Author Topic: Books on Classical Music : Recommending / Considering  (Read 35974 times)

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hildegard

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Re: Books on Classical Music : Recommending / Considering
« Reply #40 on: October 27, 2007, 08:59:07 AM »
- Book subjects i'd like to find  :

*General history of composers and their historical context (more as an overview to start with, hence the book mentionned in my OP)
*1st approach on how to listen to classical music (ordered the Aaron Copeland's "What to listen for in Music" to cover that angle).

Two of my favorite and well-worn books are Schonberg's The Lives of the Great Composers and David Dubal's The Essential Canon of Classical Music. The treatment of different musical eras in the latter book is somewhat uneven, but it is a great reference nontheless. The former is also not a perfect compilation (what book about classical music can be?), but it was a great overview book for me when my interest in classical music was just beginning.


Offline Lethevich

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Re: Books on Classical Music : Recommending / Considering
« Reply #41 on: March 14, 2011, 05:49:01 AM »
I just picked up the old Penguin book on chamber music (edited by Alec Robertson). I love old books on criticism/essays such as this, as they were written when a lot of 20th century repertoire was under-exposed or outright new, and as a result the opinions on various works and composers are sometimes wrong, but always bold and interesting. Some snippets:

Re. Copland: While calling his piano quartet an "important chamber work", he then refers to it as "painfully forced", "feeble", etc.
Re. Howells: "something has gone seriously wrong somewhere"
Re. Onslow: "its musical value is dubious, to say the least."
Re. Ives: "...frequent calamities", "[SQ No.2] so haphazard in style, and so ill-conceived for the medium that [...] it has little more than the messy charm of a child's scrapbook"
Re. Harris: "there is always something to admire in every Harris work, even if it's only the effort which has gone into it"

It is a valuble document of how people viewed music in the mid-century, from quotes such as "not so long ago, a Gallup poll taken by an American periodical showed that in the opinion of the majority, Stravinsky, Schönberg and Bloch were the greatest American composers". Hanson didn't merit a mention, yet Riegger is well-discussed. When Vaughan Williams is mentioned, it lists his two quartets, quintet, and then two obscure early works. Evidently one of his masterpieces, the violin sonata, was not even known back then.
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Offline Grazioso

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Re: Books on Classical Music : Recommending / Considering
« Reply #42 on: March 14, 2011, 06:08:14 AM »


A useful and entertaining overview, albeit one where the omissions (hey, why isn't my favorite 20th-century composer discussed?) and disproportionately lengthy examinations of particular composers or works, like Peter Grimes, might create some frustration.



Clear, intelligent insights for the non-specialist into most of the core symphony repertoire, as well as a few lesser-known works. The author's personal enthusiasms and anecdotes add rather than detract or distort.

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Offline listener

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Re: Books on Classical Music : Recommending / Considering
« Reply #43 on: March 14, 2011, 06:13:43 AM »
Donald Tovey's Essays in Musical Analysis (6 vol,) are definitely worth having.  Some works get very detailed dissection, often with quotations.   And written with a sense of humour.
And Grazioso's post above re the Ross and Steinberg books too.
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Offline Superhorn

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Re: Books on Classical Music : Recommending / Considering
« Reply #44 on: March 14, 2011, 12:42:28 PM »
   Here are three excellent recent books which I just got from my local library :

   "Listen To This",the second book by Alex Ross,and a selection of his ex\ended pieces from the New Yorker.
    Includes: discussion of Schubert's music, the late music of Brahms, Bjork and her background in classical music,and the lively classical music scene in Iceland,  why Ross loves classical music but hates the term "classical music" ,etc.
 
Maitre,by conductor John Canarina ,a biography of the great French conductor Pierre Monteux by one of his pupils,and a former assistant conductor of the New York Philharmonic under Bernstein.  Fascinating,information-packed biography of one of the greatest conductors of the 20th century, conductor of the legendary first performance of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring , and music director of orchestras such as the L.S.O. and the San Francisco symphony.

"The New York Philharmonic From Boulez To Maazel",also by John Canarina.  Takes off from the history of America's oldest orchestra from the history by the late Columbia music professor Howard Shanet,   and is also packed with fascinating information. 
 
   

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Re: Books on Classical Music : Recommending / Considering
« Reply #45 on: March 14, 2011, 01:17:35 PM »
Donald Tovey's Essays in Musical Analysis (6 vol,) are definitely worth having.  Some works get very detailed dissection, often with quotations.   And written with a sense of humour.
And Grazioso's post above re the Ross and Steinberg books too.

I have found these difficult books to own; i.e. - hard to find, expensive to buy. They are so good though. If you have a good library perhaps.  I have a book with the "leftover" essays called "The Main Stream of Music" that was not unduly expensive, I found it easily (4 years ago) and was fascinating. Tovey was a brilliant writer, IMO. If you can find this book, it is a great intro to Tovey. :)

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Offline Lethevich

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Re: Books on Classical Music : Recommending / Considering
« Reply #46 on: March 14, 2011, 01:26:28 PM »
Tovey is great writer, infectious in his enthusiasm and with an all-encompassing sense of authoritative knowledge. Some of his opinions are a bit outdated, but man he was good.

