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The Great Composers: The Lives and Music of the Great Classical Composers Paperback – January 1, 2009

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Quercus (January 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1906719071
  • ISBN-13: 978-1906719074
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,319,889 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"Entertaining and colorful."  —Library Journal

About the Author

Jeremy Nicholas is the author of several books on classical music, including Chopin, The Classic FM Good Music Guide, and The Classic FM Guide to Classical Music.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Thomas M. Loarie TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 23, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Classical music was part of my family's DNA. My mother played classical music on the piano and required each of her six children to get some musical training. For me, it was classical piano and I must say, I did not readily take to it, quitting at the first opportunity I had - football.

My dad, however, listened to classical music LPs each night when he returned from work and, I believe, this is where my love of classical music was rooted. I turned to active listening of classical music at age 38 and have never looked back. I have a library of books (hard copy and audio) on classical music, conductors, and composers; a vast collection of classical CDs; and have been a subscriber to the San Francisco Symphony for more than 20 years.

I stumbled on Jeremy Nicholas' "The Great Composers" while in a nearby Borders book store within the past month. It appeared to be a great value at $9.99...sorry, Quercus and Mr. Nicholas! I bought the book and began reading it immediately. What a great book! While a steal at $9.99, it would be a great purchase at its cover price.

In the "Great Composers," the author provides profiles ranging from 1-3 pages of the top 50 classical composers. While concise, the profiles capture the uniqueness of these extraordinary geniuses. This will make an excellent resource for moderately sophisticated classical music lovers, like me.

The author admits that creating a list of greats followed weeks of indecision while one choice was weighed against another. In the end many great composers gave way to other great composers. While Nicholas admits this may lead to contention, most readers will find this a most worthy list and will be satisfied with their purchase.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Dmitri on October 11, 2014
Format: Hardcover
This is a book that presents arguably the 50 greatest composers in the history of classical music. Every composer from Palestrina to Britten is covered. At the beginning of each composer section is a full page illustration or photo of the composer in question. Then a very quick biography of the composer is presented. Also included are basic works by which to get to know the composer in a sidebar.

I was especially interested in these sidebars which represent the works of each composer. In some sense they are a bit crude. For instance for Shostakovich he choses a few select symphonies the 1st, 5th, 7th, 10th, and 15th, but then he just says all fifteen of his string quartets are notable. For Mozart too the 40th and 41st symphonies are notable and only the 24th piano concerto which is strange because I think of the 20th as more popular and basic to understanding of Mozart. For Beethoven all of his piano concertos, piano sonatas, and symphonies are notable, but only the "Razumovsky" and the late string quartets are notable. It seems kind of arbitrary and not thought out as much as I would like it to be.

The biographies are very short and they have to be for the sake of space. They tell the basics for each composer. For Shostakovich again I was surprised that he says that at first he is considered the greatest composer to come out of the USSR. Then he says that some regard him as the greatest composer of the 20th century, but then he concludes the opening statements with critics like Boulez. I guess Shostakovich is still being evaluated at this time in the early 21st century and to offer balance he does not laud praise without the opposing point of view too.

If nothing else the book is good for editing down the list of great composers through time.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Francesca on May 14, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is a pleasure to read. I read whilie listening to my iPod sample of the greatest works of these composers. I'm enjoying the process of using this book to help educate me on the great composers, where they came from, what made their musical style or works so unique/special. This book is just what I wanted to scratch the surface of each composer. Then by adding a sample of a song after reading each bio I can connect the dots a bit and begin to understand and associate the style with its composer. It has been a delightful process!

Recommendations to publisher:
1- a digital e-book would have been great in addition to this printed copy
2 - consider making this book an interactive one... by adding audio or video samples to each chapter to share samples of the composers work today

Thanks to the writer of the book - these kinds of books are so needed out there and presented in format that covers te basics for people like me who want to learn in an efficient format. This will help me read more in-depth biographies too!
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