From Publishers Weekly
It's always a tricky task to pick a list with as sweeping a title as this, but Kozinn, a music critic for the New York Times,
has done a sterling job. Not only does he write concisely and informatively about the works in hand, offering an excellent potted history of the composer and his composition, but Kozinn also sets forth sound reasons why he has chosen the recording he has—and in most cases he offers recommended alternatives, too. His list contains most of the expected big guns in classical masterpieces, but with an unusually extended list of contemporary works as well—25% of the pieces he cites were written in the 20th century: Britten and Glass and Reich, of course, but also such lesser-known figures as Milton Babbitt and Gregorio Paniagua. In performance, he has soft spots for the work of Leonard Bernstein and George Szell, but also for Pierre Boulez as a conductor, and is a great admirer of Columbia's composer-as-conductor series featuring Stravinsky and Copland. Best of all—and to keep the arguments flowing—he offers at the end a list of another 100 discs almost as essential—and hints at many more. It's a treasure trove for record collectors—though they should be aware that Kozinn's choices do not
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In introducing this volume of the New York Times Essential Library
, Kozinn notes the quixotic nature of choosing the top 100 classical music recordings. Unlike jazz or rock, classical music is an interpretive and re-creational art. There is only one Kind of Blue
; other recordings of its exact program don't diminish its definitiveness, for jazz is essentially individualistic and improvisatory. But, to cite Kozinn's example, the "definitive" recording of Bach's sonatas and partitas for solo violin can be Nathan Milstein's for the 1970s, Gidon Kremer's for the '80s, and Christian Tetzlaff's now; and none ever displaces the others. Kozinn's strategy for dealing with the fact that very different interpretations of the same music are equally "valid" is to opt generally for more recent recordings and to note often, within the context of appraising the pieces at hand and their composers, other fine versions of particular scores. Historically, Kozinn's selections span from the twelfth-century sacred songs of Hildegard of Bingen to masterpieces by a dozen living composers. An excellent book of its kind. Ray OlsonCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved