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Classical Music: The 50 Greatest Composers and Their 1,000 Greatest Works
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Classical Music: The 50 Greatest Composers and Their 1,000 Greatest Works [Formato Kindle]

Phil G. Goulding

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Who are the ten most important classical composers? Who in the world was Palestrina? Why did Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring" cause a riot? Which five of each important composer's works should you buy? What is a concerto and how does it differ from a sonata?
Maybe you don't know the answers to these questions; author Phil Goulding certainly didn't. When Goulding first tried to learn about classical music, he found himself buried in an avalanche of technical terms and complicated jargon--so he decided to write the book he couldn't find.
The result is a complete classical music education in one volume. Comprehensive, discriminating, and delightfully irreverent, Classical Music provides such essential information as:
* Rankings of the top 50 composers (Bach is #1. Borodin is #50)
* A detailed and anecdotal look at each composer's life and work
* The five primary works of each composer and specific recommended CDs for each.
* Further great works of each composer--if you really like him
* Concise explanations of musical terminology, forms, and periods
* A guide to the parts and history of the symphony orchestra
"This book uses every conceivable gimmick to immerse readers in the richness of classical music: lists, rankings, sidebars devoted to lively anecdotes, and catchy leads."
--The Washington Post
"One terrific music appreciation book...The information is surprisingly detailed but concisely presented. Goulding's writing style is breezy yet mature....[He] has raised music appreciation from a racket to a service."
--The Arizona Daily Star

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Dettagli prodotto

  • Formato: Formato Kindle
  • Dimensioni file: 2588 KB
  • Lunghezza stampa: 656
  • Editore: Ballantine Books (16 marzo 2011)
  • Venduto da: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Lingua: Inglese
  • Da testo a voce: Abilitato
  • X-Ray:
  • Posizione nella classifica Bestseller di Amazon: #151.453 a pagamento nel Kindle Store (Visualizza i Top 100 a pagamento nella categoria Kindle Store)

