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Hello, Im Stephen Fry. Now time for the first outing of a brand, spanking new feature here on The Incomplete 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 Hello, Im Stephen Fry. Now time for the first outing of a brand, spanking new feature here on The Incomplete 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 Mozarts Don Giovanni and the deep doo-doo that Louis XVI got into (or du-du as the French would say). Its 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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Hello, Im Stephen Fry. Now time for the first outing of a brand, spanking new feature here on The Incomplete 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 Hello, Im Stephen Fry. Now time for the first outing of a brand, spanking new feature here on The Incomplete 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 Mozarts Don Giovanni and the deep doo-doo that Louis XVI got into (or du-du as the French would say). Its 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.

30 review for Stephen Fry's Incomplete and Utter History of Classical Music

  1. 4 out of 5

    Simon Clark

    Stephen Fry is, of course, a tremendously funny man. And it would hardly be controversial to say that he represents a particularly English perspective on things. The perspective of a privately-educated, cricket-loving, sesquipedalian Oxbridge graduate. He's almost a romanticised version of an Englishman - the funny, bumbling, cultural, delightful dinner guest. You could imagine that the inside of his head is a 1930s wood-panelled library, Radio 4 on in the background, a faint whiff of pipesmoke Stephen Fry is, of course, a tremendously funny man. And it would hardly be controversial to say that he represents a particularly English perspective on things. The perspective of a privately-educated, cricket-loving, sesquipedalian Oxbridge graduate. He's almost a romanticised version of an Englishman - the funny, bumbling, cultural, delightful dinner guest. You could imagine that the inside of his head is a 1930s wood-panelled library, Radio 4 on in the background, a faint whiff of pipesmoke in the carpet. Except of course the wireless wouldn't be tuned to the World at One, it would be blaring out The Onedin Line; played for the twelth time that day on Classic FM. His book - through Classic FM - traces 'classical music' (read: western music) from the very earliest traces of music and instruments in mesopotamia right the way to the cutting edge of the year 2003, when the book was written. And it is a book that could only have been written by Fry. It's an attempt to capture the spirit of Classic FM - crowd-pleasing tunes and tidbits of information - in his style of dinner party conversation. I kind of wish I liked it. I honestly found this book tiring to read. Not because anything in it is approaching hard to understand - it's not - but because Fry keeps changing the tempo, font, structure, tone, perspective, and humour levels every three or four paragraphs. Reading for more than a few pages at a time felt like I was watching one of Robin Williams' more esoteric standup routines, playing myriad characters one after the other while you try to catch up. Just much, much less funny. It really doesn't work in print form. It's of course an attempt to make interesting subject matter that some might consider boring, but the phrase 'throw enough shit at a wall and some of it will stick' comes to mind. The book would have benefited significantly from a more coherent structure - even just within individual chapters - and consistent tone. The story the book covers is interesting enough on its own without the need to constantly change gears in an attempt to keep peoples' interest. I'm sure that Fry's decision to write the book in this way will have kept some readers interested who otherwise would have drifted off mid-way through. Which is the point of it and of Classic FM - to engage a broader audience with classical music and remove some of the perceived barriers and requisites to listening to 'posh person music'. Fry talking about how music has been used in adverts and about his personal experiences with certain pieces will definitely make the subject matter more relatable. And it should be commended for that. But I do not believe that the style he chose widens access to a point where it justifies diminishing the source material, and the reader experience of it. If I were to criticise the book more on its content that it's style I would definitely say that while Fry gives a clear structure to the evolution of music (insofar as the names we use to describe the periods) his personal preference for the romantics shines very clearly. The renaissance and baroque periods don't come off so badly from this, and the classical era itself gets a strong representation, but 20th century music as a whole gets entirely shafted. The book ends with a whimper not a bang, almost as if Fry figures that nothing really mattered in music after Wagner and Mahler died, and several modernist movements such as minimalism and post-minimalism don't even get a mention. Of course being an author allows you to put your personal preferences and biases into your work, and its entirely fair that Fry exercises that right. I guess I would just have preferred to see more discussion of early music, modern music, and more than a handful of words about the huge breadth of religious music that has been written consistently since the classical period. Also Fry just starts to tackle film music and whether it is the spiritual successor to 'classical music' before the book just ends abruptly. No conclusion to that discussion. No discussion of jazz and blues and rock and soul branching out from existing forms of 'classical music'. After the amount of time you spent talking about Wagner??? This isn't to say that I didn't learn anything from the book. During my time in Fry's musty library I picked up quite a few tidbits that I'll undoubtedly blurt out on demand like a serial viewer of QI. But this felt like more of a missed opportunity than a resounding success. If you enjoy listening to Classic FM, references to 1980s advertising campaigns, Wagner, have an attention span of about a minute at a time, and think that Stephen Fry is the modern day version of Oscar Wilde then you'll probably love this book. Otherwise, I'd recommend other titles.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Anastasia Toss

