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
Foreword by Bernard Jacobson

Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Bibliographic Info: ca. 25 photos, index
Copyright Date: 2019
pISBN: 978-1-4766-7737-8
eISBN: 978-1-4766-3587-3
Imprint: McFarland

Book Reviews & Awards

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