Praise for "Musical Revolutions"

"Isacoff’s descriptions frequently help us see anew things we might take for granted."
The New Yorker

"Enchanting and enlightening, an inspiring chronicle of the sounds that reflect the creativity, artistry, and ‘revolutionary spirit’ of humanity."
— George Kendall, Booklist (Starred Review)

"Isacoff’s encyclopedic knowledge of music is still very much in evidence. … An excellent choice for readers who want a quick survey of Western music’s major developments."
Kirkus Reviews

"Whether readers are dedicated musicologists or casual fans, they’ll enjoy this thought-provoking dive into the history of Western music"
— Joshua Finnell, Library Journal (starred review)

"An astonishing portrayal of how music has evolved into what it is today."
— Semyon Bychkov

"This fascinating book, rich in detail and insight, takes the reader on a journey through Western music history, guided by the explosive moments which have forged and illuminated music’s developing paths."
— Stephen Hough

"An amazing achievement: a beautiful, human, entertaining and informative testament to how vital music has been and continues to be"
— Gabriela Montero

"Musical Revolutions is an inspired idea, brilliantly carried through in prose of worldly erudition."
— David Dubal


Franz Liszt

Liszt at the piano, with arms flailing and hair flying


Noah Creshevsky: A Personal Remembrance
A deeply resourceful and imaginative electronic composer is remembered for his unfailing warmth, lively intelligence, and uncommon generosity of spirit.
Musical America Worldwide
December 9, 2020

Confessions of a Piano Juror
I’ve been on many juries. Inevitably someone in the audience will ask the judges how they could possibly choose a winner from among the group of extraordinary talents on display. It’s always an awkward moment.
From "The World of Piano Competitions," issued by Pianist Magazine (Netherlands ed.)


The Sounds of Silence
John Cage’s ‘4’ 33”’ was no compositional prank, but a deep exploration of the very nature of music and the beautiful chaos of life.
November 5, 2021

Sounds From the Future
Arnold Schoenberg’s ‘Pierrot Lunaire’ (‘Moonstruck Pierre’) so defied the melodic conventions of classical music that it initially even perplexed Stravinsky.
January 29, 2021

A Joyful, Melodic Menagerie
Camille Saint-Saëns’s ‘Carnival of the Animals’ is a musical safari, complete with roaring lions, giant elephants and very persistent donkeys.
April 24, 2020

Beethoven Rolls Over 250
The year 2020 marks the 250th birthday of the great composer, and he remains as influential yet elusive as ever.
January 9, 2020

Finding Grace in a Grim Setting
Olivier Messiaen’s hauntingly mysterious ‘Quartet for the End of Time’ came to life not in a church but in a World War II Nazi prisoner-of-war camp, yet it is teeming with religious ardor.
February 1, 2019

This Performance Was 110 Years in the Making
A long-lost work by Igor Stravinsky gets its New York premiere.
April 28, 2017

A Subversive, Symphonic Response to Stalin
Dmitri Shostakovich’s Fifth Symphony mocked the dictator while bowing to him.
March 10, 2017

Why Do We Still Love Tchaikovsky?
A composer who shouldn’t be popular, but is.
January 17, 2017

‘Miles Davis Quintet: Freedom Jazz Dance: The Bootleg Series, Vol. 5’ Review
Bootlegs reveal the inner workings of Miles Davis’s creative process.
November 7, 2016

An Oddball Modernist at 150
Erik Satie’s legacy includes instantly recognizable music, complex works and odd philosophical pronouncements that still inspire artists.
May 16, 2016

Minimalist Music’s Liquid Architecture
An interdisciplinary performance of Terry Riley’s ‘In C’ at the RISD Museum.
December 16, 2015

Exploring György Ligeti, Master of the Musical Universe
Thanks to his endless imagination, György Ligeti remains a respected composer almost a decade after his death. Now he’s being honored with performances at Lincoln Center and an interactive website that dives into his music.
August 17, 2015