    Now I understand that's nothing to be shame of if you're teenager and do like opera:) Now I understand that's nothing to be shame of if you're teenager and do like opera:)

  3. 5 out of 5

    Kian

    First of all I appreciate this book isn't actually written by Mr Fry, but has rather been transcribed by Tim Linhoreau after following Stephen around with a dictaphone around for a few weeks. Or at least that's the impression you get. The writing style is conversational at best, whimsical at worst. For the first few hundred paces, the style is interesting and one will appreciate the little word plays. But these word plays and continual diversions do start to tire after the two thirds mark and the First of all I appreciate this book isn't actually written by Mr Fry, but has rather been transcribed by Tim Linhoreau after following Stephen around with a dictaphone around for a few weeks. Or at least that's the impression you get. The writing style is conversational at best, whimsical at worst. For the first few hundred paces, the style is interesting and one will appreciate the little word plays. But these word plays and continual diversions do start to tire after the two thirds mark and the last third of the book becomes sluggish. The last third also feels somewhat rushed, and the conclusion to the book is pretty much non-existant, leaving the reader quite literally dangling from the end of the page. This book does though present a humorous view on Classical music and present the range of different periods and styles, why the terms aren't quite so concrete and the little insanities of various composers. The author (or dictator) does a very good job of helping you place the life and words of composers into specific markers in history, providing you with some context with which to appreciate their work in. Most importantly it does this like a good schoolteacher, in a style that means those little facts aren't suddenly going to drain straight back out of your ear. You're going to remember WAGNER requires big letters and "Mad" Louise-Hector Berlioz sneaking to Paris dressed as a lady's maid to try and win the affection of his not-quite-so-just-yet-beloved. For those with a passing interest into classical music, this is a book for you. It will help you appreciate your listening more. However, for the hardened classical listener with a loaded cheese board and port selection, it may prove a whimsical introduction or an aside, but you may want something with more meaty content.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Kissmekate

    Feel like an enjoyable ride through the history of music? Come on - hop on the Fry express! Multi-talented Stephen Fry takes his readers on an educational and interesting journey through time, starting with the very beginnings of music and going on into the 20th century. Short, wittily titled chapters describe developments in music theory, composition, instruments and general trends in the world of music in chronological order and introduce important composers. All this is sprinkled with a lot of Feel like an enjoyable ride through the history of music? Come on - hop on the Fry express! Multi-talented Stephen Fry takes his readers on an educational and interesting journey through time, starting with the very beginnings of music and going on into the 20th century. Short, wittily titled chapters describe developments in music theory, composition, instruments and general trends in the world of music in chronological order and introduce important composers. All this is sprinkled with a lot of anecdotes and remarks that are a joy to read. For many authors, this recipe doesn't work all the way through a book, but Fry does manage to keep the reader riveted. Even theoretical subjects never come across dry and drab. His numerous little stories about composers' more or less mad quirks (my favourite: "Barmy Berlioz"!) as well as Fry's own overflowing imagination made me laugh so much. (Reading this in public, e.g. on the bus or train, is not recommended. There might be some strange glances from fellow travellers due to uncontrollable, repeated laughing fits.) Fry's unique humour and his witty-clever-crazy style make this book highly enjoyable for all fans of Fry and classical music. I had so much fun reading this that I am ready to forgive Mr. Fry for liking Wagner and thinking all organists have bats in the belfry. There's just one little flaw: many German or French expressions or names are misspelled. This happened a bit too often for my taste. Apart from that, a true highlight in my view.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Eva

