Sixty two staff music critics on major newspapers contributed their opinions of the hundred outstanding composers of history. Based on their suggestions, Helen L. Kaufmann has written brief biographical sketches of the candidates they suggested. She writes often of the childhood of the prodigies, devotes unnecessary space to the amatory peccadillos of Liszt and Massanet. The inclusions span the years and the musical chasms between Bach and Gershwin, explaining the individual contributions each master made as trail blazer or innovator. The format is inviting -- good sized type on large pages, with portraits of each composer by Samuel Nisenson. Necessarily the capsule treatment of 100 composers allows only superficial acquaintance. But the highlights of each man's life are here, with many memorable glimpses of their personalities and attitudes.