Duet with the Past

A Composer’s Memoir

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About the Book

Composer, conductor and operatic polymath Daron Hagen has written five symphonies, a dozen concertos, 13 operas, reams of chamber music and more than 350 art songs. His intimate, unsparing memoir chronicles his life, from his haunted childhood in Wisconsin to the upper echelons of the music world in New York and Europe. Hagen’s vivid anecdotes about his many collaborators, friends and mentors—including Leonard Bernstein, Lukas Foss, Gian Carlo Menotti, Paul Muldoon, Ned Rorem, Virgil Thomson and Gore Vidal—counterpoint a cautionary tale of the sacrifices necessary to succeed in the brutally unforgiving business of classical music.

About the Author(s)

Esteemed composer Daron Hagen is a Guggenheim Fellowship recipient and winner of the Kennedy Center Friedheim Prize. He has taught at Bard College, the Curtis Institute of Music and the Princeton Atelier, and is currently a member of the Artist Faculty of the Chicago College of the Performing Arts. He lives in Rhinebeck, New York.

Bibliographic Details

Daron Hagen
Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 279
Bibliographic Info: 27 photos, discography, index
Copyright Date: 2019
pISBN: 978-1-4766-7737-8
eISBN: 978-1-4766-3587-3
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix
Foreword by Bernard Jacobson 1
Prelude: Three Sunsets 3

Part One: Waking Slow
1. The Other Daron: 1887–1961 9
2. The Big Cedar House: 1961–1967 15
3. We’re Little. He’s Big: 1968 21
4. Just Let It Go: 1969–1976 27
5. Waking Slow: 1976–1978 34
6. Cathedral of Dreams: 1978–1979 40
7. Ars Longa Vita Brevis: 1979–1981 44
8. Icarus: 1981–1982 52
9. Subjectivity Is Boring: 1982–1984 65
10. Yaddo: 1984–2015 75
11. Copland’s Tears: 1984–1985 81
12. Other Men’s Music: 1985–1987 88
13. Learning to Profess: 1987–1988 102
14. Entre les Pays: 1988–1990 110

Part Two: Seeking the Quick
15. The Beginning of Something: 1990–1991 121
16. An Uncivil Union: 1991–1996 129
17. No Fear. No Hatred. Just Love: 1996–1997 142
18. Other, More Important Things: 1997–2001 159
19. The Virgin Mary Question: 2001–2004 169
20. Espina: 2004 175
21. Pale Purple Line: 2004–2006 181
22. Hamilton Heights: 2007–2010 195
23. Unmerited Favor: 2010–2012 203
24. The Deal with Fauré’s Ballade: 2012–2013 208
25. People and Process: 2013–2015 218
26. We’re All—All Here: 2015–2017 226

Postlude: Two Dawns 237
List of Works and Premieres 245
Select Discography 257
Index 259

Book Reviews & Awards

  • “[Hagen] takes a balanced inventory of his days and in the process he delivers a cogent depiction of an era of music.”—Times Union
  • “Fascinating… Feels like an earlier part of American musical history… The book is a brave, revealing, and touching enterprise.”—James Primosch, composer
  • Duet with the Past is an unsparing and bleakly beautiful memoir from composer, conductor and operatic polymath Daron Hagen that takes him from his haunted childhood in Wisconsin to the upper echelons of musical life in New York and Europe. It is rich intellectual history, filled with privileged anecdotes about legends and near-legends, but especially valuable for the narrative candor of the author, who has seen much and taken care to remember it all for us, no matter how it may ache.”—Tim Page, Pulitzer Prize-winning music critic, editor, biographer, memoirist, University of Southern California
  • “It is a rare privilege to experience a glimpse into the inner world of a great artist, and Daron Hagen has opened the door to his life in a memoir of searing honesty and unguarded intimacy. Daron leads us through a journey that begins in a brilliant, talented but dysfunctional family, into the treacherous depths of the ruthless competition and political machinations of the classical music scene, to a search for a happiness that often seems unattainable. Filled with anecdotes of countless musical luminaries, Duet with the Past is irresistible in its revealing candor and charm- an unforgettable journey into the private world of one of our country’s greatest composers.”—JoAnn Falletta, conductor Buffalo Philharmonic
  • “In an age suffused with memoir, it is rare indeed to read a book that is both ruthlessly honest and beautifully written. Duet with the Past is not only the chronicle of a brilliant young man who survived a family that, for decades, was haunted by death; it is also a cautionary tale that shows, with painful accuracy, the sacrifices needed to maintain a classical-music career in a brutally unforgiving business. Every young American composer should read it.”—Russell Platt, composer and ASCAP Deems Taylor Award-winning music critic, Vanderbilt University.