    Stephen Fry has a lovely knack for being enthusiastic about things he loves without sounding apologetic or snobbish, and in a way that is both inspiring and dreadfully catchy. I was listening to the radio programme during the past month and was a bit sceptical about how something so heavily relying on the audio part could be translated into printed words, but the book is every inch as delightful - I've never seen such a creative and yet unobtrusive use of fonts and other little extras that help Stephen Fry has a lovely knack for being enthusiastic about things he loves without sounding apologetic or snobbish, and in a way that is both inspiring and dreadfully catchy. I was listening to the radio programme during the past month and was a bit sceptical about how something so heavily relying on the audio part could be translated into printed words, but the book is every inch as delightful - I've never seen such a creative and yet unobtrusive use of fonts and other little extras that help to bring music to the pages (and let's be real, nobody but a huge nerd - and I mean it as a compliment - would have the name of his favourite composer printed in a font one size larger, throughout the whole book). Even the dreaded smileys that I normally find disturbing were actually helpful - not least because I'm prone to believing just about anything from the author. Very helpful, very funny, extremely enjoyable.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Viktoria

    What makes this so much fun to read is that you can feel Stephen Fry's passion for classical music! What makes this so much fun to read is that you can feel Stephen Fry's passion for classical music!

  7. 4 out of 5

    Amber Scaife

    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 a 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.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Jean

    I feel more knowledgeable after reading this short overview of classical music's history. More importantly, I feel like diving into Spotify to try some new tunes. Might even give Wagner a go. The book is too witty for my taste, probably cause it wasn't actually written by the master himself. I feel more knowledgeable after reading this short overview of classical music's history. More importantly, I feel like diving into Spotify to try some new tunes. Might even give Wagner a go. The book is too witty for my taste, probably cause it wasn't actually written by the master himself.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Ian

    The depth and richness of classical music history is in itself a major problem - too often they can look very much like text from Musicology 1A, or what's worse, Musicology 2A. Fry avoids all this by taking quite an irreverent attitude to the composers, from "Eddie the Eagle" Elgar to "Mad Hector" Berlioz. This keeps it very light and easy to read, while at the same time imparting a ton of information about music from medieval times to the 21st century. Lots of listening recommendations in there The depth and richness of classical music history is in itself a major problem - too often they can look very much like text from Musicology 1A, or what's worse, Musicology 2A. Fry avoids all this by taking quite an irreverent attitude to the composers, from "Eddie the Eagle" Elgar to "Mad Hector" Berlioz. This keeps it very light and easy to read, while at the same time imparting a ton of information about music from medieval times to the 21st century. Lots of listening recommendations in there too. Highly recommended.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Tansy E

    horribly written. excruciating use of language, and embarrassingly poor jokes. sort of blaming that on the hired writer person, or the fact that it was commissioned by classic fm? also, it tends to go into details about things like what brahms had for breakfast and completely omit things like temperament. most of the time i was reading it i had that embarrassment-on-behalf-of-someone-else, like seeing a really bad play.

  11. 4 out of 5

    mensch

    While I don't agree with Fry on his opinions of modern music and his love for Mozart and Wagner, his history of classical music is a funny one. The book could have benefitted from a more rigid editor though, the phrase "Glad to have cleared that up" crops up a little bit too often. While I don't agree with Fry on his opinions of modern music and his love for Mozart and Wagner, his history of classical music is a funny one. The book could have benefitted from a more rigid editor though, the phrase "Glad to have cleared that up" crops up a little bit too often.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Angela Joyce

    Oh, this is so funny. Puns and wordplay abound, and in the meantime, I actually learned something. Quite a lot of somethings, in fact. I got the sense he's not crazy about Haydn, but Mozart got a good substantial section to himself, which was lovely. Oh, this is so funny. Puns and wordplay abound, and in the meantime, I actually learned something. Quite a lot of somethings, in fact. I got the sense he's not crazy about Haydn, but Mozart got a good substantial section to himself, which was lovely.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Lineke

    Very funny written book about classical music and its history. Focus lies on opera, which would not have been my choice, but allright. Still quite worthwile to read!

  14. 4 out of 5

    Melanie

    so Stephen Fry! Not just classical, but writers, art, etc, he put it all into context. I just wanted to listen to each piece of music he mentioned!

  15. 4 out of 5

    Johnny

    What it is: A faux-audiobook, in that it's a collection of radio programmes produced by Classic FM, hosted by Stephen Fry. The actual book, I believe was ghost-written. This is a bit better than an audiobook about music, though, since it includes the music that is discussed. It is also quite long, and though rightly called 'incomplete', it is more than enough. Who should listen to it: Fans of classical music. [Snape's voice] Obviously. Also, people, like me, who like to listen to Stephen Fry talk. W What it is: A faux-audiobook, in that it's a collection of radio programmes produced by Classic FM, hosted by Stephen Fry. The actual book, I believe was ghost-written. This is a bit better than an audiobook about music, though, since it includes the music that is discussed. It is also quite long, and though rightly called 'incomplete', it is more than enough. Who should listen to it: Fans of classical music. [Snape's voice] Obviously. Also, people, like me, who like to listen to Stephen Fry talk. Why I liked/disliked it: This introduced me to a lot of music I'd never crossed paths with before, opening my ears a little. I also learned some fascinating tidbits about various composers, innovations, and why certain music got popular for a time. The only thing that got a bit tired for me was Fry gushing over Wagner. I get it, the dude was damn good, but I like just a good dose of unbiased discernment in my educational hosts. Rating: 3 stars. I liked it. It was an excellent thing to listen to on my morning walks through the woods.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Paul Brogan

