NPR Listener’s Encyclopedia of Classical Music/Book Review

May 13, 2006

In a series of circumstances that to describe would end up as long as a short novel, I had the wonderful opportunity to have lunch with Ted and discuss his new book "The NPR Listener's Encyclopedia of Classical Music" from Workman press.Before you stop reading this review please note that this is not just another reference guide on music! As an example, I am currently listening to SCHELOMO or "Hebraic rhapsody" for cello and orchestra by Ernest Bloch which is just one of 525 selections included in the price of the book through internet access to a website created by Naxos/Workman. As you read the biography of Ernest Bloch you would find that Ted uses this work as an example of the romantic sensibility yet some of the modernism he exhibited. By listening to the example it gives you an excellent example of what Bloch is all about music wise. This is a full 23 minute track not a short clip we are normally use to. The site is also designed with a streaming technique that allows easy access with little or no hesitation even using dial-up connection. Included in the price of the book is a code to access this music library, which is over 75 hours of listening material. As Ted explained to me this was only possible to do with the assistance of Klaus Heymann, owner and founder of Naxos records. When Klaus makes a recording he owns the rights to that recording and thus can make available whatever he wishes from his 3000+ collection of releases. Could you even stop to imagine the copyright nightmare if Ted needed permission from Universal, BMG, Sony, and Telarc? As he said it would not be possible in this day and age of music, but with Klaus it was. Klaus loved the idea and had a special Workman/Naxos site built. It is not designed for high quality but for quick easy streaming access to the material as I explained earlier. It is as good as FM broadcast quality in my opinion which is more than adequate. If you are introduced to new material that you like you can purchase from the list of recommended recordings shown directly below the encyclopedia entry or purchase the selection you listened to on the website, which are all Naxos recordings. While it would have been nice to have had the actual cd#'s listed on the website for reference it wasn't too difficult to do a quick check with the Naxos online catalog. A minor point which can be easily overlooked.

Want to learn about a musical instrument? Go to trombone as an example and you will not only find out about the origin of the instrument and how it evolved, but (3) short listening examples of how this brass instrument is put to use in classical recordings. Ted sites the first movement of Mahler's Third Symphony. Go to that example which is clearly marked in the book and you will hear the trombones in full unison! I learned about an "F attachment" to lower the sound and a "pea shooter" a shorter bore designed for high pitched solo work.

Want to learn about a composer and a little more? Go to Bernstein as an example and you will not only get a nice biography but other information such as "Bernstein always wanted to be the center of attention, and wherever he went and whatever he did, he was." Not your typical informational entry but one that gives a little insight and opinion. This particular biography is a three page entry complete with good quality photographs. The caption on one of the Bernstein photos reads "In 1946 Bernstein already cast a large shadow in the music world." The photo contains a shadow of Bernstein as well as Leonard conducting. Not your average pictures but a step above.

When appropriate each listing will have a small section of recommended recordings and these are not just Naxos either. While I disagree with many of the choices the less seasoned listener couldn't go wrong in taking his advice on which recordings to purchase. Ted, who at one time was the editor of Schwann magazine before it disappeared, knows his material really well. In putting together this book he actually made use of the huge H&B Direct catalog as a reference, something I have also done for many years.

With over 1500 entries, 2000 recommended recordings, 525 listening tracks, and 600,000 words this is a fine guide to classical music. Already in the short time spent reviewing I have learned new material and I have purchased and listened to classical music since 1959! Anyone who has a glass bee on the top of his computer to encourage him to finish the book is ok in my book!  Listed below is a link for ordering directly from Workman press.

3 Responses to “NPR Listener’s Encyclopedia of Classical Music/Book Review”

  1. Very informative post. I’ve found your blog via Bing and I’m really glad about the information you provide in your posts. Btw your blogs layout is really broken on the Kmelon browser. Would be cool if you could fix that. Anyhow keep up the great work!

  2. I like this website. Pretty good info you have here

  3. Lucio Amweg Says:

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