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The Rough Guide to Classical Music by Joe…

The Rough Guide to Classical Music

by Joe Staines

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339150,095 (3.85)None
The ideal handbook on classical music. Both a CD guide and who's who, it covers a thousand years of music-- from Gregorian chant via Mozart and Schubert to contemporaries such as John Adams and Judith Weir.

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Editorial Reviews
BBC Music Magazine, UK
"No idiot's guide...well designed with plentiful illustrations...above all it's got character...and vents some refreshingly idiosyncratic views."

Book Description

This expanded and completely revised fourth edition is a unique handbook, spanning a thousand years of music from Gregorian chant via Bach and Beethoven to current leading lights such as Thomas Ades and Kaija Saariaho. There are concise biographical profiles of more than 200 composers and informative summaries of the major compositions in all genres, from chamber works to operatic epics. Topics such as the influence of jazz, notation, conducting, the madrigal, and why Stradivarius made such great violins are covered fully in feature boxes. The Rough Guide has been praised for its mix of well-known composers with more obscure, but interesting, figures (like Antoine Brumel and Barbara Strozzi), and for the way it takes contemporary music seriously.
Product Details

* Paperback: 640 pages
* Publisher: Rough Guides; 4th Rev&Ex edition (August 29, 2005)
* Language: English
* ISBN: 1843532476
* Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.7 x 1.3 inches
* Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds. (View shipping rates and policies)
* Average Customer Review: based on 1 review. (Write a review.)
* Amazon.com Sales Rank: #88,248 in Books (See Top Sellers in Books)
Yesterday: #157,317 in Books
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful:
A superb guide , September 15, 2005
Reviewer: Alan Lekan (Boulder, CO) - See all my reviews
The British seem to have a nack for classical music guides (Penguin, Gramophone) and here is another superb one from the Penguin people - albeit of a different breed. The BBC called this guide, "The perfect classical-music primer" and I think they are right on the money. I have nearly all the available guides and would cite "The Rough Guide" (along with David Dubal's "Essential Cannon") as the most complete, compelling and musically-rich overview of the world of classical music. This 2005 edition gives you three main things: short bio's on over 200 composers, a listing and short synopsis of their major works and then the editor's TOP recording recommendations with some reasons for the choice. To give you an idea of the level of depth, here's an example of the major compositions listed under "Franz Schubert":

Symphonies: No. 4, 5, 6, 8, 9
Chamber Music: "Trout" Quintet, Piano Trios No. 1/2, Arpeggione, Octet, Late Quartets, Last Quintet
Lieder: "Winterreise," "Die Schone Mullerin"
Piano Music: Sonatas No. 14, 17, 18, 19-21; Impromptus, Moments Musicaux, Wanderer, Fantasie in F-minor

This is a superbly written and highly enjoyable book with much style and substance - but without being needlessly prosaic or overloaded with musical jargon - and should appeal to both the newcomer and classical veteran. The visual layout is among the best around - attractive and easy to follow with its clearly bolded sections, color-enhanced highlights and many photos including recommended CD's. Additionally, the many "side bar" educational texts are highly interesting, such as the ones about the historical and scientific background on Bach's "Well-Tempered Clavier" or Antonio Stradivari's violins. I thoroughly enjoy reading through this book at random just for fun.

Also on the positive side, the editors narrow the field of recordings down to one or two top picks per major work - which allows a quick selection to be made with a reasonable chance of satisfaction by the classical music consumer. While such recommendations will always be subjective and somewhat limiting, the ones here are reliable and explained as to why they were chosen (a real plus as not all guides do this). So, guides as this are ideal for listeners who just want a couple quick, reliable and up-to-date CD recommendations.

Not part of the scope: more complete listing or comparisons of available recordings or detailed analyis/program notes of the major works. For this, the witty "NPR Guide" or humongous "All Music Guide" have more discussion of the musical score if that is your interest. Along with the NPR Guide or David Dubal's book, The Rough Guide is probably the best place to start one's journey into the classics but will not become obsolute anytime soon as it has some great depth. If you want the more musicology discussion - such as the various eras of classical music - Dubal's guide has the most intellectual depth. If you are looking to compare the widest selection of recordings, the 1500+ page Penguin Guide is untouchable. But if your goal is to learn about a wide range of composers, their most significant works and get a couple excellent CD recommendations, then "The Rough Guide to Classical Music" is probably your best bet. 5 stars. ( )
  pantufla | Feb 27, 2006 |
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