    I’ll give you the good news first: this is a remarkably accessible summary of the history of music. It is not snobbish, it is not purist, but it is a light, personal, and broad sweep of what is, let’s face it, an enormous subject. Which is just as well since by his own admission Stephen Fry can barely hold a note — except for, perhaps, one of interest to passing wildlife — let alone play a musical instrument. Further, the pedant would insist that ‘Classical’ refers exclusively to music from the p I’ll give you the good news first: this is a remarkably accessible summary of the history of music. It is not snobbish, it is not purist, but it is a light, personal, and broad sweep of what is, let’s face it, an enormous subject. Which is just as well since by his own admission Stephen Fry can barely hold a note — except for, perhaps, one of interest to passing wildlife — let alone play a musical instrument. Further, the pedant would insist that ‘Classical’ refers exclusively to music from the period between 1750 and 1850, while Fry includes everything, even modern movie scores and advertising jingles (who can forget the music for British Airways?). Just so we’re clear, here are his musical eras. Early: from 13,500 BC to AD 600 (how I wish he could have spent more time on the prehistory bit, but I suppose this properly belongs in an altogether different book) Medieval: from AD 600 to 1450 Renaissance: from 1450 to 1600 Baroque: from 1600 to 1750 Classical: from 1750 to 1850 Early Romantic: from 1850 to 1890 Late Romantic: from 1890 to 1900 Modern: from 1900 These are of course arbitrary and quite blurry time-markers, but they serve as a rough guide. Many composers overlapped boundaries and some continued to produce music in the old style long after the deadline for the new era had lapsed. All the main characters are covered: their circumstances, their foibles, their successes, their failures. Above all, the nature and personality of their music, from the listener’s perspective — for most of us, like Fry, ‘listening’ is more pertinent a vantage point than is ‘playing‘ — is explained with great humanness. Fry brings them alive; he makes them pertinent. I came across Stephen Fry first when he was Lord (and General) Melchett, then the Duke of Wellington, in the Blackadder series. He was good with Hugh Lawrie in Fry and Laurie, and he was brilliant — a natural, even — as Oscar Wilde. More recently, he was the narrator in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy movie and he plays the Master of Lake-town in The Hobbit. He is an accomplished actor and, when the parts are written for him by the likes of Richard Curtis and Ben Elton, he can raise a laugh. Who wouldn’t be able to? However, let me come to the bad news. It is disappointing that for a man who is so comfortable with what he is (gay) he should try so hard to be what he isn’t (funny). I got the impression that he saw himself as something of a cross between Bill Bryson, Terry Pratchett, and Douglas Adams, but he ended up more like Spike Milligan on an off-day. It was inane, schoolboy-ish, and tiresome. Perhaps that’s your kind of humour. Certainly, the purpose of the book, to present what can be a serious and academic matter with a gentle and deft touch, calls for humour, but I wish either that Fry had not tried so damned hard that it went beyond his limited talent, or that Classic FM had chosen someone else to do the job. No matter. I was able to ignore this blight on an otherwise fine book for the most part, and I’m sure you would, too.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Vincent Eaton

    Took a long time reading this, as it is very much a dip-in type book. An admittedly superficial yet informative corrective to different composers from year zero to early 21st century. Enjoyed, learned, and have a new list of recordings to seek out.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Janne Järvinen

