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INTRODUCTION Though few of them make much effort to entice a new audience to their product, the recording companies continue to pour out a flood of classical music. The catalogue of current classical CDs runs to more than two and half thousand tightly packed pages, and lists nearly three hundred composers before reaching the second letter of the alphabet. An average month INTRODUCTION Though few of them make much effort to entice a new audience to their product, the recording companies continue to pour out a flood of classical music. The catalogue of current classical CDs runs to more than two and half thousand tightly packed pages, and lists nearly three hundred composers before reaching the second letter of the alphabet. An average month sees some four hundred recordings and re-issues added to the pile. The Rough Guide to Classical Music attempts to make sense of this overwhelming volume of music, giving you the information that's essential whether you're starting from the beginning or have already begun exploring. As well as being a buyer's guide to CDs, this book is a who's who of classical music, ranging from Hildegard of Bingen, one of the great figures of eleventh-century European culture, to Thomas Adès, born in London in 1971. Of course we've had to be selective, both with the composers and with their output - Domenico Scarlatti, for example, was a fascinating musician, but no book of this scope could do justice to each of his five hundred keyboard sonatas. Gaetano Donizetti wrote more than seventy operas, but you wouldn't want to listen to all of them. We've gone for what we think are the best works by the most interesting composers, mixing some underrated people with the big names, and highlighting some we think you should keep an eye on. When it comes to CDs the situation requires even greater ruthlessness. Beethoven may have written only nine symphonies, but there are more than one hundred versions of the fifth in the catalogue, and scores of recordings of all the others. Several of these CDs should never have been issued - they are there simply because any up-and-coming conductor has to make a Beethoven recording as a kind of calling card, regardless of any aptitude for the music. However, a fair proportion of the Beethoven CDs are worth listening to, because a piece of music as complex as a Beethoven symphony will bear as many different readings as a Shakespeare play. Although there are recordings that stand head and shoulders above the competition, no performance can be described as definitive, which is one reason why we have often recommended more than one account of a work. Whereas all our first-choice CDs make persuasive cases for the music, some of the additional recommendations are included because they make provocative counter-arguments. Where price is a consideration, we've also listed a lower-cost alternative whenever appropriate - thus we might suggest a mid-price boxed set of symphonies as an alternative to buying them as full-price individual CDs. Finally, in many instances we've picked an outstanding pre-stereo performance as a complement to a modern recording. These `historic' reissues are the one reliable growth area in the classical music industry, and their success is not due to mere nostalgia. There are some great musicians around today, but there's also a lot of hype in the business, with many soloists owing their success more to the way they look than to the way they play - and conversely, many superlative musicians who remain obscure because they don't project the requisite glamour. It's in the area of orchestral music and opera that the situation is especially bad, notwithstanding the technically immaculate quality of many digital recordings. Orchestral musicians are now trained to a very high standard, but only a few of the top-class orchestras enjoy the sort of long-term relationship with an individual conductor that can mould a distinctive identity. The same goes for opera companies, which used to have a stable core of singers and musicians working under the same conductor for years. Now there's a system based on jet-setting stars, who might be performing in London one night, New York the next, then in the recording studio for a few days to record something with people they hadn't met until the day the session started. You don't necessarily get a good football team by paying millions for a miscellaneous batch of top-flight players, and you don't build a good musical team that way either. Musically, then, new is not always best. And don't assume that a recording made more than thirty years ago will sound terrible. Sound quality won't match that of digital CDs, but you'll be surprised at how good it can be - indeed, many people prefer the warmth of the old analogue sound to the often chilly precision produced by modern studios. (We've warned you if surface noise or tinny quality might be a hindrance to enjoyment.) In short, you'll be missing a lot if you insist on hi-tech - few recent releases can match Vladimir Horowitz's 1940 account of Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1, for instance, or Josef Hofmann's versions of the Chopin piano concertos from the 1930s.


