Welcome to the Slipped Disc book club

Welcome to the Slipped Disc book club


norman lebrecht

March 25, 2018

Every fortnight, we’ll discuss a different book with a musical theme, sometimes with its author.

Here’s our curator, Anthea Kreston:
Welcome to our first Fortnightly Music Book Club. We will, over the course of the next month, have an incredible opportunity to hear from one of the world’s foremost living chamber musicians, Eugene Drucker of the Emerson Quartet. We asked him if he would host, using his novel, The Savior, as our first selection. Future selections, led by a range of musicians, include Thomas Mann’s “Death in Venice” and Vikram Seth’s “An Equal Music”. Questions for the author should be submitted to this email address: fortnightlymusicbookclub@gmail.com. Please use the comments section thoughtfully and respectfully in order to ensure we can continue the club and invite wonderful guests to host. The book is available on Amazon, and the German translation is titled “Wintersonate”.

From Eugene Drucker:
‘I am honored to have been chosen to present The Savior as the first selection for the Fortnightly Music Book Club. Several strands of experience and obsession contributed to the formation of this novel: My father, who grew up in Cologne and studied at the Musikhochschule there until 1933, told many stories about the milieu in which he lived and worked before emigrating to the USA in September 1938. I was always fascinated by the history of the Third Reich and perplexed by the age-old question of how one of the most advanced civilizations, which had produced some of the world’s greatest music and philosophy, could descend to such levels of barbarism. There can never be a completely satisfactory answer to this question; the best one can do is to reframe it from different angles — looking at German (and Austrian) society as a whole but also at the choices and deeds of individuals — and to probe one’s own conscience, trying to imagine honestly how one would have acted under similar circumstances.

‘Performing in hospitals, a psychiatric ward, a drug rehab center and an alcoholics’ ward in order to prepare for the Queen Elisabeth Competition in 1976 gave me the initial idea for the novel’s foreground. But it was my varied readings as an English and Comparative Literature major at Columbia University that sparked my imagination: psychological novels like Crime and Punishment, Notes from Underground and Le Rouge et Le Noir had a big impact on me. So, too, did allegorical works like Spenser’s The Faerie Queene. It was a broad range of literary symbolism that inspired and enabled me to think of transposing my own experiences and struggles into a completely different historical setting, one with grave moral implications and potentially deadly consequences.

‘I look forward to addressing your questions and comments over the coming weeks, and very much appreciate having a platform where we can interact as people who share an abiding love of music.’

Have you read The Savior yet? Do you have questions for the author? Or a similar experience?

Post your comments below.

This is a unique opportunity for passionate and inquisitive readers to come together, and to hear directly from major musical voices of our time. Join us. Fortnightlymusicbookclub@gmail.com

Here’s a list of the music referenced in the novel.

Bach: St. Matthew’s Passion, B minor Mass, Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring, Solo Violin Sonata G minor, A minor, Partitia E Major, D minor
Bartok (general reference)
Berg (general reference)
Beethoven Violin Concerto
Brahms D minor Violin Sonata, Intermezzi, Violin Concerto
Chopin Preludes
Hindemith Solo Violin Sonata 1
Mozart Symphony 40
Paganini Caprice 5 and 9
Reger Solo Violin Sonatas
Schubert Piano Sonatas
Strauss Elektra and Salome
Wieniawski F# minor Violin Concerto
Ysaye Solo Violin Sonatas Ballade and #5
Composers banned (abridged) by the Reichsmusikkammer:
Berg, Debussy, Hindemith, Korngold, Kreisler, Mahler, Mendelssohn, Meyerbeer, Schoenberg, Stravinsky, Weill


  • Amos says:

