First up, Music at the Limits, a collection of essays by the late Edward Said, most drawn from his work as music critic for The Nation. Here is Matthews on Said on Wagner, incorporating a valuable public relations tip:
In a review of Michael Tanner’s book on Wagner, Said will not allow Tanner to dismiss the most unpleasant elements of Wagner’s personality as irrelevant to the appreciation of his music, though he does take to task those who claim that Wagner’s anti-Semitism seeped into his operas. (We might think better of Wagner if only he hadn’t insisted on putting all his prejudices into print, or telling them to Cosima who devotedly wrote them all down; Chopin’s anti-Semitism was equally virulent, but he is rarely criticized for it, probably because he didn’t publicize it so actively.)
Of more local interest, Matthews also notes Making Music in Los Angeles: Transforming the Popular by Catherine Parsons Smith, focusing on the period from the founding of the City of Angels through the early 1940's. Here we learn that, notwithstanding its Alice in Lotus Land reputation, Los Angeles historically has been rather the opposite of a cultural backwater:
[Parsons' book] reminds us of a time when classical music had more obvious significance in general culture – when, indeed, it was seen as a vital and active element in the growth of Los Angeles from a town of 11,000 in 1880 to a city of more than a million in 1930. Opera companies were quick to make visits: the US premiere of La Bohème was given in Los Angeles in 1897, the year a symphony orchestra was established; by 1910, there was a higher proportion of musicians and music teachers in Los Angeles than in any other American city.