Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Two Books for Aspiring Classical Music Lovers

I have always enjoyed classical music. However, it wasn't until about 10 years ago that I started to get seriously into the genre. I started to accumulate more classical CDs and made an effort to learn more about music history.

Two books were of particular help to me. Both contain the letters "NPR" in their titles.

The first was The NPR Curious Listener's Guide to Classical Music by Tim Smith. This was the first book about classical music I ever bought, and it remains one of my favorites. It's a great introduction, covering the history of classical music, descriptions of various subgenres, explanations of musical terms, and biographies of famous composers and musicians. Of particular use to classical newbies is the list of recommended recordings to help the novice build his or her own musical library. While I don't agree with Smith's recommendations across the board, in general his choices are very good.

If you want to go beyond the basics and start really expanding your classical collection, you couldn't do better than The NPR Guide to Building a Classical CD Collection: The 350 Essential Works by Ted Libbey. The book is divided into several categories: orchestral works, concertos, chamber pieces, keyboard works, sacred works, and operas. (FYI: The opera section is pretty skimpy. Really, opera probably needs its own book.) Libbey has an entertaining and witty writing style, and there are lots of amusing asides. As with Smith, I don't agree with all of Libbey's recommendations, but I agree with him far more often than not. You would not go wrong following his advice.

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