Dangerous Melodies
Jonathan Rosenberg

Book cover image

Narrated By: Chris Henry Coffey

Duration: 15 hours and 56 minutes

What to expect

A Juilliard-trained musician and professor of history explores the fascinating entanglement of classical music with American foreign relations.

Dangerous Melodies vividly evokes a time when classical music stood at the center of American life, occupying a prominent place in the nation’s culture and politics. The work of renowned conductors, instrumentalists, and singers―and the activities of orchestras and opera companies―were intertwined with momentous international events: two world wars, the rise of fascism, and the Cold War.

Jonathan Rosenberg exposes the politics behind classical music, showing how German musicians were dismissed or imprisoned as the country’s music was swept from American auditoriums during World War I―yet, twenty years later, those same compositions could inspire Americans in the fight against Nazism while Russian music was deployed to strengthen the US-Soviet alliance. During the Cold War, Van Cliburn’s triumph in the Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow became cause for America to celebrate. In Dangerous Melodies, Rosenberg delves into the singular decades-long relationship of classical music and political ideology in America.


History of music, Music reviews and criticism, Art music, orchestral and formal music, Theory of music and musicology

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“A riveting and illuminating book.”

Wall Sreet Journal

“Engaging and authoritative…Not only valuable and fair-minded history but an unceasingly engaging series of tales.”

Washington Post

“Narrator Chris Coffey’s deep voice and soft tone are a wonderful vehicle to tell this history…Coffey’s steady pace and subtle expression work splendidly in this engaging work.”


“For half a century, classical music reflected America’s identity on the world stage…A richly detailed and freshly illuminating musical/political history.”

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

Rosenberg masterfully tells these stories straightforwardly.”


“Rosenberg smartly frames this history as a battle between a ‘musical nationalism’ that saw classical music as a projection of national diplomacy and influence, and a ‘musical universalism¹ that emphasized its power to unite humanity…Classical music aficionados will find much enjoyable lore from a time when the music was at the center of international rivalries.”

Publishers Weekly

“A clear-eyed and perspicacious work for classical music scholars and fans and anyone interested in the intersection of politics and culture.”

Library Journal

“Backed up by meticulous scholarship, Dangerous Melodies is clearly motivated by a great love for music; throughout this tribute to its emotional power, the author poses insightful and disturbing questions about the political uses that can be made of humanity’s deep need for artistic communication.”

Eugene Drucker, founding member, Emerson String Quartet, and author of The Savior

“Riveting and eye opening…Thoroughly researched and well written, the book offers both scholar and general reader invaluable information through gripping stories of intrigue, heroism, and villainy.”