Are Classical Music Competitions Good for the Kids Who Play in Them?
Competitions for teenage musicians keep growing in popularity, but do they hurt or help the young artists who participate in them?
August 11, 2015

Shining New Light on an Old Standard (PDF)
When it comes to Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto, a well-trodden work turns out to be not what it has seemed.
April 17, 2015

Transforming the Slight Into the Sublime: On Ludwig van Beethoven’s “Diabelli Variations,” Op. 120.
Beethoven created a virtuosic showpiece out of a mundane tune with his “Diabelli Variations.”
December 5, 2014

Impersonation Instead of Interpretation
Have music recordings harmed piano-playing?
November 10, 2014

The Genius of Miles
Herbie Hancock gives the Charles Eliot Norton lectures at Harvard University on 'The Wisdom of Miles Davis.'
February 4, 2014

A Bleaker 'Mountain'
The boys are back on "Brokeback Mountain" in an opera written by Annie Proulx and composer Charles Wuorinen.
January 27, 2014

Where the Craftsmen Are Women
On an unassuming street in an unglamorous part of Florence, ancient pianos are conserved, restored and offered for sale.
January 1, 2014

When the Culture Changed
Cultural Conversation with Liu Shih Kun
June 18, 2013

Cello's Golden Age Comes to a Close
János Starker
May 7, 2013

Plumbing the Depths
With Richard Goode
April 29, 2013

Five Best: Stuart Isacoff
On the Musician in Society
March 22, 2013

He's Kept Growing
Cultural Conversation with Charles Lloyd
March 13, 2013

With Music on Their Mind
Music, the Brain, Medicine and Wellness
August 8, 2012

Songs of a Feather Flock Together
Mostly Mozart Festival
August 1, 2012

A Sinuous Theme That Bears Repeating
Boléro by Maurice Ravel
June 15, 2012

The Guy With Four Sticks
Iconic jazz vibraphonist Gary Burton looks back at five decades in jazz with honesty about the industry and himself.
August 31, 2011

A Bigger Band, the Same Steady Hand
After 50 years in the business and 2,500 album credits, bassist Ron Carter is finally fronting a big band.
August 30, 2011

The Medievalists Go Modern
Hilliard Ensemble performs with Norwegian jazz saxophonist Jan Garbarek.
November 12, 2010

Moving Toward The Modern
A dance spectacle by the Belgian-Moroccan choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui
November 1, 2010

Denk and Ives, Partners in Pianism
Jeremy Denk Plays Charles Ives
October 19, 2010

The Musical Adventurer Comes to Play
Marc-André Hamelin
September 21, 2010

The Neuroscience of Jazz
Pianist Vijay Iyer has found the sweet spot where his two loves—physics and jazz—intersect.
September 6, 2010

The More Melodies, the Merrier
At Lincoln Center's Mostly Mozart Festival, Pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard Explores the Musical Marvels of Polyphony
August 13, 2010

Clap, Slap, Stomp and Shuffle
A free concert featuring the "International Body Music Festival"
August 12, 2010

Revisiting A Revolution
Lincoln Center Offers a Crash Course In the Radical Music of Edgard Varèse
July 17, 2010

His Intimate Creations
Beethoven's piano sonatas grip us and refuse to let go
June 5, 2010

Instruments From Every Single Nation
Musical Instrument Museum, Phoenix
May 20, 2010

This Is Your Brain On Music
From neuroscience to rehabilitation medicine, studying the link between the body and mind.
December 18, 2009

Alicia de Larrocha, Shy Virtuoso
Spanish pianist Alicia de Larrocha
October 7, 2009

Inspired by Kandinsky
September 23, 2009

How To Find A Missing Masterpiece
A new release of a forgotten work, “Song of the Stars” by the esteemed Spanish composer Enrique Granados, is real cause for celebration.
July 20, 2009

A Great Piano Teacher Remembered
Joseph Bloch, a pianist and scholar
March 19, 2009