This compendium of musical biographies offers useful insights and accessible descriptions of various styles, composers, and...



A comprehensive introduction to the world of classical music makes a case for the 100 greatest composers. 

Intended as an entry point for those interested in the subject but who lack knowledge, this debut book offers an overview of the history of classical music and Smook’s list of the greatest composers, beginning in the Baroque period and ending with 20th-century giants. The volume’s ranking relies on a six-tier rating system for composers based on “the aesthetic importance of their major musical works; the overall substance of their musical legacy; their innovations in musical form and style; their influence on other composers.” In the first and highest tier, the author lists Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven. Unsurprisingly, German and Austrian composers are the most represented in Smook’s conservative list. Each composer entry delivers a brief biography and includes a section on the artist’s musical legacy. The author offers this description of Chopin’s legacy (the Polish composer is in Tier 3 of Smook’s rating): “Chopin created or developed a number of new forms of solo piano music to exploit his poetic use of the instrument.” The legacy sections include samplings of the composers’ popular works. There are also miniprofiles of artists who almost made the top 100 list (among them, Anton Webern—musical cousin to Schoenberg—and the Estonian minimalist composer Arvo Pärt). The author’s descriptions are a bit dry though the book is intended for neophyte listeners. The brief overview of classical music history effectively avoids jargon and includes clear definitions of musical terms (for example, “cantata” and “recitative music”). In the introduction, the author admits to no formal musical training and confesses that he doesn’t play an instrument. The work adds nothing new to interpretations of classical music (“I am not presenting new information,” Smook asserts). The volume also suffers from a bizarre insistence on categorization—“Remember that music falls into four basic categories,” he tells readers, which he identifies as Orchestral, Chamber, Keyboard, and Vocal. Still, the book should serve as a helpful and handy guide to those new to the genre.

This compendium of musical biographies offers useful insights and accessible descriptions of various styles, composers, and periods.

Pub Date: June 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5255-3785-1

Page Count: 379

Publisher: FriesenPress

Review Posted Online: July 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...



Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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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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