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The NPR Curious Listener's Guide to Classical Music

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For the beginner or the devotee--it's everything the classical music buff needs to know. The major composers from Bach and Bartok to Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky Significant performers from Maurice Andre and Leornard Bernstein to Georg Solti and Yo Yo Ma The landmark works from Appalachian Spring to Don Juan A concise history of classical music A deconstruction of the art form T For the beginner or the devotee--it's everything the classical music buff needs to know. The major composers from Bach and Bartok to Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky Significant performers from Maurice Andre and Leornard Bernstein to Georg Solti and Yo Yo Ma The landmark works from Appalachian Spring to Don Juan A concise history of classical music A deconstruction of the art form The language of classical music Valuable resources for the Curious Listener


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For the beginner or the devotee--it's everything the classical music buff needs to know. The major composers from Bach and Bartok to Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky Significant performers from Maurice Andre and Leornard Bernstein to Georg Solti and Yo Yo Ma The landmark works from Appalachian Spring to Don Juan A concise history of classical music A deconstruction of the art form T For the beginner or the devotee--it's everything the classical music buff needs to know. The major composers from Bach and Bartok to Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky Significant performers from Maurice Andre and Leornard Bernstein to Georg Solti and Yo Yo Ma The landmark works from Appalachian Spring to Don Juan A concise history of classical music A deconstruction of the art form The language of classical music Valuable resources for the Curious Listener

30 review for The NPR Curious Listener's Guide to Classical Music

  1. 5 out of 5

    Kristy Bryson

    I wanted a readable primer for classical music and this fit the bill. I've listened to classical and opera in passing, but not with a dedicated ear for it. One season, many moons ago, I developed a habit (while knitting) of listening to a special series on NPR of rebroadcasts of NY Met operas that were divided into chunks followed by a layman's breakdown of the action and performance significance. Unfortunately, I can't find anything like this available on our NPR stations here. (I do enjoy my C I wanted a readable primer for classical music and this fit the bill. I've listened to classical and opera in passing, but not with a dedicated ear for it. One season, many moons ago, I developed a habit (while knitting) of listening to a special series on NPR of rebroadcasts of NY Met operas that were divided into chunks followed by a layman's breakdown of the action and performance significance. Unfortunately, I can't find anything like this available on our NPR stations here. (I do enjoy my Celtic and mountain historical music, though!) I have decided to begin with Beethoven's 7th Symphony and simply listen as often and fully as I can, which will probably be whenever I'm alone knitting. I am discovering that classical provides a complexity that keeps me from ruminating on negative thoughts, but the lack of verse that hijacks my thoughts, thus allowing a nice middle ground for (hopefully) creative nuggets of thought! (I save blues for full moons and classic rock for drives with the windows down.)

  2. 5 out of 5

    Ray Stickle

    I wasn't expecting a book that would unlock all of the complexities of Beethoven and Mozart, and I wasn't disappointed in that respect. What I got was a beginner's reference to composers, some of their outstanding works (and quality recordings), and a brief history of the art. The book led me to Dvorak's 8th and 9th Symphonies and the works of Charles Ives, so there's no way it gets less than four stars. For a better introduction to the complexities of the music, check out the wonderful Yale Ope I wasn't expecting a book that would unlock all of the complexities of Beethoven and Mozart, and I wasn't disappointed in that respect. What I got was a beginner's reference to composers, some of their outstanding works (and quality recordings), and a brief history of the art. The book led me to Dvorak's 8th and 9th Symphonies and the works of Charles Ives, so there's no way it gets less than four stars. For a better introduction to the complexities of the music, check out the wonderful Yale Open Course: Listening to Music.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Marty Monforte