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INTRODUCTION Though few of them make much effort to entice a new audience to their product, the recording companies continue to pour out a flood of classical music. The catalogue of current classical CDs runs to more than two and half thousand tightly packed pages, and lists nearly three hundred composers before reaching the second letter of the alphabet. An average month INTRODUCTION Though few of them make much effort to entice a new audience to their product, the recording companies continue to pour out a flood of classical music. The catalogue of current classical CDs runs to more than two and half thousand tightly packed pages, and lists nearly three hundred composers before reaching the second letter of the alphabet. An average month sees some four hundred recordings and re-issues added to the pile. The Rough Guide to Classical Music attempts to make sense of this overwhelming volume of music, giving you the information that's essential whether you're starting from the beginning or have already begun exploring. As well as being a buyer's guide to CDs, this book is a who's who of classical music, ranging from Hildegard of Bingen, one of the great figures of eleventh-century European culture, to Thomas Adès, born in London in 1971. Of course we've had to be selective, both with the composers and with their output - Domenico Scarlatti, for example, was a fascinating musician, but no book of this scope could do justice to each of his five hundred keyboard sonatas. Gaetano Donizetti wrote more than seventy operas, but you wouldn't want to listen to all of them. We've gone for what we think are the best works by the most interesting composers, mixing some underrated people with the big names, and highlighting some we think you should keep an eye on. When it comes to CDs the situation requires even greater ruthlessness. Beethoven may have written only nine symphonies, but there are more than one hundred versions of the fifth in the catalogue, and scores of recordings of all the others. Several of these CDs should never have been issued - they are there simply because any up-and-coming conductor has to make a Beethoven recording as a kind of calling card, regardless of any aptitude for the music. However, a fair proportion of the Beethoven CDs are worth listening to, because a piece of music as complex as a Beethoven symphony will bear as many different readings as a Shakespeare play. Although there are recordings that stand head and shoulders above the competition, no performance can be described as definitive, which is one reason why we have often recommended more than one account of a work. Whereas all our first-choice CDs make persuasive cases for the music, some of the additional recommendations are included because they make provocative counter-arguments. Where price is a consideration, we've also listed a lower-cost alternative whenever appropriate - thus we might suggest a mid-price boxed set of symphonies as an alternative to buying them as full-price individual CDs. Finally, in many instances we've picked an outstanding pre-stereo performance as a complement to a modern recording. These `historic' reissues are the one reliable growth area in the classical music industry, and their success is not due to mere nostalgia. There are some great musicians around today, but there's also a lot of hype in the business, with many soloists owing their success more to the way they look than to the way they play - and conversely, many superlative musicians who remain obscure because they don't project the requisite glamour. It's in the area of orchestral music and opera that the situation is especially bad, notwithstanding the technically immaculate quality of many digital recordings. Orchestral musicians are now trained to a very high standard, but only a few of the top-class orchestras enjoy the sort of long-term relationship with an individual conductor that can mould a distinctive identity. The same goes for opera companies, which used to have a stable core of singers and musicians working under the same conductor for years. Now there's a system based on jet-setting stars, who might be performing in London one night, New York the next, then in the recording studio for a few days to record something with people they hadn't met until the day the session started. You don't necessarily get a good football team by paying millions for a miscellaneous batch of top-flight players, and you don't build a good musical team that way either. Musically, then, new is not always best. And don't assume that a recording made more than thirty years ago will sound terrible. Sound quality won't match that of digital CDs, but you'll be surprised at how good it can be - indeed, many people prefer the warmth of the old analogue sound to the often chilly precision produced by modern studios. (We've warned you if surface noise or tinny quality might be a hindrance to enjoyment.) In short, you'll be missing a lot if you insist on hi-tech - few recent releases can match Vladimir Horowitz's 1940 account of Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1, for instance, or Josef Hofmann's versions of the Chopin piano concertos from the 1930s.

30 review for The Rough Guide to Classical Music

  1. 5 out of 5

    Douglas

    I'm very impressed with The Rough Guide series in music in general, as can be seen by the ones I've read on individual bands. This one if an overview of all the important and many of the lesser known classical music composers. It's a type of encyclopedia, so most people won't read it all at once. However, over the last two years I've read just about every entry, many in the bath. (Where better to enjoy Handel's Water Music?) Pity, judicious and well written. I'm very impressed with The Rough Guide series in music in general, as can be seen by the ones I've read on individual bands. This one if an overview of all the important and many of the lesser known classical music composers. It's a type of encyclopedia, so most people won't read it all at once. However, over the last two years I've read just about every entry, many in the bath. (Where better to enjoy Handel's Water Music?) Pity, judicious and well written.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Pete Kelly

    Geat introduction to classical music. If you have the slightest interest in classical music, and if you don't you should - it will change your life, get this book. It contains articles on the lives of composers, discusses their work and recommends recordings to listen to. It also explains musical terms used in classical music. A really good primer - treat yourself, buy it and start listening to great music. You will thank me. Geat introduction to classical music. If you have the slightest interest in classical music, and if you don't you should - it will change your life, get this book. It contains articles on the lives of composers, discusses their work and recommends recordings to listen to. It also explains musical terms used in classical music. A really good primer - treat yourself, buy it and start listening to great music. You will thank me.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Gavin

    Rough it til you make it

  4. 5 out of 5

    Yazir Paredes

    This is one of my favorite classical music reference book. Covers a good number of composers, their life, works, and even recommended discography. With sidebars on music history, it is easy to read while covering a good deal of information.

  5. 5 out of 5

    DJ Yossarian

    Just amazing.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Nitin

  7. 4 out of 5

    Chuck

  8. 4 out of 5

    Mr Ian D Durrant

  9. 5 out of 5

    Kim

  10. 4 out of 5

    Conrad

  11. 5 out of 5

    Mean Nostalgist

  12. 4 out of 5

    Lime

  13. 5 out of 5

    Dan

  14. 5 out of 5

    SC

  15. 5 out of 5

    Ola

  16. 5 out of 5

    Bob Cat

  17. 5 out of 5

    Gil

  18. 4 out of 5

    rrvc

  19. 5 out of 5

    Lulubaird

  20. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Filipowicz

  21. 5 out of 5

    Ian Corkett

  22. 4 out of 5

    Axel

  23. 4 out of 5

    Rob Campbell

  24. 5 out of 5

    Przemek Jaślan

  25. 4 out of 5

    Catherine

  26. 5 out of 5

    Ifonly

  27. 4 out of 5

    Bert

  28. 5 out of 5

    Lee Lavery

  29. 4 out of 5

    Roger

  30. 4 out of 5

    Dstephenc

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