9780028616346 / 0028616340

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Classical Music




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About the book:

First it was Classical Music for Dummies; now comes a rival, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Classical Music. What could possibly come next? Whatever the variation, it's worth suffering through another self-deprecating title to help the timorous abandon their unfortunate fears of good music and get into the listening habit. Like Classical Music for Dummies, The Complete Idiot's Guide doesn't assume any prior knowledge on the part of readers; also like its Dummies counterpart, this volume is written in short bursts, with mini-paragraphs and boxes that work better for bite-size reading than for long stretches. The writing tends to be jokey and mildly attitudinal, the better to reach the series's youngish target audience. (One wishes, though, that the writers had screwed up the courage to eschew the seemingly mandatory variations on the comment about how "it's not over until the fat lady sings" when writing about opera.)

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Classical Music is intelligently laid out, starting with a brief set of basics--from the history of what we think of as classical music, to the art of listening to classical music, to how to buy a stereo system--and moving on to address a surprisingly large number of areas. There are helpful introductions to assorted instruments, composers, performers, operas, and movements, including Baroque, classical romantic, and modern. Although some of the book's emphases have a whiff of political correctness, most of the information is valuable.

Authors Robert Sherman and Philip Seldon have chosen to combine both instrumental music and opera in one volume (unlike Classical Music for Dummies, which has a sister volume in Opera for Dummies). As a result, buyers who want to save money may turn to The Complete Idiot's Guide rather than to the competition. It also has a tear-out "Complete Idiot's Reference Card," with the "Top 20 Classical Works," "Top Ten Singers," "Top Ten Conductors," and so forth to take with you to the record store. Note: the categories are ranked in a highly idiosyncratic manner--based on a radio station's listeners' survey.) On the downside, unlike Classical Music for Dummies, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Classical Music doesn't have an accompanying compact disc with musical samples on it. As Victor Hugo wrote of music, it expresses feelings humans cannot put in words, but is something humans endlessly try to explain in words.

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