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Le recensioni clienti più utili su Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.9 su 5 stelle  53 recensioni
49 di 50 persone hanno trovato utile la seguente recensione
5.0 su 5 stelle Fantastic Intro to Classical Music 25 maggio 2001
Di Thomas Kieltyka - Pubblicato su Amazon.com
Formato:Copertina flessibile
A book for newcomers to Classical music, it acquaints you with the subject in several valuable ways. First, the different periods (Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, Romantic, 20th Century) are defined and broken down. Then, significant artists of every period are defined. Then, the top 50 composers are listed, in order, beginning with Mr. Bach. Each of the 50 artists are then given a biographical sketch, an overview of their life's work, and their most significant works are highlighted. A Collecters Starter Kit follows for each of the 50, containing 5 works that provide good representation of their careers. Obviously, 5 works may seem laughable when considering Mozart, and may seem too much when considering Bizet, so expanded lists of works follow for those composers with a large body of work.
Goulding treats this book as a research effort, but his personal views do come through at times (He makes it very clear that Georg Telemann and Antonio Vivaldi would NOT be among his top 50, but remain on list because they are historically important composers. In fact, in the description of Telemann you are greatly encouraged to substitute Sergei Rachmaninoff).
The book ends with suggested recordings of each Starter Kit selection. This is very valuable reading prior to taking your next trip to the record store. Whether or not you choose to buy the recommended recordings, this section of the book gives you a good idea of who are the Great conductors and Orchestras, and picking a CD is easier when names like Solti, Karajan, Rubenstein, and Ashkenazy are names familiar to you.
Enjoy the journey!
46 di 48 persone hanno trovato utile la seguente recensione
4.0 su 5 stelle Gets you started--then you can make up your own mind! 30 settembre 2003
Di Carl C. Nelson - Pubblicato su Amazon.com
Formato:Copertina flessibile
This book makes an excellent addition to the library of any budding classical music aficionado. It is informative and presented in a clear format that gives the reader a foundation for musical exploration as well as logical direction.
Much of the early chapters ("The Organization of Sound," "Setting the Stage") is written for the rank beginner. I found myself skimming these chapters, as will most readers who already know the differences between melody and harmony, strings and woodwinds, baroque and romantic. A beginner will find it helpful while not dry, and it's well-organized for later reference.
The bulk of the book is then given to a discussion of "The 50 Greatest Composers and Their 1,000 Greatest Works." Goulding gives a nutshell biography, with some colorful sidebars, that gives a good overview of the composers' lives, times, influences, strengths, and weaknesses.
After the bio is the most valuable part of the book--the greatest works of that composer. Goulding presents a "Starter Kit," a "Top Ten," and a "Master Collection" for each of the 50 composers. This allows a classical music newcomer to get the breadth of composers and the depth of a composer that appeals to them. That's what makes this book one that will be a long-time reference work rather than a one-off "beginners only" guide.
Most "composer's guides" seem to favor an egalitarian, arbitrary ordering--alphabetical, chronological--rather than passing judgment about the composer's worth. (I guess it's fortunate for the music beginner that one encounters Bach and Beethoven early on in either an alphabetical or chronological ordering!) I find that Goulding's rankings give direction to exploring classical music. By the time the reader is through the top 10 or top 20 in the list they've gotten to know the majority of the most important composers and their most important works.
It's easy to quibble with individual rankings--for example, I would place Sibelius (ah, his wonderful Third Symphony!) higher than #28, and there's no way you could convince me that Wagner is a better composer than Haydn or Schubert--but hard to say with a straight face that a beginner should learn Hindemith before Strauss, or Verdi before Bach.
Ultimately, there's no ranking that matters, other than one's own. Even that's a difficult proposition. Do I like Bach or Beethoven better? Darned if I know--they both "do it" for me, and (to quote Forrest Gump) that's all I've got to say about that.
My fault with the book is that Goulding's Chapter I amounts to an unnecessary justification of his ranking system, rather than diving into musical "required knowledge" and then discussing composers after laying the groundwork. Just note all the reviews more concerned with presentation (i.e., the ranking system) rather than content!
He also wastes some ink on some contrived statistics based on his rankings--ranks by nationality, century of birth, etc.--that don't do much of anything that someone who cared about that sort of thing couldn't do for themselves in an Excel spreadsheet in a half hour.
Buy this guidebook for its clear direction on where to start listening and how to broaden and deepen one's knowledge, take Goulding's opinions with a grain of salt, and acquire enough experience to form your own opinions.
29 di 30 persone hanno trovato utile la seguente recensione
4.0 su 5 stelle very helpful for beginners! 1 settembre 1999
Di Un cliente - Pubblicato su Amazon.com
Formato:Copertina flessibile
I knew next to nothing about classical music, but wanted to add some to my music collection. Browsing through the classical section in stores got overwhelming in a hurry. This book helped me a great deal to narrow down what CDs to look for. It's easy to read and understand, includes bios of the 50 most popular/important composers and which of their works are the most well-known, popular, or historically important. Also some suggestions on CDs to buy for various works. You don't need to read the chapters on musical history or instruments, but they are interesting and informative.
This same author has a similar book on opera, too. I'm not as interested in building a collection of opera, but I plan on buying the book just to read and educate myself a little more on opera.
Highly recommended as an easy introduction to classical music, or if you're looking to build or expand your classical libary.
25 di 27 persone hanno trovato utile la seguente recensione
5.0 su 5 stelle Great Book On The Often Daunting World Of Classical Music 18 aprile 2000
Di David M. Sulkers - Pubblicato su Amazon.com
Formato:Copertina flessibile
Of all the books I have read on classical music, this one has got to be the most straight forward. Simple to understand for any beginner, it explains, not only some history of the composer, but the most signifigant pieces that composer produced. Thankfully, by the time I read this book, I already knew a great deal about classical music (well music history in general 'cause really there are five different periods reffered to in this book, not just the 'classical' period, those being: Renaissance; Baroque; Classical; Romantic and Twentieth Century). This book shines because it approaches the reader as a human being, knowing full well that not all of us know the meaning of texture and melody, of tone color and form. Phil Goulding is a master at meeting the reader at level, at becoming an equal to the reader. If you are interested in 'Classical' music, than this is an essential book to own, so it can be reffered to on many future occasions. One of my favorite aspects of this book is its ranking of the Top 50 composers of all time, I agree with the Top 3, though not in the order they are in currently: Bach (1); Mozart (2) and Beethoven (3). My list would have Beethoven (1); Mozart and Bach tied in 2nd and Brahms 3rd. Just to let you know. Five out of Five.
10 di 10 persone hanno trovato utile la seguente recensione
4.0 su 5 stelle Fun, informative, practical guide for the absolute beginner 3 maggio 2007
Di J. Hardy - Pubblicato su Amazon.com
Formato:Copertina flessibile
I echo pretty much all the good things said in the positive reviews. Especially Carl Nelson's review, I almost want to repeat that word for word. Note I'm not familiar with some of the other books with a similar purpose, like The NPR Guide or Swafford's Vintage Guide or The Rough Guide or Classical for Dummies or Dubal's Essential Canon, so I don't know if they're better. But I like this book.

