Pianist Rhodes (Fire on All Sides, 2018, etc.) makes classical music accessible, relatable, and exciting for teen readers who may believe that it’s “dull, irrelevant…and about as interesting as algebra.”
The book contains an irreverent introduction (including a lament about the overrepresentation of white men and suggestions of talented women and composers of color), the life stories of Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, Schubert, Rachmaninoff, and Ravel; descriptions of two works by each; and information about music theory and history. The book is slim (with the dimensions of an LP) but is chock-full of details. It is hard not to be swept up—Rhodes writes with such enthusiasm and thoughtfulness that readers will be dying to listen to the Spotify playlist he shares. He describes Beethoven’s “Emperor” Concerto as sounding “a bit like a conversation between two people who are dear friends but discussing some sad news.” Dies Irae, from Mozart’s “Requiem in D Minor,” combines instruments and voices “into one hundred seconds of pure magic [that] takes my breath away every time….HE OWNS IT.” Using colloquial language, pop-culture references, and even an emoji, Rhodes makes history and music come alive. Surreal, psychedelic collages by artist O’Neill (Unthinkable, 2018, etc.) reminiscent of Monty Python intros make the book an eye-popping visual experience as well.
This dynamic and infectious introduction to classical music is sure to capture a new generation of musicophiles. (glossary, index) (Nonfiction. 12-16)