- Paperback: 3856 pages
- Publisher: Oxford University Press (July 27, 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0195386302
- ISBN-13: 978-0195386301
- Product Dimensions: 12.5 x 10.4 x 10 inches
- Shipping Weight: 17.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 12 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #915,160 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Oxford History of Western Music: 5-vol. set Paperback – July 27, 2009
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"Most of the news in classical music takes place on stage or on disc. But at the moment, one of the biggest stories (in more ways than one) is taking place on the printed page." --The New York Times
"Erudite, engaging, and suffused throughout with a mixture of brilliance and delirium...staggering, brilliant, opinionated."--Washington Post
"Readers will profit from his sharp analysis and unabashed opinions... Taruskin has succeeded in writing a stimulating overview of Western society, setting a standard that will not be surpassed for a very long time..." --Library Journal
"Taruskin's chef-d'oeuvre, however, is a feast of contrarian ideas, with enough spice to sting the palate of anyone with a stake in telling the old stories in the old way. It aims for nothing less than the revaluation of practically everything you thought you knew about classical music....Taruskin's magnum opus is a must-read, and in its way, a real page-turner of detective non-fiction. It's a cinch to become the most discussed music title of the year, if not of the decade."-- The Globe & Mail
"The book is nothing short of spectacular" - New Music Box
"There's plenty to keep you amused and enlightened - it's very good reading." - American Record Guide
"Rather than assemble an overview, Taruskin has written a critical, subjective history in which he examines the influence of key figures, works, and musical ideas against the backdrop of world affairs and cultural history."-Berkeleyan
"Musicians, students, historians, and other readers wishing a detailed narrative about the career, patronage, musical influences, reception, and creative production of western composers, as well as the development of musical styles will find this a fascinating and satisfying resource." --Reference and Research Library Book News
"An amazing achievement. For a single musicologist, even one of the stature of Taruskin, to have produced a detailed, accurate, informative and well-illustrated history is nothing short of amazing."--Classical Net Review
About the Author
Richard Taruskin is professor of musicology at the University of California, Berkeley. In addition to this work, Taruskin is also the author of such books as Music in the Western World: A History in Documents (1985), Text & Act (OUP, 1995), and Stravinsky and the Russian Traditions (1996). He is a frequent contributor to the New York Times, New Republic, and many other scholarly journals.
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But inaccuracies, especially at the core of so damning a response to a new book, must not remain unchallenged.
Let's start with Anonymous IV's insinuation that Taruskin lacks expertise in music before 1800. (According to Anonymous IV, Taruskin's "superficial" and "sketchy" first two volumes summarize "the extent of what the author knows about music before 1800"; he is "obviously... on home turf" only in the 19th and 20th centuries.)
Perhaps Anonymous IV cannot imagine a musicologist being on home turf in more than one period. But Taruskin is just such a rare being: a formidable scholar of 19th- and 20th-century Russian music, he is equally celebrated in the realm of early music. His influential book, Text and Act (1995), contains numerous essays on pre-19th-century music. And even the brief author's biography on the back cover of that book informs us that Taruskin has published "numerous editions of Renaissance music, including a complete edition with commentary of the sacred music of [the 15th-century composer] Antoine Busnoys," and that while teaching at Columbia University, Taruskin had a distinguished performing career in early music. (Among other activities, he conducted the Cappella Nova, a New York-based choir specializing in medieval and Renaissance music; as a viola da gambist he recorded and toured with the Aulos ensemble.)
Anonymous IV's whining that Taruskin "rushes through more than 1000 years of music history" is no less mystifying. Hello! Taruskin devotes 1,612 pages to the first 1000 years of notated music in the Western world - rather more than the 843 pages in which Grout/Palisca, to which Anonymous IV repeatedly compares Taruskin, covers the entire history of Western music.
But most importantly: if Anonymous IV has indeed read Taruskin's History of Western Music, he/she will have found, in its opening paragraphs, (pp. xxi and xxii), a clear statement of the book's aim. It is not, Taruskin explains, a survey à la Grout. Rather, it is "an attempt at a true history" - that is, an attempt "to explain why and how things happened as they did" - in short, not the usual laundry list that has too often passed for music history. To compare Taruskin to Grout on this count is rather like faulting a cognac for not being a beer.
Taruskin fulfills his stated aim exhilaratingly. His book is a towering achievement of scholarship and intellect; a challenge to complacency; a joy to read.
As to the accusation that Oxford's production of Taruskin's book is shoddy: well, I do not know what Anonymous IV has been doing with his/her copy. I have been reading mine, for some weeks now, and have had no problem whatsoever with its binding.
It's also a delight to read; charmingly written and clearly argued. If you love music and love thinking about music, you should have this on your shelf.
I always find bad reviews more helpful than good ones, so instead of gushing over how good these books are, let me give you some other points that might help you decide if you want to fork over the cash.
- These are not traditional textbooks in the way of Grout or Stolba. There are no diagrams, pictures, timelines, margin notes, et al. What the book does have is text, and lots of it, and many, many musical examples.
- The books seem to be written in the manner of a lecture: there is lots of talking and musical examples, just as you would get if you sat down in one of Taruskin's classes. Also, the chapters are all nearly the same length regardless of subject matter, which is another reason why I think they are similar to the experience of sitting in one of Taruskin's lectures.
- Taruskin's style can be kind of like this: "Sit down and I'll tell you a story." As a result, you won't find a chapter called "Mendelssohn" and another called "Webern". He weaves in and out of these composers as he likes, so besides the general index, you may find it time-consuming to find a specific topic in the set if you are doing research.
- There are no indices in the individual volumes; only the last book has the indices.
On the whole though, an awesome set of books, and the price is definitely worth it.