I agree, I've avoided buying a lot of his stuff due to horrible prices, or horrible quality "on demand" reprints. I hope something like Toccata Press pick them up at some point.
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eyeresist

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Re: Books on Classical Music : Recommending / Considering
« Reply #47 on: March 14, 2011, 05:06:56 PM »
Speaking of Tovey - sort of.

I haven't made a proper start on the Cambridge Companion to Conducting yet, but skimmed the notes section last night, and found Raymond Tovey (presumably son-of) getting very huffy and indignant about the story of Bernstein keeping NY morale up with a competition of limericks beginning "There was a composer named Babbitt / Who had a peculiar habit". He says Boulez's reign must have come as a relief after this tawdry atmosphere. Somehow I don't quite believe that.

I believe the winner concluded: "Each day around noon / He'd go into a swoon / Scoring piece after piece like a rabbit."
Quite benign, really. I was hoping for something much ruder.

Offline (poco) Sforzando

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Re: Books on Classical Music : Recommending / Considering
« Reply #48 on: March 14, 2011, 05:44:39 PM »
I have found these difficult books to own; i.e. - hard to find, expensive to buy.

I'm surprised to hear this. Quite a few are listed at Amazon for very little money.

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Re: Books on Classical Music : Recommending / Considering
« Reply #49 on: March 14, 2011, 05:47:43 PM »
I'm surprised to hear this. Quite a few are listed at Amazon for very little money.

Maybe now (haven't looked in quite a while) but 4 or 5 years ago when I did look, there were few actually available and they were in excess of $100 ea. I'll take your tip and check gain, as I would like to have at least a few of them. :)

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Offline listener

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Re: Books on Classical Music : Recommending / Considering
« Reply #50 on: March 14, 2011, 06:53:28 PM »
re Tovey: I have a welcome feeling of smugness (in contrast  to the lower back pain) in noting that I paid $4.25 for the paperbacks, $5.85 for  the hardcover volume.  That was when we paid $7.00 for a DGG lp (vs $5.00 for domestic labels).
There are 3 other titles: The Mainstream of Music (Meridian Paperback), The Forms of Music: Articles from the Encyclopaedia Brittanica (1943), and Essays and Lectures on Music (1949).  The last two I bought used (10.75 and $10.00) locally.
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Offline Lethevich

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Re: Books on Classical Music : Recommending / Considering
« Reply #51 on: June 20, 2011, 06:20:04 AM »
I picked up a secondhand copy of the Victor Book of Symphonies from 1934 (rev. 1948) by Charles O'Connell.

I like old books like this, as they give an insight into the tastes of the time. For instance, of Bruckner's 3-9, the book omits No.6 and 8. Of Dvorak's last five (previously numbered as 1-5) the book omits no.7. Schubert's 9th is listed as his 7th, which makes far more sense than the current state of affairs.

Despite these, the rostrum of articles is notable for its diversity. Attesting to Anglosphere tastes, all seven Sibelius symphonies are present and accounted for, Bernstein's Jeremiah is included, two by Chavez, another two by D'Indy, several other Americans are represented, as is an unnumbered Bax symphony (which I presume to be his first) in which the capsule biography mistakenly claims the composer has Irish ancestry and also provides a good insight into his mind-frame regarding his new compostions (a reluctance to allow them to be immediately performed), which is more complex than I had thought. I hadn't even heard of Harl McDonald before, who has two symphonies written about. Included too is Shostakovich's 1st and No.5-9 - the gap is telling.

Another great benefit to the age of this book is that musicologists were real cantankerous sons of bitches back then which makes it fun to read the occasional outburst such as the following:

Those who constitute the lunatic fringe of the musical world, the parasites and the camp followers of music, the little men who batten upon the largesse of the recording companies and acquire collections of records at the expense merely of the labor involved in writing ill-considered, ill-tempered, and ill-informed reviews, are inclined to regard the symphonic music of Franz Schubert rather lightly."

After re-reading the sentence several times, I still don't know what it means, which is awesome. I highly recommend the book if you can find it cheaply - it's lengthy, with a moderate amount of musical examples, but is mostly text, and interesting at that.
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Offline mjwal

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Re: Books on Classical Music : Recommending / Considering
« Reply #52 on: June 23, 2011, 03:36:29 AM »
I picked up a secondhand copy of the Victor Book of Symphonies from 1934 (rev. 1948) by Charles O'Connell.
[...]

Another great benefit to the age of this book is that musicologists were real cantankerous sons of bitches back then which makes it fun to read the occasional outburst such as the following:

Those who constitute the lunatic fringe of the musical world, the parasites and the camp followers of music, the little men who batten upon the largesse of the recording companies and acquire collections of records at the expense merely of the labor involved in writing ill-considered, ill-tempered, and ill-informed reviews, are inclined to regard the symphonic music of Franz Schubert rather lightly."

