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Veteran music critic and program-notes writer Michael Steinberg offers up a sequel to his well-received collection of articles, The Symphony: a Reader's Guide. Over the years, Steinberg has written program notes for the likes of the San Francisco Symphony and the Minnesota Orchestra, so this new book might be subtitled, "Pieces of Music Orchestras Paid Me to Write About." Even though the selection of pieces is far from all-inclusive, the approach to the reader is friendly and non-snobby, and very little of the book is off-putting for those who have no musical training. Beethoven, Brahms, and Mozart are plentifully described and with a certain feeling for how to mix biographical incidents with musical matters to heighten a reader's interest. However, a lot of rarer composers are absent, as are some works by familiar composers, so readers might want to complement this book with another Oxford Press title, A Guide to the Concerto edited by Robert Layton, which, instead of focusing on individual works, contains essay-length overviews by such expert critics as David Brown and Michael Kennedy--whetting the appetite for hearing rarities as well as informing the reader about familiar works. Reading Steinberg, one would never agree with Glenn Gould (among other musicians), who dismissed the concerto form as artistically unsatisfying. Instead, one feels a sense of gratitude for so many good works written in the medium. --Benjamin Ivry [via]