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review 2019-11-24 07:48
Know It All: Classical Music
Know It All Classical Music - Joanne Cormac

Know it all Classical Music brings you 50 topics, from different eras of Western classical music in about 30 seconds each. The nice thing about it is that you get to learn a lot of different things in a short amount of time. Of course, the extent of information that can be learned in this style is rather limited. So I would see this, and other works in the series, more like an introduction to the topic. I got some nice little facts from this collection, and also thought the layout was nicely done.

Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

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review 2019-01-03 00:37
Year of Wonder... or rather Verily a New Project...
YEAR OF WONDER: Classical Music for Every Day - Clemency Burton-Hill

As we (Emily over at KnightofAngels and myself) finished our buddy read of the complete Sherlock Holmes canon just before Christmas, we were looking for a new project and we found Clemency Burton-Hill's Year of Wonder: Classical Music for Every Day


I love music and I'm excited about this.


However, there is no chance that we will be able to listen to a piece (and most of Burton-Hill's selections are short) every day and discuss it. So, we are planning to listen to three pieces each week. 


Let's see how it goes.


From what I can tell from the very first piece in the book, there is no way I am only going to listen to the piece (specific movement etc.) selected by the author - I'll follow that rabbit hole and listen to the whole work for quite a few of the selections because, while Burton-Hill's goal is to introduce classical music to new listeners, I'm already a convert, even tho my listening habit has been rather casual and without any rhyme or method of investigating further into the pieces. 

Nevertheless, Bach's Mass in B minor (the authors first selection is "Sanctus" from this work) is impressive. I'm also a bit of a Bach fan... (I may skip any Wagner that the author may have selected, tho.)


Also, I have no intention to comment on every piece or on our listening progress every week, but I believe there will be a new post on KnightofAngels.com every Friday. 


A few words about the book, Burton-Hill does give a brief introduction to the pieces and composers she selected but the introduction is casual and very brief. It really is all about the music and getting people to listen to a wide variety of classical music. 

From what I can tell, she also hasn't picked the most famous pieces of the works she's included, which I think is rather lovely and makes her selections a bit different from the various "Best of" album compilations.

There are 366 recommendations in total in this book, literally one for every day, ranging from pieces by the medieval Hildegard von Bingen to contemporary classical music. 


In the author's own words: 

"So, know this: what lies ahead is not some white girl with a posh name telling you that you ‘should’ listen to classical music every day in order to somehow become a better, smarter or more classy person. I have no interest in making you feel ashamed because you have never heard of some of these composers or their music – why on earth should you have done? Nor am I trying to stealthily replace your Real Housewives or Love Island habit, or whatever else you might be into, with this stuff. You do you: there is no reason why classical music can’t happily coexist in a mixed cultural diet.

What I am determined to do, though, is to extend a hand to those who feel that the world of classical music is a party to which they haven’t been invited. I want to open up this vast treasury of musical riches by suggesting a single piece to listen to every day of the year: by giving it some context, telling some stories about the people behind it, and reminding you that it was created by a real person – probably someone who shared many of the same concerns as you, who wished to express themselves and happened to do so through this particular sequence of musical notes. It’s really important to remember that music does not exist in a vacuum: it requires listeners, audiences, witnesses in order to come alive; to be heard, to be felt. And that’s you!"

I do like that premise. Does it justify buying the book, tho?

It is too early to tell, but given that the introductions and background to the pieces are very short, I would say no...because it is essentially a list of music, which the reader needs to source him/herself (no links to recordings etc.). Thank goodness for YouTube!


However, I love the concept of the book and I think it would make for a great challenge for some people and provide a decent companion and guide to the context of the pieces. 


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review 2018-03-05 14:34
My ninety-fourth podcast is up!
The Career of an Eighteenth-Century Kapellmeister: The Life and Music of Antonio Rosetti - Sterling E. Murray

Podcast #94 is up on the New Books Network website! In it, I interview Sterling Murray about his biography of the classical composer Antonio Rosetti (which I reviewed here). Enjoy!

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review 2018-03-04 18:10
The world of the classical composer
The Career of an Eighteenth-Century Kapellmeister: The Life and Music of Antonio Rosetti - Sterling E. Murray

Antonio Rosetti may not be the household name today that his contemporary Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is, but he nonetheless ranks as one of the more popular composers of the classical era. Born in Bohemia, at a young age he found employment as a musician at the court of the south German prince of Oettingen-Wallerstein. There he wrote a steady stream of compositions which soon gained him renown, while a five-month trip to Paris in 1781-2 both boosted his profile further and introduced him to musical ideas that he adopted to produce even finer works. After rising to the position of Kapellmeister, he moved north to the court of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, where he continued composing until his premature death in 1792.

Though Rosetti left an impressive body of work relatively little is known about his life. For much of what is known we have Sterling Murray to thank for decades of labor in archives throughout Europe. He has written an exemplary biography of the man, one that fills in many of the gaps by reconstructing life at the Oettingen-Wallerstein court. As a result, he gives readers what is not just the best account of Rosetti's life we are likely to have but a look at the experience of the 18th century musician, one that Murray follows with a comprehensive style study of his compositions in various forms, from symphonies to vocal works. It is an impressive achievement, one that should be read not just by students of Rosetti but anyone interested in early modern European music history or the world of the 18th century European court.

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review 2016-07-23 09:21
Stephen Fry's Incomplete & Utter History of Classical Music
Stephen Fry's Incomplete & Utter History of Classical Music - Tim Lihoreau,Stephen Fry

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.


But I'm totally using this for my A Hard Book square in the Summer Book Bingo.  And I'm dragging MT to the Melbourne Symphony's performance of Beethoven's Fifth next weekend.  That'll teach him to help me translate the cockney.  ;-)

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