After re-reading the sentence several times, I still don't know what it means, which is awesome. I highly recommend the book if you can find it cheaply - it's lengthy, with a moderate amount of musical examples, but is mostly text, and interesting at that.

Quite a funny, perhaps deliberately tortuous way of saying that record reviewers of his time, whom he despised, undervalued Schubert's symphonies. The latter point is probably true. Schubert has been positively revalued to an enormous extent during my lifetime (b.1943), though of course the so-called "Unfinished" Symphony was fairly popular even in 1934.
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Offline Lethevich

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Re: Books on Classical Music : Recommending / Considering
« Reply #53 on: August 04, 2011, 05:32:52 AM »
.



This is very recommendable, although seems more expensive in the US than the UK. It's written from an uncommon perspective: by the son of a major violinist who himself does not make the performing of music his profession. The book has all the interesting reminiscences one might expect from someone growing up around the period - and he met many important figures either as a child accompanying his father to recitals or simply from attending concerts. The book includes printed letters of correspondence from figures such as Reger, Pfitzner, etc with his father, but is more a sketch of the author's thoughts on matters of the musical scene that his father engaged in rather than a biography of him. The overall tone is thoughtful but congenial.

What makes the book distinctive is that the writer's non-musician status means that he can make interesting observations about musicians as a whole rather than a personal view on himself alone. His section on the ways that various performers deal with stage fright was particularly interesting, as many of the performers themselves don't seem to like discussing the matter. As usual in this book, matters like this are entwined with constant accounts of the author's discussions with major musicians, anecdotes about performers of the day - Schnabel (he grew up knowing his son, who was equally annoyed when people asked him "do you play the piano?" and to constantly have to answer with "no"), Szeryng, etc. For a non-performer such as myself it was surprisingly enjoyable to read things like his thoughts on the relative merits of performing music from the score or memory - including an odd story about the Amadeus Quartet.
« Last Edit: August 04, 2011, 05:34:57 AM by Lethe Dmitriyevich Shostakovich »
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Offline Brian

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Re: Books on Classical Music : Recommending / Considering
« Reply #54 on: August 04, 2011, 05:42:01 AM »
Cross-posting from the other 'reading' thread:



(by Raymond Knapp)

A couple chapters were too technical and went right over my head, but the parts that - uh - went straight at my head? - the other parts are very good and very interesting.  :P The author does a mostly good job of hiding his admittedly rather endearing desire to do some rah-rah-gimme-a-B Brahms cheerleading. :)

Offline Lethevich

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Re: Books on Classical Music : Recommending / Considering
« Reply #55 on: May 27, 2012, 06:43:17 AM »
Just bought this in case it goes further into unavailability.

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Offline Gurn Blanston

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Re: Books on Classical Music : Recommending / Considering
« Reply #56 on: May 27, 2012, 07:33:33 AM »
In reading down this list, I see mention of Donald Francis Tovey. At the time of those posts, the only volume of his that I had (and think very highly of, BTW) was Mainstream of Music. Since then, a friend gifted me with the entire 6 volume set of Essays in Musical Analysis AND Beethoven, which I just finished. Tovey died while writing Beethoven, and in the middle of an essay on fugue, right in mid-sentence, the editor inserted an ellipsis and that was that. :(

One thing I love about Tovey, and I'm sure the reason why he achieved so highly, is that he wrote for you and I to read, not for other doctors of music. You can actually sit down and read and come away with something positive. His reviews of critics are a hoot, too. :D

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Re: Books on Classical Music : Recommending / Considering
« Reply #57 on: May 28, 2012, 04:08:16 PM »
A few books I'm considering:


















« Last Edit: May 28, 2012, 04:14:39 PM by Mirror Image »
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Re: Books on Classical Music : Recommending / Considering
« Reply #58 on: May 29, 2012, 12:01:26 AM »
That series looks interesting, John.

Others in the series:
Sibelius: Symphony No. 5
Janacek: Kát'a Kabanová
Schoenberg: Pierrot Lunaire
Berg: Lulu
Berg: Wozzeck
Stravinsky: Oedipus Rex
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Re: Books on Classical Music : Recommending / Considering
« Reply #59 on: May 29, 2012, 03:33:17 AM »
That series looks interesting, John.

Others in the series:
Sibelius: Symphony No. 5
Janacek: Kát'a Kabanová
Schoenberg: Pierrot Lunaire
Berg: Lulu
Berg: Wozzeck
Stravinsky: Oedipus Rex

It is interesting. Some titles that I have;

Haydn - The Creation
Haydn - The Paris Symphonies
Haydn - The Op 50 Quartets
Mozart - The Haydn Quartets
Beethoven - The Violin Concerto
Beethoven - The Ninth Symphony

They are very well written, a fount of information. Even if (as in my case) the chapters centering on theory are a bit over the top, that is more than compensated for by the chapters on context of the composition, reception, performance history, greater significance etc. They are not great large books, and they are on the expensive side if bought new, but IMO worth the investment.  :)

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