How Goulding compiled his lists is interesting. He discusses this in early chapters. Basically he was facing retirement after a challenging and accomplished career, and wanted to undertake a project. Rather than take up golf, he decided to pursue his interest in "culture" and become educated in classical music. But it was difficult to figure out where to start. Since the book he wanted didn't exist, he set about to create it. He used playlists of classical music stations, and catalogs of classical recordings (and perhaps other sources), to determine who the most-played and most-recorded composers were, and which of their works were the most-loved. This method allowed him to produce a "ranking": almost exactly the way you would rank college basketball teams! It's a completely outside-in approach, and it's very appealing. He doesn't begin with a preconceived idea of who SHOULD be where: he lets broad listening patterns tell him who's where. This reduces the snootiness factor of the book to about zero. It's an incredibly practical approach to what is essentially an impossible task.

Of course that was just the starting point for his musical education. He clearly did a lot more research: there is a ton of biographical info on the composers, and anecdotes etc etc in the book; also sections on the instruments and the various genres and so forth. But the heart of the book is the listing (ranking) of composers and the selection of their key works.

So: who is this book NOT for?

Well, if you're already deeply immersed in the world of "permanent music", if you're a performer or music student or musicologist or reviewer or whatever, if you grew up with your parents playing opera on the stereo and you have some favorite conductors and violinists etc, this book will just annoy you. The forced ranking system will oppress you, and you'll miss the humor in Goulding's absolutism over his arbitrary divisions. Goulding uses little catch phrases to help "place" a composer, phrases which might be left over from his first learning efforts; and the way those catch phrases over-simplify will just drive you out of your mind. Frankly, you'll hate the book.

The book is for the neophyte who doesn't know much about classical music but would like to learn and start listening. It's designed to address the most basic questions. Where do you start? Who is important? What works of theirs should you look at first? And it does a very nice job of orientation.

I would completely ignore the recommended recordings. First, the book is over a decade old to begin with, so some of those recordings may not be available. More importantly, the book is focused on getting you acquainted with the basic repertoire, so it steers very middle-of-the-road in terms of performance and interpretation. It really has nothing to say about excellence in performance or recording. I would rely instead on the Penguin Guide. The two works really complement each other. This one is a "top down" approach, which places composers in their context and gives you a clue who to start with. The Penguin Guide is a "bottom up" approach, which discusses the merits of individual recordings and points out wonderful performances. Having two such completely opposite approaches to classical music is very helpful. The Penguin Guide is also a nice antidote to the notion of "rankings".

(Of course a trip to the local library to see check out the CDs they have is cheap & easy.)


The reviewers who point out that the 20th Century composers don't get enough coverage are completely right. This book will telescope your view a little, focusing almost completely on the 18th-19th centuries while leaving you a little high and dry when it comes to Modern music and Medieval/Renaissance music. It will also leave you with no information about great recitals and concerts etc (but here the Penguin Guide helps out a lot). There is very little about what to listen for in a given work, almost nothing on the author's personal responses to the works. That's a big lack: you'd like to know whether a recommended work sounds haunting or happy, or what makes it important & special. Of course there will always be information like that in the liner notes of whatever CDs you buy: but if you're going off of the author's recommendations, it would be nice to have a sense of what he thinks.

I also think the book might be something you'd grow out of. After you've hit Goulding's top 5 or 10 composers or so, you will have started to develop your own tastes and preferences: you'll have an idea what else you want to listen to, and may not need to plow thru the rest of his list. Of course, that's part of the point of an introductory work, to get you to an "intermediate" stage where you don't need the introduction anymore, so maybe that's not a criticism at all. I also find that even if I go a year or so without looking at the book, sometimes I'll have a question that will take me back to it ("Hmm, I wonder which Prokofiev I should check out?").

Where do you go after this book? Well, most obviously to the music itself! (Let The Penguin Guide help with that.) In terms of books, Swafford's Vintage Guide looks like an interesting next step (I haven't read it). There are also great books of music anecdotes, lives of the great composers, etc. And I have an unconventional recommendation as well: one terrific antidote to the idea of "best" works and "great recordings" etc is the work of writer Norman Lebrecht. Check out for example his books The Maestro Myth and Who Killed Classical Music. Fascinating.

But this book will definitely get you started, so you can go to the music.

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