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It Can Happen

In response to:

The Musicological Marvel from the May 28, 1981 issue

To the Editors:

As the recipient of Charles Rosen’s generous postscript regarding my article “Sonata Form” in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians [NYR, May 28], I hope that I may be forgiven for pointing out (what is not mentioned in the “Contributors” rubric) that his study, much expanded, has already appeared in book form as Sonata Forms (Norton, 1980), and was most generously and appropriately reviewed in these pages by Joseph Kerman (October 23, 1980).

At the same time, I was sorry to seem [sic] so many typographical errors in Rosen’s review of Grove, and particularly to see a number of authors’ names misspelled: thus the article on Rossini is by Philip Gossett; that on Frescobaldi by Anthony Newcomb; that on Domenico Scarlatti by Joel Sheveloff; that on Bach mainly by Christoph Wolff; and that on Schumann by Gerald Abraham. I was also puzzled to read of Rosen’s ignorance of the identity of Curt von Westernhagen, the author of the biographical section on Wagner—for he is after all the dean of living German authorities on this subject—until I realized that Rosen knows this perfectly well, and was rather seizing on the absence of an article about Westernhagen as an excuse to continue having fun at the expense of the extraordinarily exaggerated (and yet unsystematic) coverage given to living musicologists in Grove. But this just illustrates the most remarkable aspect of his review, all the more remarkable for being true of a serious and magisterial, if idiosyncratic, account of the most significant publication about music in English in this century: it’s the funniest writing I’ve read about music since Tovey’s indexes to Essays in Musical Analysis.

James Webster

Department of Music

Cornell University, Ithaca, New York

Charles Rosen replies:

The misspellings of names are entirely my fault, and I offer my apologies to the staff of The New York Review of Books and to the scholars whose double consonants got short shrift—a curtailing all the more reprehensible as they are all musicologists for whose work I have the greatest admiration—and all the more idiotic as I have seen Professor Wolff’s name on his office mailbox hundreds of times in the past year, and knew perfectly well that he had two f’s. In the past, I have been spoilt by the staff of NYR as they have checked all names and quotations and corrected all the errors. This time, providing them with twenty hefty volumes seemed impractical. Typographical errors can happen to the best of us (which is why I have meanly vetoed the editors’ plan to correct the one in Professor Webster’s typescript, and have asked them to insert “sic” instead), but these mistakes are due to my absentmindedness. I offer as an explanation—not as an excuse—that I had to write much of the review away from my copy of the New Grove, and correct the final proof in a plane on the way to Cincinnati.

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