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The Vintage Guide to Classical Music: An Indispensable Guide for Understanding and Enjoying Classical Music Paperback – December 15, 1992
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The most readable and comprehensive guide to enjoying over five hundred years of classical music -- from Gregorian chants, Johann Sebastian Bach, and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart to Johannes Brahms, Igor Stravinsky, John Cage, and beyond.
The Vintage Guide to Classical Music is a lively -- and opinionated -- musical history and an insider's key to the personalities, epochs, and genres of the Western classical tradition. Among its features:
-- chronologically arranged essays on nearly 100 composers, from Guillaume de Machaut (ca. 1300-1377) to Aaron Copland (1900-1990), that combine biography with detailed analyses of the major works while assessing their role in the social, cultural, and political climate of their times;
-- informative sidebars that clarify broader topics such as melody, polyphony, atonality, and the impact of the early-music movement;
-- a glossary of musical terms, from a cappella to woodwinds;
-- a step-by-step guide to building a great classical music library.
Written with wit and a clarity that both musical experts and beginners can appreciate, The Vintage Guide to Classical Music is an invaluable source-book for music lovers everywhere.
About the Author
Composer and writer Jan Swafford received degrees from Harvard and the Yale School of Music; his work has been played throughout the United States and abroad. Among his awards are an NEA Composers Grant, a Tanglewood Fellowship and a Mellon Faculty Fellowship at Harvard.
Top customer reviews
The author has his strong opinions, but what the heck, so do I. I am never going to become a fan of atonal music -- in my opinion, the quickest & surest way of emptying a concert hall. But it was a bit disturbing to learn that Richard Strauss was "a pig" and that Bruckner was a "nincompoop" -- not that these facts affect their music in the slightest.
Two coincidences strengthened my opinion of this book. I had recently discovered Beethoven's Piano Concerto #4 on YouTube (Bernstein / Zimerman) and it blew me away. Swafford agrees that the Fourth is Beethoven's best piano concerto.
The second coincidence was Theodore Dalrymple's very enthusiastic mention of the Haydn String Quartets. I began listening to some of them on YouTube and realized that there was a complete universe of beautiful music I had never noticed before. Swafford has basically the same opinion, that classical music has nothing to compare with the Haydn Quartets.
There is a world of excellent information in this book, & I recommend it highly.
The little essays on technical subjects are clear but it's the historical overview that has been really helpful to me. I've got books on most of my favourites but it's nice to have my understanding of their works reinforced and, often, expanded. I also enjoyed seeing just where other composers like Monteverdi and Domenico Scarlatti fitted into musical history and which of their works are the most rewarding - the CDs are winging their way to me. I will have lots more new information to digest as the book heads into the twentieth century and I look forward to developing new tastes, because Jan Swafford is a writer who is not ashamed to share his enthusiasms.