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The New York Times Essential Library: Classical Music: A Critic's Guide to the 100 Most Important Recordings Paperback – August 2, 2004

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The New York Times Essential Library: Classical Music: A Critic's Guide to the 100 Most Important Recordings + The NPR Guide to Building a Classical CD Collection: Second Edition, Revised and Updated + The Penguin Guide to the 1000 Finest Classical Recordings: The Must-Have CDs and DVDs
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Product Details

  • Series: New York Times Essential Library
  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Times Books; First Edition edition (August 2, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805070702
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805070705
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,100,058 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

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 notinclude opera.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

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 Olson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

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Far better to get the annual guide Deutsche Gramophone puts out.
Dhaval Shah
As such, this listener would never be interested in old monophonic recordings no matter how great a Toscanini or Furtwangler Beethoven performance could be.
Socrates Stewart
This book is definitely worthwhile reading for the classical music lover and it's a good value.
Patrick W. Crabtree

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

62 of 65 people found the following review helpful By Steve S. on December 8, 2005
Format: Paperback
I used to know a lot about classical music when I was younger, but I'd drifted into other kinds of music over the years. Now that I'm interested in getting reacquainted with the classics, I'm finding this book extremely useful and well-written. The author highlights 100 CDs he recommends and then in individual essays (each around 3-4 pages) talks about the pieces he chose, with background on the composer, the composition, and why he chose that particular recording. Often, he'll mention other excellent performances worth checking out.

As an appendix, Mr. Kozinn included a supplemental list of the next 100 recordings he'd recommend, which he says are all worthy of inclusion in the main list.

What impressed me most about the book is the overall balance of choices. First, between canonical choices and his more personal preferences--that's very appealing to me, because lots of people could throw together a list of the 100 most famous classical works, but it takes someone with real knowledge to dig deeper. Secondly, he chooses a nice range of music. Early music fans should be pleased, as well as fans of contemporary classics (like me), work by the minimalists like Adams, Glass and Reich, as well as new spiritual composers like Part, plus many I hadn't heard of before. But he also gives a lot of attention to the likes of Bach/Brahms/Beethoven/Mozart.

I found this really useful as a companion to the NPR Guide to Building a Classical CD Collection.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Sheila R on May 12, 2007
Format: Paperback
I had been wanting to expand my classical music knowledge away from those little snippets of classical favourites so favoured by the commercial classical radio stations. I first borrowed this book from the library and enjoyed it so well that I bought it. It's an excellent book to help you get started and exploring. I like the varied choices, from over so many different time periods, and the personal and detailed commentary. Yes, other books like Penguin give you everything, but you have no clue where to start. This is a great beginning.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Ross Scimeca on February 29, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book tries to cover too much. The author, who I must admit recommends recordings that I totally agree with, tries to cover both symphonic and chamber music in a single volume. Some essential music that I would have included, e.g. Beethoven Piano Concerti, are not reviewed. What is reviewed must be taken seriously by any classical music record collector. The author definitely looked at the recorded history of each selection he investigates and informs his readers of alternative recordings. This book will be great fun for lovers of classical music in general and record collectors in particular. I compliment the author for his inclusion on older records that have been beautifully remastered for CD. This is especially useful for collectors that are of younger generation, i.e., under 40.

Ross Scimeca
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16 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Socrates Stewart on May 17, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This guide is much more a "pinhead's guide" to classical music than something that defines the "essential" library. I am not a classical music expert but have built a decent collection with solid representation from Baroque, Classical, Romantic, and Modern composers also balancing symphonies and full orchestal works, concertos, sonatas, and chamber music -- NO OPERA.

I looked to this guide for an informed opinion of if someone were starting from scratch, what albums would give a listener a satisfying balanaced collection of classical music for all occasions. I hoped it would help me assess the quality of my collection so far and give me some interesting ideas of where to go next.

It failed miserably. There is way too much emphasis on obscure composers and lesser known performers. Regardless of hobby collections, there are always some obscurists and elitists, but such hobbyists hardly do justice to the quest to define "essential."

In evaluating classical music, obviously there is no absolute best performance of Beethoven's "Piano Concerto #5" for instance. There are plenty of great choices. There are some that by virtue of record company hype or the reputation of a marquee performer, conductor, or orchestra get a lot of attention despite missing the quest for excellence completely.

I'm a listener who loves piano sonatas. Haydn and Schubert have scored many. Cut to the chase. Which are the best? Who's the best pianist? Look at all those symphonies Mozart and Haydn penned. I can't buy all of them. Which ones count? I love romantic piano concertos, aside from the big names, are there some others? I found Saint Saens, for instance, very satisfying.
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