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Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians Hardcover – December 1, 1991


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Product Details

  • Series: Bakers Biographical Dictionary of Musicians
  • Hardcover: 2115 pages
  • Publisher: Schirmer Books; 8th edition (December 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0028724151
  • ISBN-13: 978-0028724157
  • Product Dimensions: 10.1 x 8.1 x 2.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #206,349 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The splendid Biographical Dictionary of Musicians was begun in 1900 by Theodore Baker. Nicolas Slonimsky undertook the fifth through eighth editions, infusing them with inimitable, irrepressible Slonimsky style. This edition contains more than 3.5 million words, all of them delightful, all penned by Slonimsky, making it one of the world's known treasures. From Aaltonen, Erkki (Finnish composer, born 1910) to Zylis-Gara, Teresa (Polish soprano, born 1935), the work exudes factual accuracy, critical (and opinionated) insights, fine humor, and a human touch. Though associated with classical music, Slonimsky has always embraced the new, and in this edition, hundreds of popular musicians (jazz, rock, blues, and more) join the traditional ranks.

From Library Journal

Baker's continues to be the most complete and reliable source of biographical information on musical subjects since its first appearance in 1900. The latest, an update of the 1984 edition (Schirmer: Macmillan. 7th ed.), broadens the area of coverage to include many pop stars as well as the most recently notable classical performers, composers, historians, etc. It is not difficult to locate the entries added since Slonimsky took charge; he is free with descriptive adjectives such as "brilliant" (for Seiji Ozawa), and "fantastically popular and audacious" (for Madonna). Just as interesting are the prefaces to this and the sixth edition ( LJ 3/1/79), written in Slonimsky's quirky, gossipy style. An indispensable tool for serious music collections.
- Timothy J. McGee, Univ. of Toronto
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By G. Steven Krogh on October 28, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I do not believe I can say enough to extol the virtue of this book. I am finishing my Music Composition degree and Baker's has been an indespensible tool for my research. Concise and informative, this book even includes the opinions of the musical scholars. To say that this is just a dictionary would be like saying that the sun is dull.
Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians could be used like a "Who's Who" if the musical world. While the Harvard Dictionary of Music is the reigning authority, written differently from Bakers, which is easier to follow.
Specifically, I wanted information on J.S. Bach. Baker's has a particularly well-detailed, extensive section on Bach: everything I needed.
I strongly recommend this book for anyone who wants to understand the finer facts of music history.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 30, 1999
Format: Hardcover
While I don't actually own this book, I have used it a great deal for a college music class. The definitions are helpful, well-written, and present helpful, relevant information in a concise form. The biographies are good for a quick reference, but they also lead to further, more complex research questions.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By FrKurt Messick HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on October 1, 2005
Format: Hardcover
My first copy of this book was the 1958 version, the fifth edition of this text, which represented a major increase in the text (from fourth to fifth, there were some 2300 additional biographies, which can give one a sense of the scope of this text even then). It is now an impressive tome that covers not only the 'classical' world but also the pop, rock, jazz, country and other more modern areas of music to a significant degree.

The research methodology for this book has continued to be developed over time. The first edition, in 1900, relied extensively on musician biographies and autobiographies, but this has since been supplemented a great deal with outside research, musicologist and historian contributions, and innovative methods by Nicolas Slonimsky (for example, Slonimsky contacted the Palais de Justice in Paris to verify the dates of Wagner's imprisonment for debt, something Wagner omitted from his official life story; he contacted the Vienna Bureau of Meteorology for a weather report on the day Beethoven died to confirm the story of the thunderstorm).

This is a dictionary of musicians, but it includes many other peope connected to music - Slonimsky suggested once that the title should be 'Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians, Librettists, Publishers, Impresarios, and Sundry Other Men, Women, and Children Who Have to Do with Music.' The entries go back to the Middle Ages and Renaissance, but as Slonimsky states, the biographical details of music figures from those periods is rather scant, even if their importance was major.
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Format: Hardcover
This book is really indispensable for anyone who cares deeply about classical music. It is a fabulous reference for almost all the composers you can think of and many you have never heard of, many historically important performers, musicologists, theorists, and lots of other great information. Since it is a single volume handy reference the articles tend to be concise and very informative. You learn not only biographical information, but important works in that person's life (whether composing or performing them).

There are several specialized versions of Baker's this or that. For example, there is one for twentieth century musicians and another for popular music. However, this is the bedrock main version.

While this volume is presently out of print, it can be had on the used market relatively affordably. A ninth edition is planned for 2007, or so I hear. However, it is going to be something like $300! Of course it is worth it, because of the wealth of information, but you can get this version for about a quarter of that price or less.

This is a book that is simply fun to flip around in and read things you never even suspected to exist. Make sure and read Slonimsky's article on himself. It is a hoot.
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Format: Hardcover
As a programmer and broadcaster on the former commercial classical music radio station, KFAC, Los Angeles, between 1973 through 1986, I was obsessed with serious music. I met Nicolas Slonimsky in 1979, when I interviewed him at his home on Wilshire Blvd. He was a friend of our music director, W. Clyde Allen, Ph.D. Gradually I got to know him and studied his background. In 1986, he became a frequent guest on my Saturday afternoon broadcast.

This book is an unparalleled reference work filled with informative articles about the greatest composers, performers and musicologists throughout history. In addition to the important data regarding each, they are written, where appropriate, with great warmth and humor. (Cf. Elvis Presley and Tom Jones.) Slonimsky's attention to correct details is phenomenal. (He was one of the first to verify that the day of Mozart's funeral was NOT a dreary stormy day--but was bright and sunny.) By all means, read the various prefaces. Those are as entertaining as the rest of the book.

One thing you will find is that this Baker's is like salted peanuts, or Lay's potato chips. It is a book you will turn to again and again, merely for the joy of it!
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