Voices of Stone and Steel – Review – Phillip Ramey

In Voices of Stone, Glass and Steel the insightful critic and musicologist Walter Simmons has taken on the cause of three remarkable but neglected mid-20th-century American composers—William Schuman, Peter Mennin and Vincent Persichetti. This ambitious book provides a detailed study of their music, along with incisive summaries of their lives and careers; it also reveals the personal and professional links between the three men and places their various accomplishments in context of their era. In careful, clear prose, the author presents deft, scholarly analyses of most of his subjects’ works, ranging through the genres—from symphonies to songs. He assumes the role of counsel for the defense, but doesn’t hesitate to note the occasions when his composers fell down on the job. As Edmund Wilson once did with literature, here Simmons provokes a desire in the reader to hear the music about which he writes so compellingly. I can think of only one adjective that adequately describes this important book: magnificent.


(Composer, former Annotator and Program Editor of the New York Philharmonic, author of the award-winning biography: Irving Fine: An American Composer in His Time.)