    I'd like to love this book but, unfortunately, it suffers from a few drawbacks. Stephen Fry is wonderful, but he didn't write this book. A lot of the text is his, though, because it's lifted verbatim from the radio show. Only, with Stephen's own delivery, the text works a lot better in the radio show than in the book. So, if you can, try get a hold of the radio originals. The jokes work so much better when you hear Stephen tell them. That's one problem. The humor looses much of it's effect when t I'd like to love this book but, unfortunately, it suffers from a few drawbacks. Stephen Fry is wonderful, but he didn't write this book. A lot of the text is his, though, because it's lifted verbatim from the radio show. Only, with Stephen's own delivery, the text works a lot better in the radio show than in the book. So, if you can, try get a hold of the radio originals. The jokes work so much better when you hear Stephen tell them. That's one problem. The humor looses much of it's effect when translated from the radio to the page. It's not totally unfunny, though. Another problem is that the "Incomplete and Utter" has little to offer as a history book. It's too short to go into any detail about anything, so if you actually want to learn something, this is not a good book for that. Then again, if you already know enough about the subject to follow the pace the text takes through the centuries, why would you need to read it? Of course, the book is not meant to be an actual learning tool, but since it's not that funny either, it's hard to think of a target audience for this book. For a funny historical text book, it's not that funny and not that historical. If you want to actually learn about music history, you need to read something else. If you already are a classical nerd, and just want to laugh at the jokes, you'll be better off with the original radio show, if you just can find it. There is one use this book might be suited for, though. If you are a fan of classical music, and are searching for tips on where to go next, for someone to throw a bunch of names at you, this book might do that. It's full of quick mentions of Stephen's favorites, and if some of them are unfamiliar to you, you might want to check them out. And, granted, some of the jokes are a bit funny. Three stars for the specific use of just mining it for listening tips, but two for any other use.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Heidi

    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 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.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    Oh, this was hard work. I was vastly disillusioned until I realised, thanks to an eagle-eyed reviewer below, STEPHEN FRY DID NOT WRITE THIS BOOK, it was the Classic FM guy. So it's a book loosely based on Stephen Fry's opinions of classical music, with which I largely, give or take, agreed. What's with the Gilbert & Sullivan-bashing though? Given the book's penchant for highly artificial construction, truly awful puns and incessant 'witty' asides, I would have thought it was right up their street Oh, this was hard work. I was vastly disillusioned until I realised, thanks to an eagle-eyed reviewer below, STEPHEN FRY DID NOT WRITE THIS BOOK, it was the Classic FM guy. So it's a book loosely based on Stephen Fry's opinions of classical music, with which I largely, give or take, agreed. What's with the Gilbert & Sullivan-bashing though? Given the book's penchant for highly artificial construction, truly awful puns and incessant 'witty' asides, I would have thought it was right up their street.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Xanthi

    I read this book, not because I am a fan of classical music, but rather a fan of Stephen Fry. I don't actually dislike classical music, as such. I just have not ever really sat down and really listened to much of it. Having read this book now, however, I just might do that now. The one thing that I didn't like all that much about this books was its chatty nature. I don't mind humour and a narrative style but a lot of this books was rambling in nature. It could have benefited from some heavy editi I read this book, not because I am a fan of classical music, but rather a fan of Stephen Fry. I don't actually dislike classical music, as such. I just have not ever really sat down and really listened to much of it. Having read this book now, however, I just might do that now. The one thing that I didn't like all that much about this books was its chatty nature. I don't mind humour and a narrative style but a lot of this books was rambling in nature. It could have benefited from some heavy editing and some reworking.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Piritta

    It took me almost three months to get through the book. I like Fry and I think this book earns its place in the library's music section. However, I would've given four stars if the book hadn't been sooooo demanding to read. One can be oh so funny for 300 pages, but one's reader won't stay amused reading the same joke with different words over and over again. Even when everything is funny, it's not genuinely entertaining half the time. I got through the book a dozen pages or so at a time, and I'm It took me almost three months to get through the book. I like Fry and I think this book earns its place in the library's music section. However, I would've given four stars if the book hadn't been sooooo demanding to read. One can be oh so funny for 300 pages, but one's reader won't stay amused reading the same joke with different words over and over again. Even when everything is funny, it's not genuinely entertaining half the time. I got through the book a dozen pages or so at a time, and I'm glad I did. I just think that a bit more darling-killing would've been in place.

