citations from primary sources, Pechefsky and Ryding "have woven it all into a highly readable narrative that is accessible to a broad audience."
Alan Hirsch, writing in Booklist, noted that Ryding and Pechefsky "illuminate the honorable and ethical man that he was as well as his interpretive approaches as one of the best-loved conductors of the twentieth century." Timothy J. McGee, writing in Library Journal, remarked that "The biography is deservedly full of praise for its talented subject, but the authors do not hide his faults or suppress the less favorable reviews or criticisms he received during a brilliant career."
"Ryding and Pechefsky have written a fine account of Walter's life," Warfield remarked, "and it will be all the more useful if their readers seek out Walter's recordings to hear what prompted its writing."
In his book In Harmony Framed: Musical Humanism, Thomas Campion, and the Two Daniels, Ryding examines the poetry of Thomas Campion and Samuel Daniel, the songs of Samuel's brother John Daniel, and musical settings of Renaissance poetry. "There is much that is useful in this work," wrote David Lindley in Modern Language Review, "but, equally, little that is in any way particularly novel. It is in many ways a synthesis of what has often been remarked of the poetry, music, and metrical speculations of its various subjects. Amiably and clearly written, the book would be useful to a student encountering the field for the first time, but the more experienced reader is unlikely to be startled into new awareness."
Although James A. Winn, writing in Notes, found the book "well informed and frequently informative, this monograph still bears the marks of its origins as a dissertation." To Winn, there is no doubt that "Erik Ryding writes well and has read widely," but even though he "produces an up-to-date narrative synthesis," it is "one too encyclopedic in method to allow much in the way of analysis." Winn felt that Ryding makes good choices of examples, but "the examples are too short and too scantily analyzed to have much impact." Lydia Hamessley, writing in Sixteenth Century Journal, observed that Ryding's "explanations are not untenable, and at times, they are compelling. The concern is that Ryding does not force these two poets into their 'proper' categories, but that he does not attempt a deeper analysis into how and why they stray from their places." Wilson also noted that Ryding has "Brought much labour and learning to his book in dealing with a complex and extensive topic," and felt that "English Renaissance scholars will not wish to ignore his account."
John Walter Hill, writing in Renaissance Quarterly, remarked that Ryding argues his points "most convincingly with respect to the poetry of Campion and Samuel Daniel, taking into account exceptions to his general observations and criticizing specific passages with erudition and sensitivity."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, April 1, 2001, Alan Hirsch, review of Bruno Walter: A World Elsewhere, p. 1441.
Boston Globe, August 16, 2001, Richard Buell, review of "Biography Hits All the Right Notes."
Commentary, July-August, 2001, Terry Teachout, "Bruno Walter's Way," pp. 54-58.
Irish Times, June 16, 2001, Vincent Deane, "Conductor of Another World," pp. 2-3.
Journal of the Lute Society of American, vol. 25, 1992, Daniel Fischlin, review of In Harmony Framed: Musical Humanism, Thomas Campion, and the Two Daniels, pp. 39-45.
Library Journal, March 1, 2001, Timothy J. McGee, review of Bruno Walter: A World Elsewhere, p. 96.
Midstream, July, 2001, George Jochnowitz, review of Bruno Walter: A World Elsewhere, p. 44.
Modern Language Review, April, 1995, David Lindley, review of In Harmony Framed: Musical Humanism, Thomas Campion, and the Two Daniels, p. 409.
Music & Letters, May, 1994, Christopher R. Wilson, review of In Harmony Framed: Musical Humanism, Thomas Campion, and the Two Daniels, pp. 260-261.
New York Review of Books, February 14, 2002, Allan Keiler, review of Bruno Walter: A World Elsewhere, pp. 35-38.
Notes, June, 1995, James A. Winn, review of In Harmony Framed: Musical Humanism, Thomas Campion, and the Two Daniels, pp. 1131-1132; December, 2001, Scott Warfield, review of Bruno Walter: A World Elsewhere, pp. 385-386.
Renaissance Quarterly, spring, 1995, John Walter Hill, review of In Harmony Framed: Musical Humanism, Thomas Campion, and the Two Daniels, p. 200.
Sixteenth Century Journal, winter, 1994, Lydia Hamessley, review of In Harmony Framed: Musical Humanism, Thomas Campion, and the Two Daniels, pp. 999-1003.
Sunday Telegraph, May 20, 2001, Noel Malcolm, "How to Conduct Oneself," p. 14.
Wall Street Journal, August 16, 2001, Harvey Sachs, "Gentle Autocrat, Formidable Interpreter, Revered Maestro," review of Bruno Walter: A World Elsewhere, p. A12.
Houston Chronicle Online,http://www.chron.com/ (May 9, 2002), Lynwood Abram, "Bruno Walter's Odyssey."
Yale University Press Web site,http://www.yale.edu/ (May 9, 2002).