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Shostakovich Symphonies and Concertos - An Owner's Manual: Unlocking the Masters Series Paperback – May 1, 2006

4.6 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Frequently Bought Together

  • Shostakovich Symphonies and Concertos - An Owner's Manual: Unlocking the Masters Series
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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

David Hurwitz is founder and executive editor of ClassicsToday.com, the Internet's first and only daily classical music magazine, and founder and chairman of the Cannes Classical Awards. He is author of the Dvorak, Haydn, Mahler, and Mozart, titles in the Unlocking the Master series.
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Product Details

  • Series: Unlocking the Masters (Book 9)
  • Paperback: 232 pages
  • Publisher: Amadeus Press; PAP/COM edition (May 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1574671316
  • ISBN-13: 978-1574671315
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #744,888 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
David Hurwitz, founder and editor of respected daily classical music magazine Classicstoday.com, presents Shostakovich Symphonies And Concertos: An Owner's Manual, an in-depth discussion of Shostakovich's grand musical creations. Offering much more than a technical analysis, Shostakovich Symphonies And Concertos also discusses at length what the music sounds like and how it works expressively. Featuring scrutiny of fifteen symphonies and six concertos in chronological order, Shostakovich Symphonies And Concertos provides a marvelous guided tour of the unfolding melodies as well as an overview of how Shostakovich's works fit into Western classical musical tradition. An accompanying full-length music CD contains a performance of Shostakovich's Fifth Symphony, which accurately showcases his style. Especially recommended for music students and classical music lovers everywhere.
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Format: Paperback
I believe that as his work becomes better-known, Shostakovich will be universally regarded as the composer who in the post World War I era of the 20th century has contibuted than any other to the expansion of the standard classical music repertory. Hurwitz'z book is an excellent, jargon-free introduction to his 15 symphonies and 6 concertos. Written with the general reader, it has interesting insights on virtually all the works covered, even on those few symphonies, such as the 12th, which are usually dismissed as substandard hackwork. He is well aware of the already massive Shostakovich literature, including the controversial "Testimony" by Solomon Volkov, but he is not afraid to form his own opinions which may or may not be contrary to received knowledge. Heartily recommended to all classical music lovers.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Boy, do I ever hate being the ant at the picnic. But somebody has to say something. This is both useful and of little use simultaneously. That is, it is a well-written, conversational excursion through the repertoire that will be illuminating to many music-lovers. But at the same time it will teach them almost nothing.

Here is the problem: this book, like so many books on music written recently, takes the position that it would be the kiss of death to actually include a single musical example. To which many might say, yahoo! But if you resolutely avoid any use of musical notation, or even musical terms, in talking about music in a detailed fashion, then you find yourself having to say things like "and now the bippity-boop theme returns, this time on the flute." And I'm only slightly exaggerating. Imagine several pages about a work that uses a characteristic rhythm throughout in which the only way the author can refer to this rhythm is as 'The Rhythm'. Imagine if we have two themes and instead of describing one as being repeated eighth notes on D and the other as being rising fourths he has to refer to them as "the droney theme" and "the leapy theme". (These names are made up.) This is to reduce discussion of music to baby talk. And when the subject is large symphonic works, that seems particularly incongruous.

But I suspect that the author is not as much to blame as might be thought. He is after all, not starting a trend, but merely extending it. Apparently no-one, not even music-lovers, actually learns to read music any more. And also, apparently, if you want to actually, y'know, sell your book on music it must not contain any actual music.

But it's still baby-talk.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I bought this book as a "read-along" to better understand the forms of the various movements in Shostakovich's symphonies and concertos. I'm only part way through it, but will offer this anyway.

Basically, it works. Hurwitz is always clear and detailed and is a good writer. His explanations of how things are put together, if read along with listening, pretty well "stick" the first time. I expect that this will bring about a long-term increase in my enjoyment of the music.

It's sad that there are no musical examples, but I expect their inclusion would have increased the production cost (and the price) of this book to an unhappy extent. Fortunately I'm having no problem at all following his verbal descriptions, especially as they're accompanied by notes on the orchestration and so forth. As a bonus, of course, the book can be just as useful to people who don't read music at all.

In short, the book is exactly what I hoped it would be. Yes, musical examples would have been nice, but likely impossible at this price point. More on the music's background, reception, and so forth would have been nice too -- but it's an "owner's manual" after all (think cars). So, if you consider "value" as a rating attribute, and you understand that the book is limited to a specific purpose, then it fully deserves five stars.
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Format: Paperback
This book offers analysis. It is an overview like a strategic war map of Europe during World War II. Some of the details will get lost as Mr. Hurwitz tries to describe in the most basic of terms what the music of Shostakovich's Symphonies and Concertos are to the musical novice. To be honest you have to have gotten at least a "C" in classical music appreciation and a class in Sonata Form would help. Fortunately I have had both and so I can make sense of Mr. Hurwitz writes.

One critic of this book feels that he is being talked down to. Well I feel just the opposite in grasping the ideas laid out in this book. All fifteen symphonies of Shostakovich and all six of his concertos are laid out for examination. Mr. Hurwitz comes to conclusion in this book for instance that the Shostakovich 4th symphony first movement which was thought to be nonsense just decades ago is an inverted Sonata Form movement. He also concludes in the book and I guess I am spoiling it by saying that in all twenty-one works Shostakovich never used the same patterns of music twice! Indeed this book makes you admire Shostakovich all the more if you don't already know him.

I should warn you that the book alone will not teach you about Shostakovich's music. But if you have his music and read what Hurwitz has written it makes a lot of sense especially to the novice or those with little education in music. This book might seem redundant to you if you already know Shostakovich's music and can analyze it for yourself. Personally it has clarified what I already have known and made me appreciate Shostakovich even more.

If you are collecting books about Shostakovich I would consider this one to be the third behind a good biography and the Hulme Catalog of his works.
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