    Classical Music composers have written so many good compositions over the centuries. There is something for everybody. Anyone can discover compositions that they may like and benefit from. Some may like music from the Renaissance era; Baroque era; Classical era; Romantic era; Modern era or all of the eras. Classical music is something that everyone can appreciate and benefit from. Tim Smith’s book “The NPR Curious Listener’s Guide to Classical Music” is a good introduction to classical music. It Classical Music composers have written so many good compositions over the centuries. There is something for everybody. Anyone can discover compositions that they may like and benefit from. Some may like music from the Renaissance era; Baroque era; Classical era; Romantic era; Modern era or all of the eras. Classical music is something that everyone can appreciate and benefit from. Tim Smith’s book “The NPR Curious Listener’s Guide to Classical Music” is a good introduction to classical music. It is well written and well organized. The book presents many different aspects of classical music which could help the reader understand the basics about classical music. The purpose of the book is to inform the reader about the different elements of classical music. In the first chapter, Smith tries to answer the question “What is Classical Music?” He points out that “the term has been almost universally understood to mean a type of music in the Western world that is art first, entertainment second.” Smith points out other characteristics about classical music in the first chapter as well. The author gives a brief historical overview of classical music in the second chapter. Smith writes about the different styles of classical music that developed over time. Smith writes about Gregorian Chant; Renaissance music; Baroque Music; Classical Music; Classical Music; Romantic Music and Modern Music. In chapter three, Smith discusses the “Varieties of Classical Music.” He gives a brief explanation about Art Songs; Atonal Music; Baroque Music; Chamber Music; Classical Music; Early Music; Impressionism; Minimalism; Program Music; Renaissance Music; Romantic Music; Sacred Music; Serialism; Symphonic Music; Tonal Music and Twelve-Tone Music. These explanations are simple and succinct. They provide a decent understanding of these topics. Smith writes about musical languages, musical structures and performance in chapter four. He gives a brief explanation about Monophony; Homophony; Polyphony; and Counterpoint when he discusses musical languages. When discussing musical structures, he provides an effective explanation about Rounds; Canons; Fugues; Sonatas; Suites; Symphonies; Minuets and Scherzos; Rondos; Themes and Variations; Concertos; Overtures and Preludes; and Tone poems or Symphonic Poems. Smith also writes about vocal music as forms of musical structures. Smith highlights the Orchestra; the Concertmaster; Chamber Orchestra; Period Instruments; the Conductor and Interpretation when he addresses the performance of classical music. Smith writes briefly about 51 of the most important composers in the history of classical music. He mentions some important aspects of each composer’s music. All 51 composers have unique qualities and contributed to the history of music. Some of those composers go back to the 11th or 12th century, while others are from the modern era. Some of the composers are from the Renaissance, Baroque, Classical and Romantic eras. In another chapter, Smith writes about some of the best performers of classical music. The performers are from the modern era. He mentions 50 performers. Smith also writes about some of the of the most famous pieces of classical music. He writes about 55 different pieces. He gives a brief explanation of each piece. He writes about concertos; sonatas; suites; symphonies; overtures and other forms of music. I liked this section a lot because it helped me to learn about some of the best pieces in the history of classical music. In another chapter, Smith informs the reader about some of the classical music that is available on CDs. Smith mentioned 60 different CDs. Additionally, in another chapter, he provides a glossary of musical terms. I recommend this book for anyone who is interested in learning more about classical music. The book seems to be written for people who like classical music and want to learn more about it. Smith’s explanations about classical music are simple and understandable for the average person who is interested in learning more about classical music. The history of classical music contains a treasure of memorable and excellent compositions. These compositions are capable of being appreciated by people of all ages and backgrounds. They have a universal appeal. This book helps people to understand what makes classical music so unique and special.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Nathan Albright

    As a child I would listen to NPR because my grandmother liked to listen to classical music on the radio, and this book is precisely the sort of book that I would expect coming from the NPR music that I remember hearing then.  This is not to say that it is by any means a bad book.  Simply because a book delivers exactly what is expected does not make it bad.  It would, no doubt, have been an even better book if its idea of the classical repertoire were broader than it was, but as an introduction As a child I would listen to NPR because my grandmother liked to listen to classical music on the radio, and this book is precisely the sort of book that I would expect coming from the NPR music that I remember hearing then.  This is not to say that it is by any means a bad book.  Simply because a book delivers exactly what is expected does not make it bad.  It would, no doubt, have been an even better book if its idea of the classical repertoire were broader than it was, but as an introduction to the concert music repertoire the book is certainly appealing if also equally certainly a bit basic.  And, it should be noted as well that the author has far broader tastes in contemporary classical music than some of us (myself included) would have, comparing the spare minimalism or the ugly atonal music with the abstract of Pollack, which is also not quite as impressive as many contemporary art critics would like to make it out to be.  Suffice it to say that one's interest in various musical styles will likely vary from this particular book. In terms of its contents, this book is nine chapters long and is a bit more than 200 pages, a suitably quick read for those who want to be introduced to what the NPR thinks about classical music.  The book begins with acknowledgments, a foreword, and an introduction, after which the author seeks to define what classical music is (1).  This leads to a discussion of the story of classical music (2) throughout history (hitting the high points, to be certain, and not the more obscure ones), before looking at the varieties of classical music (3) based on era.  After that there is a discussion of classical music deconstructed, providing a discussion of various aspects or types of classical music (4).  After this there is a discussion of the composers of the repertoire (5), although plenty more could have been added besides the familiar ones mentioned here, as well as the performers (6), most of them from the 19th or 20th century.  There is then a discussion of the music that is most important to know (7), all of which the author expects the reader to have as part of one's music library, as well as some suggestions of particular cds to buy (8) and some comments as to the language of classical music (9), as well as resources for curious listeners and an index. In reading this book I was puzzled as I often again by the assumption of the reader that classical music is something that needs to be supported by the government.  Given the way that so much of 20th century music (and art) has a high degree of cultural decadence involved with it, it is highly dubious that this sort of music that is distinctly not popular with the people at large should be subsidized by the government.  If the music were at least culturally enlightening or worthwhile like a mass or motet, that would be one thing, but atonal music and Philip Glass or anti-war or pro-gay symphonies whining about AIDS is an entirely different matter when it comes to receiving public support.  Unfortunately, while much in this book is not a particular surprise, there is a high degree of political grandstanding in a book like this that jeopardizes the support of classical music as a whole.  After all, where taxpayer money is going to support something, it becomes very important to note whether that which is supported is worthy of it morally speaking, and that is not always the case here.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Abigail Price

