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This giant, 5 lb, small-print guide is not exactly a book you nestle down with in your reading chair. Let the buyer beware: if you are a person who cannot or does not like to read really, really FINE PRINT, then this guide is probably not for you. It has by far the tiniest print I have seen in a book - even smaller than the "Third Ear Guide to Classical Music" if you are familiar with that one.
In my first look at this monster-of-a-guide, I could not get beyond this tiny print and the overly-plain visual layout. But, with another long look, the value of this unique guide started to stand out clearly. There is a reason for such tiny print - to cram in an unbelievably vast amount of information in one volume. The All Music Guide is enormously ambitious in what is contains: o BIOGRAPHIES of over 500 composers AND 800 performers (unprecidented in one volume) o Fairly detailed PROGRAM NOTES for an impressively large number of works (not just the major ones) o Listings of 2-6 RECOMMENDED RECORDINGS for each work (but no comparison or explanations of the choices like Penguin) o ESSAYS on the major musical periods and forms (difficult to read these longer sections with the tiny font size!)
The amount and level of detail of the program notes is impressive - giving musical history, perspective and minor analysis for not only a given category of work (say, Mozart's 27 piano concertos) but also most or all of the individual works! These essays are not unlike those found in a CD liner notes. So, with this guide, you can look up the background and musical insights of Mozart's concerto #20 as well as see what recordings/astists are recommended for that one concerto. The only other guide that does this is Penguin Guide.Read more ›
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Published in 2005, the All Music Guide to Classical Music (AMG) is a handy home version of some features from its webpage. As a published guide, is more a direct competitor to the The Rough Guide to Classical Music and does not directly compete with buying recommendation guides like The Penguin Guide to Recorded Classical Music and Classical Music: Third Ear. Like Third Ear, the AMG assigns composer coverage to a single individual -- usually more than one writer works on different sections of a composer's output; sometimes a different writer covers each symphony or concerto of a composer -- giving readers what amounts to an individual, not group, recommendation. This is one of the principal shortcomings of Third Ear, which operates the same way.
Among its best points, this is a comprehensive guide to composers and performers, perhaps more so for the latter than the former, giving both new and experienced collectors a tad of information on their favorite orchestras, ensembles, conductors and performers. I learned in this guide violinsit Joshua Bell was born in 1967, making him older than I suspected and two decades older than he appears on the cover of his new Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto. I'd never read his birthdate in any of his recordings or in the music dictionaries I own. I tried to find violinist Janene Jansen's age; she isn't represented in the book.Read more ›
This is a work of vast knowledge which encompasses not only biographies of composers and artists, but analysis of well known and obscure compositions. And although there are CD buying recommendations, this is not really the choice for that. If that is your preference then The 2008 Penguin Guide to Recorded Classical Music is a much better choice. This book is much more for enlightment than browsing.
Beware,though, of the fine print. If your vision is not the best you might want to buy a magnifying glass before purchasing this enormous wealth of information.
One could buy multiple volumes of other material before approaching what is found between the covers of this massive work. And you can't beat the price for what you'll get. Do yourself a favor and buy this book.
If you possessed limited knowledge of classical music before, after you purchase this book that will all change. And deepen your enjoyment of the greatest music ever written.
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The previous reviewer made it seem as though the only disadvantages to this book were the small print and the dry writing style--those are minor flaws. The main disadvantage to the AMG is that it is a very, very poor buying guide. There is no discussion of the many CDs that are usually available for a particular piece with an analysis of the orchestras, conductors and soloists. There is simply a write-up about the particular composition followed by typically 2-4 recommendations. There is no mention in the write-up about orchestra, conductors, musicians or anything else relevant to helping one choose one particular recording over another. The write-up is not tied to their recommendations--they're totally independent! I gave the AMG 2 stars because it is marketed as a shopping guide, which it is not. If it were marketed as an encyclopedia of musical data it would earn 4 stars.
By contrast, The Third Ear discusses enough about the music to give you some sense of it and a broad and sometimes comprehensive discussion of the various performances of the piece. It often traces the earliest recordings of the piece and tells you whether or not they are available on CD. For Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade, for example, The Third Ear cites over 30 different recordings with key aspects about each performance along with the recording label and catalog number. The Third Ear gives you lots of data with which to make a shopping decision or, at least, to narrow down your search. I found it useful to know that it is the opinion of some musicologists that Stokowski's various pre-stereo versions of Scheherazade are considered by some to be definitive and which labels they are available on.Read more ›