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The Encyclopedia of Music Paperback – January 16, 2010
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About the Author
Max Wade-Matthews attended the RAF School of Music at Uxbridge and served in brass bands in England, Germany and Hong Kong. He has written several books, including Musical Leicester, a history of musical life in that city, as well as playing with brass bands, conducting and teaching. Wendy Thompson was Editorial Director at Faber Music Limited from 1986-91. In 1993 she founded Classic Arts Productions Limited, an independent radio production company that provides distinguished music programmes for BBC Radio 3.
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I regret not spending a few minutes with the book before I bought it. A few quiet moments, chai tea latte in hand, at an out-of-the-way table in the cafe would have saved me very much disappointment. When I got the book home, I fanned through the pages to find exquisite graphics: pictures, portraits, set design sketches, musical scores, and photographs all to illustrate the concepts of the text.
However, as I examined the text itself, I discovered a few upsetting items. First, although Herbert van Karajan is given a 'meaty' 120+ word paragraph under conductors, he is not in fact, mentioned in the index. I have yet to find mention of Jascha Heifetz in the book, much less the index, but Fritz Kreisler does manage a spot in the Encyclopedia. (Although I understand that the book's subtitle is "Instruments of the Orchestra and the Great Composers", mention of the later without the former makes me question the balance and integrity of the editor.) On that same note, although published in 2003 and then in 2005, John Corigliano escapes any mention in the text at all under modern composers. This mystifies me, really.
I've found one substantial typo so far: the Italian artist and set designer, Simon Qualigo, is subject to a misspelling of his last name when a "D" is inserted into the middle, making additional research on the talented figure nearly impossible until you realize the mistake.
Finally, the delineation between the classical music eras is strangely smudged a bit in the first section when the Medieval and Renaissance time frames are blended into one "chapter" under the subject heading "The Middle Ages to the Renaissance" but each of the following classical music eras are given their own "chapter". (Also, the composer Telemann is given less than 60 biographical words under the section "Other Composers of the Era" while Corelli and Purcell are given full 2-page spreads in the "Baroque Era" "chapter.")
This book might be a good superficial introduction to classical music and the history of classical composition for a young student. I've used it, and will continue to use it, in "emergencies" when general knowledge is needed quickly.
I will admit my ignorance in the world of musical instruments, however, and state I can not review that portion of the book.
The physical presentation, overally, is a treat for the eyes, which is why a youngster may very well take to these 512 pages quickly and easily.
I like music but don’t consider myself to be very musical. I did a double lesson of music appreciation every Wednesday morning when I was in the Sixth Form in order to avoid games lessons and this book has continued my musical education.
The book starts off with the history of music-making, ancient civilisations and their music, different ways of producing sound – strings, bows, reeds, valves etc. Baroque, classical, romantic, modern etc. are explained. Brass and military bands, jazz rock and pop, famous conductors and orchestras are all featured.
We are introduced to the composers who wrote mainly for the church, such as Palestrina, Victoria, Lassus and Gesualdo. Also the early ones like Duffay and Guillame with their parody masses such as L’homme armee.
Schumann broke of an engagement when he found that the girl was illegitimate only to get engaged to a mere 15-year-old.I didn’t know that Gershwin died at the age of 39 from a brain tumour.
It gets a bit repetitive towards the end when it squeezes modern composers in.