The Naiveté of Verdi.

[New York, The Hudson Review, 1968].

Offprint, pp. 12; loose leaves, wire-stitched; first leaf reversed; with the author’s signed autograph presentation inscription “but soon a book for yourself: I hope it will be worthy. Isaiah.”, Library stamp on title-page.


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First edition. Presentations by Berlin are rare, and this one is presumed to be for one of his closest friends, Stephen Spender. Spender had dedicated his World within World (1951) to Berlin, and this inscription most probably refers to Berlin’s forthcoming Four Essays on Liberty (1969) dedicated to Spender.

The Naiveté of Verdi is Berlin’s attempt to apply Schiller’s distinction between ‘naiv’ and ‘sentimentalisch’ poets to music. He characterises Verdi as ‘the last naive artist of genius’, and contrasts him directly with composers such as Liszt and Wagner, who were ‘protagonists of all that was most self-conscious, extra-musical, “sentimental”’.

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