  23. 5 out of 5

    jools

    Just brilliant. I'm not a big reader of non-fiction, and I was never particularly motivated to learn about classical music, but Stephen Fry's writing style not only got me through the book but had me reaching for pen and paper to write lists of music I should seek out and try. I'm sure I've enjoyed reading other books more but this got 5 stars from me not just for being an enjoyable read, but for continuing to inspire after I've closed the book. Just brilliant. I'm not a big reader of non-fiction, and I was never particularly motivated to learn about classical music, but Stephen Fry's writing style not only got me through the book but had me reaching for pen and paper to write lists of music I should seek out and try. I'm sure I've enjoyed reading other books more but this got 5 stars from me not just for being an enjoyable read, but for continuing to inspire after I've closed the book.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Milena March

    Stephen Fry is a gifted comedian, but I must admit I was a little shocked to discover he knew anything about Classical music. I'd been wanting to improve my knowledge on that score for some time, but I'd never found a readable history of classical music before. This book was in that sense a godsend; though at certain points I did find my attention wavering, in general I found this book easy to read and very entertaining. Stephen Fry is a gifted comedian, but I must admit I was a little shocked to discover he knew anything about Classical music. I'd been wanting to improve my knowledge on that score for some time, but I'd never found a readable history of classical music before. This book was in that sense a godsend; though at certain points I did find my attention wavering, in general I found this book easy to read and very entertaining.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Angelique

    Silly, but it is totally incomplete and I think a few things need to be fact checked, having read several Shostakovitch books he should have said the pravda review said 'Muddle instead of Music' instead of chaos in music. I wish he'd just ignore history and art (albeit it is interesting) and stop banging on about how beautiful every other name in the book is. It's cute to begin, but as someone else said the jokes are repeated again and again and again. I'm glad to have it finished. FINALLY. Silly, but it is totally incomplete and I think a few things need to be fact checked, having read several Shostakovitch books he should have said the pravda review said 'Muddle instead of Music' instead of chaos in music. I wish he'd just ignore history and art (albeit it is interesting) and stop banging on about how beautiful every other name in the book is. It's cute to begin, but as someone else said the jokes are repeated again and again and again. I'm glad to have it finished. FINALLY.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Debbie

    I've been reading this book on and off (more off than on) for a number of years now. While I did learn a lot about classical music, which was the whole aim of reading the book, Stephen Fry's constant need to show off how clever he is and make terrible puns and word plays meant I could only digest the book in very small pieces before he started to annoy me. I've been reading this book on and off (more off than on) for a number of years now. While I did learn a lot about classical music, which was the whole aim of reading the book, Stephen Fry's constant need to show off how clever he is and make terrible puns and word plays meant I could only digest the book in very small pieces before he started to annoy me.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Denise

    It is very much like the other books put out by Classic FM. Very very little substance. I continue reading it because there are bits and pieces of interesting information, and I happen to like Stephen Fry's humour. It is more a podium for Fry. Okay for me, not so great for people who don't care for him. If you're after information about classical music, don't bother reading it. It is very much like the other books put out by Classic FM. Very very little substance. I continue reading it because there are bits and pieces of interesting information, and I happen to like Stephen Fry's humour. It is more a podium for Fry. Okay for me, not so great for people who don't care for him. If you're after information about classical music, don't bother reading it.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Moira Chaudhry

    I love Stephen Fry as a presenter and I've enjoyed his dicumentary on Wagner, but I'm finding his jokey public schoolboy tone in this book rather tiresome. I think it probably worked rather well on the radio with excerpts from the music he is writing about to break it up a bit.Nonetheless it's an interesting read for someone like me who enjoys music history. I love Stephen Fry as a presenter and I've enjoyed his dicumentary on Wagner, but I'm finding his jokey public schoolboy tone in this book rather tiresome. I think it probably worked rather well on the radio with excerpts from the music he is writing about to break it up a bit.Nonetheless it's an interesting read for someone like me who enjoys music history.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jan-Len

    Fry's "sophisticated wit" is insufferable. After a torturous first 50 pages, I skipped ahead to the Baroque period only to be met with a really lame Vivaldi and Johnny Wilkinson joke. And also, the fact that Stravinsky said Vivaldi's first concerto is very much like his next 399, is really not that funny nor does it get funnier the fifth time round. No more thanks! Fry's "sophisticated wit" is insufferable. After a torturous first 50 pages, I skipped ahead to the Baroque period only to be met with a really lame Vivaldi and Johnny Wilkinson joke. And also, the fact that Stravinsky said Vivaldi's first concerto is very much like his next 399, is really not that funny nor does it get funnier the fifth time round. No more thanks!

  30. 4 out of 5

    Steven

    Good book for lodging the most important names of classical music in your brain and putting them in context with the history that was going on as the composers wrote. The "wacky" humour gets a little grating after a while, but generally the book is an easy read. Good book for lodging the most important names of classical music in your brain and putting them in context with the history that was going on as the composers wrote. The "wacky" humour gets a little grating after a while, but generally the book is an easy read.

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