Taras's introduction and the opening exchange of the Q & A:
Taras: This novel is the fourth in a series featuring a blind retired violinist, Daniel Jacobus, who is drawn into a series of intrigues unique to performers in the world of classical music. Elias’s intimate familiarity with this cryptic milieu allows him to lay bare much of its mystique. Death and Transfiguration is a study of the towering role of the conductor - the diurnal tensions, conflicts and pathologies, as well as the extraordinary artistic achievements that are associated with this figure. I interviewed Elias in late June in Salt Lake City, shortly after his return from a tour of Peru and just before his engagement with the Boston Symphony for this year’s Tanglewood Festival.Read the complete interview.
A theme in the Jacobus series - and highlighted in this novel - is the equilibrium between artistic and commercial success in the world of classical music. Vaclav Herza is a champion of classical music defending it from encroachment by financial interests. Have we reached a tipping point today where commercial goals have become paramount?
Elias: Each individual orchestra determines the balance. The Chicago Symphony resists commercialization while the Boston Symphony has been accepting of it for over a century with the Boston Pops and has learned to do it at a very high level. The general trend is towards more and more commercialization. In the worst case it can lead to the point where the core product becomes almost vestigial. With Herza, I want to show that even the worst villains are multidimensional. This allows the reader to examine what the character is saying. I detest Herza as a person but I am sympathetic to what he says about music.
A graduate of Yale, Gerald Elias has been a Boston Symphony violinist, Associate Concertmaster of the Utah Symphony since 1988, Adjunct Professor of Music at the University of Utah, first violinist of the Abramyan String Quartet, and Music Director of the Vivaldi Candlelight concert series.
His novels include Devil's Trill, Danse Macabre, Death and the Maiden, and Death and Transfiguration.
Raymond Taras was Willy Brandt Professor at Sweden's Malmö University for 2010–11. He was director of Tulane University's world literature program before Hurricane Katrina forced its closure. He is the author of numerous scholarly books on nationalism and identities in Europe.
Visit Gerald Elias's website.
Interview: Gerald Elias (October 2009).
The Page 69 Test: Devil's Trill.
Writers Read: Gerald Elias.
The Page 69 Test: Danse Macabre.
My Book, The Movie: Devil's Trill and Danse Macabre.
The Page 69 Test: Death and the Maiden.
Interview: Gerald Elias (November 2011).
Interview: Gerald Elias (June 2012).