    I feel smarter and more cultured after reading this. Somewhat superficial and very Eurocentric tho. Did I really spend hours making a Spotify playlist of all the music recommended in this book? Yes, yes I did.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Chris J

    A fine book for what it attempts - a reference guide or primer on the world of classical music.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Stephen Rhodes

    An excellent introduction to classical music for people who just like to enjoy it through their local NPR station.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Tricia Scott

    Just like NPR's Curious Listener's Guide to Opera, this book is a great starting guide for those interested in learning more about Classical Music. What is an Aria? What re there 3 movements in a single composition? All these questions and many more you would have never thought about are answered. You come away with new knowledge about Classical Music and it's importance, both historically and personally. Just like NPR's Curious Listener's Guide to Opera, this book is a great starting guide for those interested in learning more about Classical Music. What is an Aria? What re there 3 movements in a single composition? All these questions and many more you would have never thought about are answered. You come away with new knowledge about Classical Music and it's importance, both historically and personally.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Sara

    I am a complete novice when it comes to any kind of music, and classical is especially intimidating. This is not to say that I have not found enjoyment in it-- if I hadn't found pleasure despite my state of ignorance, I don't think I would have taken the time to read this book! I am glad to know just a little more, and I can tell a small difference in the way I listen. It is even better now that I know what I am supposed to be observing! Thanks NPR! I am a complete novice when it comes to any kind of music, and classical is especially intimidating. This is not to say that I have not found enjoyment in it-- if I hadn't found pleasure despite my state of ignorance, I don't think I would have taken the time to read this book! I am glad to know just a little more, and I can tell a small difference in the way I listen. It is even better now that I know what I am supposed to be observing! Thanks NPR!

  10. 4 out of 5

    R

    (as is my policy, I don't rate books I don't read every page of; I read 80% of this) Dense book with information on technique, composers, major works, etc. throughout classical music history. Read solely to get better at trivia contests, which it was well-suited for. Good book for people with no interest in classical music who wish to learn more about classical music. (as is my policy, I don't rate books I don't read every page of; I read 80% of this) Dense book with information on technique, composers, major works, etc. throughout classical music history. Read solely to get better at trivia contests, which it was well-suited for. Good book for people with no interest in classical music who wish to learn more about classical music.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Lucas

    Strangely disjointed text meets overly repetitive descriptions of musical scenes. It did, however, introduce me to a number of composers and performers (largely due to my ignorance). I would not recommend this book, but I have not read enough on the topic to offer up anything better.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Leanne

    I grew up with classical music (my mother was a music major and church organist), but being a kid and then a rebellious teen I didn't pay much attention. Am just browsing this book and then listening to whatever looks interesting. It's like rediscovering a lost country. I grew up with classical music (my mother was a music major and church organist), but being a kid and then a rebellious teen I didn't pay much attention. Am just browsing this book and then listening to whatever looks interesting. It's like rediscovering a lost country.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Carolyn Page

    What? There are...different kinds of classical music? You bet your baton there are. An in-depth guide to different sub-genres and composers of each time period, that never gets stodgy or boring. (At least not if you're really interested in learning about the material). What? There are...different kinds of classical music? You bet your baton there are. An in-depth guide to different sub-genres and composers of each time period, that never gets stodgy or boring. (At least not if you're really interested in learning about the material).

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan

    Succinct summary of key classical music terms. Would have made more sense to organize several key portions chronologically instead of alphabetically.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Juli Anna

    A decent overview for those just dipping in their toes. Informative, but the author's voice is a little-bit watered-down and overly-PC. Uses the word "arguably" far too often. A decent overview for those just dipping in their toes. Informative, but the author's voice is a little-bit watered-down and overly-PC. Uses the word "arguably" far too often.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Steve

    Recommend to anybody interested in classical music. It's just plain helpful and interesting. Recommend to anybody interested in classical music. It's just plain helpful and interesting.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Aaron

    This is a great introduction to classical music and good reference for any beginners. It stays accessible throughout and reads about as easily as NPR broadcasts are listenable.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Gen

  19. 5 out of 5

    Greg Talbot

  20. 4 out of 5

    Greg Boulton

  21. 5 out of 5

    LZ EZ

  22. 4 out of 5

    Brent Irvine

  23. 5 out of 5

    Kingsbury43

  24. 4 out of 5

    Sharon

  25. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

  26. 4 out of 5

    Patricia (Patricia's Particularity)

  27. 5 out of 5

    jen8998

  28. 5 out of 5

    Bob Cat

  29. 5 out of 5

    Awallens

  30. 5 out of 5

    Bill

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