Books



Arnold Schoenberg’s Journey

Hard Cover: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (2002)

Paperback: Harvard University Press (2003

“A collection of elegant and persuasive essays: analytic discussions of single works and vivid accounts of phases and facets of Schoenberg’s life…Shawn is an engaging writer.”
—Anthony Tommasini, New York Times

“One of the best things to have happened to the composer in a long time. Allen Shawn, a composer himself, is an admirer of Schoenberg. He gives us the whole man seen from within his cultural environment and from within his music too…Shawn invites us to share with him a spontaneous and warm response to Schoenberg’s music rather than a purely analytical one…Shawn is exceptionally felicitous at finding words for music, which makes him an ideal companion on this journey of discovery.”
—George Perle, Wall Street Journal

Nothing in recent years has filled me with an urgent desire to re-engage with [Schoenberg’s music] so much as this sensitive and personal book.”
—Bayan Northcott, BBC Music Magazine 2003-10-01

“Arnold Schoenberg’s Journey is comprehensive, enlightening, and a consistent pleasure to read. —Robert Craft

Wish I Could Be There

Hardcover: Viking (2007)

Paperback: Penguin Books (2008)

“An eloquent meditation on the mysteries of personality and family…. remarkable, brave, revelatory and candid.”
—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

“A stunning tour-de-force of interpretation.”
—Janet Malcolm, The New York Review of Books

“Dazzlingly intelligent and informative.”
—Francine Prose,  O, the Oprah Magazine

Twin

Hardcover: Viking (2010)

Paperback: Penguin Books (2011)

A kind of toccata and fugue that raises questions of identity and personal history… all the while demonstrating, by the sincerity of his quest and depth of self-interrogation, what a memoir can be.
—Sue Halpern, The New York Review of Books

Shawn writes beautifully, with an elegance, candor and tact that are remarkable….”Twin” is an extraordinary book—quiet, patient moving.
—Michael Roth, The Washington Post

…a book that combines the sympathetic insight of Oliver Sacks’s writings with Joan Didion’s autobiographical candor and Mary Karr’s sense of familial dynamics — a book that leaves the reader with a haunting sense of how relationships between brothers and sisters, and parents and children, can irrevocably bend the arc of an individual’s life, how childhood dynamics can shape one’s apprehension of the world. … This deeply affecting book, like the author’s music, is both a love letter to his twin sister and an intimate reconstruction of the toppling emotional dominoes that her institutionalization set in play in their family more than half a century ago.
–Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

Leonard Bernstein – An American Musican

Hardcover (2014)

Jewish Lives Series-Yale University Press

“I can’t imagine a better biography of Leonard Bernstein. His intensity, complexity, and personal charm come across fully; so do his manifest importance to twentieth-century American culture and his intimate relation to the music he produced. Bravo!”—Wendy Lesser

“A few luscious slices from the massive cake that was the life of the great pianist, composer, conductor and public personality. . . . A nearly impossible task, recording this lush life, but Shawn helps us comprehend the magic.”—Kirkus Reviews

“An engrossing portrait of a gifted—and conflicted—man.”—Jerusalem Post

‘There were, and are, critics who believe that Bernstein’s facility and fecundity was merely dilettantism. Allen Shawn’s suave new biography hopes to give them pause.’—Christopher Bray, The Spectator

“Allen Shawn’s moving, discerning book examines what made ‘Lenny’ the envy of both classical and Broadway composers. Craving attention both on the podium and off, ‘he may have been an inveterate show-off at a party, but on paper he was precise and serious.’ Shawn’s musical analyses vie with his chronicling of Bernstein’s eclecticism: his progressive politics, teaching ability, sexual conflicts, insecurities and remarkable circle of friends.”—Norwalk Hour

“A composer and pianist himself, [Shawn] shares Bernstein’s contempt for the high-/low-culture debate. Admire Bernstein’s symphonies and choral works though he does, he knows that most of Bernstein’s best work was written for Broadway — and that the best of Broadway is up there with Britten and Brahms . . .  Shawn’s analysis should convince even the stuffiest aesthete that [West Side Story’s] mash-up of classical melodies with jazz rhythms and Schoenbergian dissonance wasn’t just new — it will be new forever.”—Spectator

“Shawn draws all these aspects of Bernstein into a full-scale and attractive human portrait, and an equally full-scale portrait of Bernstein’s music. With his knowledgeable analysis of Bernstein’s vast output, Shawn sends readers rushing back to listen, whether to West Side Story, Kaddish, Candide, or any number of other works. Well-paced and highly readable, Leonard Bernstein brings alive both the man and his music.”—Maron L. Waxman, Jewish Book Council