Music for Life (Faber & Faber 2016)
How does music reflect the key moments in our lives? How do we choose the works the inspire, delight, comfort or console? Fiona Maddocks selects 100 classical works from across nine centuries, arguing passionately, persuasively and at times obstinately for their inclusion, putting each work in its cultural and musical context, discussing omissions, suggesting alternatives and always putting the music first.
Harrison Birtwistle: Wild Tracks - A Conversation Diary (Faber & Faber 2014)
'Anyone with the smallest interest in composition - not just concertos but novels, buildings, lives, you name it, should read this absorbing, spiky, dazzling book.' Adam Thirwell, TLSBooks of the Year
Harrison Birtwistle is recognised worldwide as one of the greatest of living composers, behind such works of trail-blazingly modern classical music as The Shadow of Night and The Mask of Orpheus, famously staged at the English National Opera in 1986, and winner of the Grawemeyer Award. His music is both deeply original and highly personal, yet he has always been notoriously reticent about explaining either his music or himself. In this 'conversation diary', spanning six months, he talks openly to the distinguished writer and critic Fiona Maddocks (author of the acclaimed Hildegard of Bingen: The Woman of her Age), offering rare insights into the challenges, uncertainties and rewards which have shaped his life and work since childhood, and which remain with him today as he enters his ninth decade.
We see the composer in the privacy of his Wiltshire studio and garden, and in the public glare of the elite Salzburg and Aldeburgh Festivals. But mostly he is at his kitchen table, talking about the essential aspects of his life - family, cooking, cricket, landscape, pruning trees - and reflecting on the never easy-process of composition. What distinguishes him and his remarkable music is an ability to see the extraordinary in the everyday, giving rise to work that is both elemental and profound. For anyone concerned with the future of music this book is essential reading.
Hildegard of Bingen: The Woman of Her Age (Faber & Faber 2013)
Best known today as a fine composer, the twelfth-century German abbess Hildegard of Bingen was also a religious leader and visionary, a poet, naturalist and writer of medical treatises. Despite her cloistered life she had strong, often controversial views on sex, love and marriage too - a woman astonishing in her own age, whose book of apocalyptic visions, Scivias, would alone have been enough to ensure her lasting fame.
In this classic and highly praised biography - first published by Headline in 2001 - distinguished writer and journalist, Fiona Maddocks, draws on Hildegard's prolific writings to paint a portrait of her extraordinary life against the turbulent medieval background of crusade and schism, scientific discovery and cultural revolution. The great intellectual gifts and forceful character that emerge make her as fascinating as any figure in the Middle Ages.
More than 800 years after her death, Pope Benedict XVI has made Hildegard a Saint and a Doctor of the Church (one of only four women). Fiona Maddocks has provided a short new preface to cover these tributes to an extraordinary and exceptional woman.