A superb crossover title of enormous appeal to the vast selection of the population that enjoys classical music, but would like to know more about it. From Gregorian Chant to Henryk Górecki, the first living classical composer to get into the pop album charts, here is the fascinating story of over a thousand years of Western classical music and the composers who have sought to express in music the deepest of human feelings and emotions. Polyphony, sonata form, serial music – many musical expressions are also explained – with the text illustrated by performances from some of the most highly praised recordings of recent years (all but a few taken from the Naxos and Marco Polo catalogues).
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Adequate, but Flawed
It's impossible to summarize 2000 years of culture in 5 hours. With that in mind, Fawkes does about as well as anyone could. Beside the length, the only major flaw is an over-emphasis on English composers. For example, Edward Elgar receives more consideration than Cage and Stockhausen combined. And the medieval/renaissance periods were far less centered on Britain than Fawkes would have you believe. Nevertheless, the book is a worthwhile review and the listening snippets are fabulous.
A great way to fill in the blanks
I came to this book with a decent grasp of certain time periods and styles, but a rather lacking overall survey of the history of classical music. This book takes a leisurely tour through the centuries and helps bind many of the cultural strings of the European Classical Tradition together. I came out of it with a good impression of how the various styles grew and changed over time and discovered a number of interesting composers as well.
Great use of the medium
Good book, good information, good examples, well narrated, I really enjoyed it. The examples are a bit too short. I would have liked not more composers, but just a little more time per composer. But anyway, this is a great use of the audiobook medium, this wouldn't work as well in a book. I have very few complaints. One is that the book is slightly, just slightly partial to the British composers. And there is some confusion on the technical part - the part about scales and modes is not clear and not helpful and the intro to serialism has incorrections. Maybe they should just have left the technical part out of this altoghether...
I really, really enjoyed this. It's well written, well narrated and there are some wonderful examples, if not only to tantalize an appetite to research more! Perhaps the history of classical music isn't a topic one would normally choose in an audiobook, but I found it interesting as a historical framework for much that has to do with western music and enjoyed understanding a little more about the chronology of events; which composers were contemporaries of each other, and who inspired by whom; and, at least the author's opinion of some of these composers' personalities.