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Stephen Fry's Incomplete and Utter History of Classical Music (2004)

by Stephen Fry

Other authors: Tim Lihoreau

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
352653,371 (3.26)10
A riotous, rambling and incomplete history of classical music, complete with leg measurementsHello, I'm Stephen Fry. Now time for the first outing of a brand, spanking new feature here on The Incomplete and Utter History of Classical Music... putting some unsuspecting figure in music under the spotlight.' In his Incomplete & Utter History of Classical Music, Stephen Fry presents a potted and brilliantly rambling 700-year history of classical music and the world as we know it. Along this musical journey he casually throws in references to pretty much whatever takes his fancy, from the Mongol invasion of Russia and Mr Khan (Genghis to his friends), the founding of the MCC, the Black Death (which once again became the new black in England), to the heady revolutionary atmosphere of Mozart's Don Giovanni and the deep doo-doo that Louis XVI got into (or 'du-du' as the French would say). It's all here - Ambrose and early English plainsong, Bach, Mozart (beloved of mobile phones everywhere), Beethoven, Debussy, Wagner (the old romantic), right up to the present day. Entertaining and brilliantly written, this is a pretty reckless romp of a history through classical music and much much more.… (more)

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Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
Stephen Fry walks his reader through classical music, from a cave painting in France to John Williams' Harry Potter score.
I really appreciated this one for the timeline aspect; I've never been good at remembering who came when in this field, and generally I just assume that Beethoven, Brahms, Bach, Chopin, Rachmaninoff et al. were all kicking around in the 1750s (DON'T JUDGE ME!). So, yeah, this was a good read for me. My only tiny little quibble - because I love Stephen Fry with all my heart and in general think that he can do no wrong - is that I can't quite figure out how to handle the tone. It's flippant and jokey all the way through and after about 1/3 of the book that started to wear a bit and I felt bad that it was starting to wear a bit because, again, I love Stephen Fry. So much. I suspect that it would be easier to take in an audio version, especially, of course, if Fry read it himself. ( )
1 vote scaifea | Mar 24, 2018 |
I feel like I've just finished a flipping marathon.

If, like me, you enjoy slightly more than a smattering of classical music but are utterly ignorant of who came first and who wrote what where and when, this is an extraordinarily entertaining and sometimes silly (it's Fry) way to go about educating yourself. But be warned: Fry packs an absolute boatload of information into the 304 pages he has to work with. I had been enjoying this book at night, right before going to sleep, but once I entered the era of Beethoven and Mozart, I actually started having trouble sleeping afterwards; my mind just kept reeling through all the information and I was 'continuing to read' after I was asleep (if you think Fry is silly, you should hear the nonsense I was 'reading' in my sleep). I finally just threw myself into the final third all day today so I could finish the bloody thing and get a decent night's sleep.

I'd have gone the whole 5 star hog but this is a very UK-centric book; lots and lots of very British cultural references, quite a few of which I'm certain went right over my head in spite of having a husband weaned on the Australian BBC feed, so if you wouldn't consider yourself moderately versed in UK popular culture and/or cockney slang (thank god for MT) then you might find the writing irritating at times. All in all though, in spite of the more-screwed-up-than-usual sleeping patterns, I thoroughly enjoyed the read and the education. ( )
  murderbydeath | Oct 13, 2016 |
As a brief history of classical music this book is okay, it does give you a bit of information without being too heavy and it is a relatively easy read. The big problem, and I love Stephen Fry so this hurts, is that the 'humour' is terrible. It is painful and embarrassing to the point of not wanting to read it. So poor and such a shame. If you wish to have an introduction to classical music then by all means go ahead and read this, but don't expect to be amused by the puerile comedic efforts. ( )
  cheefbadger | Apr 14, 2013 |
As a reader with a limited knowledge of Classical Composers and Music I found this both entertaining and informative. It gives a broad overview of the development of music from the begining to the near present, including short biographies of some great composers. A worthwhile read. ( )
  Reg.Shoe | Jul 22, 2009 |
This book attempts to be a basic and humourous history of western Classical music from the year dot to practically the present day. It is based on a radio series that Steven Fry did for Classic FM a little while ago.As I've said above, this is an attempt, and I don't think the book really achieves what it sets out to do. Yes its mildly funny in places, but the same tired jokes crop up over and over and over again. It is written very much in Steven Fry's style, but I guess the radio series might have been more entertaining as you could hear his voice as well.Although the book doesn't claim to be comprehensive, it ends up being such a whistle-stop tour that every time you think it is going to get interesting, it veers off into the next decade (or something). Hardly anything is covered in any great depth (with the possible exception of his two favourite composers, Mozart and Wagner) so it didn't leave me feeling any wiser than I was before.I think I may have read some of Steven Fry's fiction books, but this doesn't come anywhere near something that I might choose to recommend. Really awful. ( )
  heidijane | Jul 20, 2009 |
Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
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Lihoreau, Timsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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A riotous, rambling and incomplete history of classical music, complete with leg measurementsHello, I'm Stephen Fry. Now time for the first outing of a brand, spanking new feature here on The Incomplete and Utter History of Classical Music... putting some unsuspecting figure in music under the spotlight.' In his Incomplete & Utter History of Classical Music, Stephen Fry presents a potted and brilliantly rambling 700-year history of classical music and the world as we know it. Along this musical journey he casually throws in references to pretty much whatever takes his fancy, from the Mongol invasion of Russia and Mr Khan (Genghis to his friends), the founding of the MCC, the Black Death (which once again became the new black in England), to the heady revolutionary atmosphere of Mozart's Don Giovanni and the deep doo-doo that Louis XVI got into (or 'du-du' as the French would say). It's all here - Ambrose and early English plainsong, Bach, Mozart (beloved of mobile phones everywhere), Beethoven, Debussy, Wagner (the old romantic), right up to the present day. Entertaining and brilliantly written, this is a pretty reckless romp of a history through classical music and much much more.

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