Also starring Schumann, Verdi, Debussy, Puccini, Schoenberg, Stravinsky and, briefly, some up-and-comers like Philip Glass...



A spirited musical compendium to the best of the best.

New York Times chief classic music critic Tommasini (Opera: A Critic’s Guide to the 100 Most Important Works and the Best Recordings, 2004, etc.) picks the “unfathomable achievements of indispensable—and indisputably great—composers.” His goal is to keep his assessments simple, insightful, and jargon-free, and he succeeds. The author draws on biographical and historical materials, revealing anecdotes, and his extensive personal exposure to innumerable musical performances and skill as a pianist to provide succinct, highly readable miniprofiles of the greats. Entertaining, highly enthusiastic, and very knowledgeable, he’s the perfect guide. Tommasini begins in the 16th century, with Monteverdi, the “creator of modern music,” and ends in the 20th with a “modernist master,” Bartók. The author is awestruck with the “staggering genius and superhuman achievement” of Bach’s “innate musical talents of astonishing depth.” For “all [of Handel’s] genius as a musical dramatist,” Tommasini suggests, he had his “show-biz side,” and “reaching the public was crucial to his aesthetic.” The author marvels that over a 75-year period, one city, Vienna, “fostered the work of four of the most titanic composers in music history”: Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, and Schubert, that “uncanny…hypersensitive outcast (a gay outcast?).” Recalling an “extraordinary” performance of Beethoven’s Fourth Concerto, Tommasini can’t help himself: “This is Beethoven! This is life!” If the author could go “backward in time to hear just one legendary composer in performance,” it would be Chopin, “for sure.” He encourages listeners to “see through the nastiness of Wagner the man to the beauty of his art.” And “if there is one word that gets at the core of Brahms’s music for me, it’s breadth.”

Also starring Schumann, Verdi, Debussy, Puccini, Schoenberg, Stravinsky and, briefly, some up-and-comers like Philip Glass and George Benjamin, all exuberantly presented for your edification and enjoyment.

Pub Date: Nov. 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-59420-593-4

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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This early reader is an excellent introduction to the March on Washington in 1963 and the important role in the march played by Martin Luther King Jr. Ruffin gives the book a good, dramatic start: “August 28, 1963. It is a hot summer day in Washington, D.C. More than 250,00 people are pouring into the city.” They have come to protest the treatment of African-Americans here in the US. With stirring original artwork mixed with photographs of the events (and the segregationist policies in the South, such as separate drinking fountains and entrances to public buildings), Ruffin writes of how an end to slavery didn’t mark true equality and that these rights had to be fought for—through marches and sit-ins and words, particularly those of Dr. King, and particularly on that fateful day in Washington. Within a year the Civil Rights Act of 1964 had been passed: “It does not change everything. But it is a beginning.” Lots of visual cues will help new readers through the fairly simple text, but it is the power of the story that will keep them turning the pages. (Easy reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-448-42421-5

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2000

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