    No doubt like many others I too have been curious how German & Austrian society gave rise to National Socialism and look forward to reading Mr. Drucker’s novel. I’ve found the issue(s) especially perplexing to understand for the leading members of the arts communities because one would, perhaps naively, like to think it’s members less prone to the basest human instincts. Tangential issues for me are both the decision by musicians who had to leave regarding whether to return and how to deal with those who could have left and opted to stay. Clearly the most celebrated and ambiguous of the latter category is Furtwangler. As for the former, given my interest in his life’s work in Cleveland, is George Szell. Although a convert to Catholicism when he was a child he emigrated to the US in 1938 because he both opposed fascism and would likely have been among the victims. My understanding is that his parents, who stayed in Europe, were in fact both victims of the Holocaust. Yet after the war he returned to Vienna almost immediately and performed & associated with former Nazis’s always claiming politics and music were distinct. Even Bernstein was pictured embracing the odious but talented Bohm.
    I would like to suggest for consideration in the book club the recent offering from conductor John Mauceri “The Art & Alchemy of Conducting”. I am finding the book interesting on many levels with regard to the practice of the art of conducting. I mean no disrespect to Mr. Mauceri but after finishing the first half of the book I was struck by the fact that despite superb training, commitment and apparent technical and interpersonal skills his work with major orchestras is apparently rare and even more rarely discussed. Again, I mean no slight but rather that the book serves to demonstrate how extraordinarily challenging the art of conducting is to do well.

  • Whimbrel says:

    I don’t know this book but it sounds fascinating – thank you. I’ve ordered it already.

  • Bonnie says:

    I love this feature – what a brilliant idea to have a book club. Am getting this as a (quite reasonably-priced) Kindle e-book, and look forward to the discussion. Thanks for the heads-up!

  • Sharon says:

    Will the book club discuss only novels?

    • Anthea kreston says:

      Hi Sharon,
      We plan to mix it up! I have already gotten a lot of suggestions through the comments section. I was even thinking amovie could work – Music from the Heart for example, and we could ask the protagonist questions.

      • Kevin says:

        Just as general feedback, I would really prefer to keep it to books only, and maybe start a separate movie club if enough people are interested. I’m worried about it getting hi-jacked away from books & longer-form reading, because that’s what always happens.

        BTW, I interpreted the original question as meaning “do the books have to be novels, or can they include non-fiction too?” My vote would firmly be to allow ANY type of book (including ones of photos/drawings etc). But can we please possibly keep to the printed “page” (paper or screen)? Dunno how others feel about this –

        • Anthea kreston says:

          HI Kevin,
          Absokutely – sounds good. Biographies will be included, and non-fiction.
          Glad to have you,

  • Anthea kreston says:

    Hello all,
    Great to have you! We will have biographies, novels, and who knows – we could even do a movie? It is wide open.

  • Sue says:

    Brilliant idea!! I have so much critical and biographical reading so won’t be able to keep up but I’ll watch this space with enthusiasm!

  • Gerry says:

    I have read the book (thanks to the discussion here) and praise Mr. Drucker’s effort and talent. I think, however, we must be careful not to confine and localize the explanation of the event to that particular moment and place in history. If we take the present moment as a counterpoint, we can perhaps see some of the same conditions and human tendencies playing out. Sinclair Lewis wrote “It Can’t Happen Here” in 1935. Evolutionary psychologists tell us we haven’t evolved beyond some pretty base tendencies.

  • Marcia Butler says:

    I’ve read Gene’s novel and it is wonderful. The book club will, no doubt, have a great discussion. Beautifully written!!

  • WelshCath says:

    While we’re on the topic of musical novels, can anybody help me track down a fictional string quartet? They are written by (I think) Paul somebody, and were written at least 15 years ago. They were based on the St Endellion Festival, and presumably the Endellion Quartet. One of the players solves murder mysteries. I really want to read some more, and (despite being an ex-librarian), I can’t track them down at all.

  • Nannerl says:

    I highly recommend “The Rosendorf Quartet” by Nathan Shaham. It is a fictional novel about a string quartet formed by German refugees in Palestine in the ’30’s. The author is not a professional musician, but the extensive musical details in the novel are quite authentic and integral to the fascinating story of the characters.


  • Nannerl says:

    Another must-read for musicians is the memoir “Strings Attached” by my friend and colleague in the Chicago Symphony, Melanie Kupchynsky. It is the heartwarming story of her father, who was a Ukrainian refugee high school music teacher in New Jersey, and how he inspired hundreds of students.


    Melanie was also the subject of a thread on Slipped Disc a couple of years ago: