to Z of Classical Music

A to Z of Classical Music

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Technically, the insides of this package from Naxos deliver what the outside promises: an "A to Z" compilation of classical composers, a 562-page book, and over 150 minutes of music. The implication would be, however, that the book is coordinated with the music, which is only loosely true. The book is a little biographical dictionary covering quite an assortment of…  See more details below


Technically, the insides of this package from Naxos deliver what the outside promises: an "A to Z" compilation of classical composers, a 562-page book, and over 150 minutes of music. The implication would be, however, that the book is coordinated with the music, which is only loosely true. The book is a little biographical dictionary covering quite an assortment of classical composers. It is not comprehensive (Aubert is included, but not Chaminade, although many would suggest a reversal in status these days), but it's impressive enough for a volume that will fit in a coat pocket. Each composer's entry is rounded out with recommended recordings -- which are, of course, drawn exclusively from the Naxos catalog. (This may explain why some composers are included and others omitted.) The selections on the two CDs are included in these recommended-recordings listings but not otherwise elaborated in any special way -- there is no attempt to tell listeners what they're hearing in any specific case, or to put it into any chronological or historical context. The music on the two discs does, however, stand out in one respect from other collections that purport to offer an introduction to classical music -- it is one of the few that tries to run through the whole history of the music chronologically, starting with "Gregorian" chant (the term isn't much used anymore by those familiar with the music) and the chants of Hildegard of Bingen and ending with the Philip Glass "Violin Concerto" of 1987. There's a lot to be said for this approach -- the listener obviously can't grasp the whole stylistic constellation of an era by listening to a couple of pieces but will be witness to the birth of Renaissance polyphony, of the Baroque orchestra, of the concerto and piano sonata, of Romantic excess, neo-classic cool, and various modern developments. There are major omissions -- you jump straight from Hildegard in the twelfth century to Palestrina at the end of the sixteenth, and there is no operatic vocal music at all -- but almost all the selections, with the exception of a sinfonia movement of Karl Ditters von Dittersdorf, can be justified in their inclusion. The program does especially well by including some warhorse numbers, like "Pachelbel"'s "Canon," at their proper places in the historical sequence; the listener who buys this set will learn to hear the "Canon" as a manifestation of Baroque structural exuberance, not as the icon of sentimentality it has become. The performances are adequate or better, and the diverse materials do not jar against one another sonically. In the end, although this package is not a wholly coherent one, it may serve the needs both of listeners wanting a handy pocket biography reference and those in search of an overview of classical music's millennium-long (or longer) history.

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  1. De profundis clamavi, offertory in mode 2 (Liber Usualis No. 1076; GR 388)  -  Gregorian Chant  - Alberto Turco  -  Nova Schola Gregoriana
  2. Alleluia, O virga mediatrix, alleluia antiphon  - Hildegard von Bingen  -  Oxford Camerata  - Alberto Turco
  3. Missa Papae Marcelli, for 6 voices: Gloria  - Giovanni Pierliugi Palestrina  -  Oxford Camerata  - Jeremy Summerly
  4. Pavan and galliard a 6, for instrumental consort in C major  - William Byrd  - Semyon Bychkov
  5. Canon and Gigue for 3 violins & continuo in D major: Canon  - Johann Pachelbel  -  Capella Istropolitana  - Richard Edlinger
  6. Concerto Grosso in G minor ("Christmas Concerto"), Op. 6/8: Vivace - Grave  - Arcangelo Corelli  - Jaroslav Krcek  -  Capella Istropolitana
  7. Concert 1, for various instruments & continuo (Concerts royaux): Prélude  - François Couperin  - Laurence Cummings
  8. Violin Concerto ("La Primavera", The Four Seasons) for violin, strings & continuo in E ("Il cimento" No. 1), Op.8/1, RV 269: Allegro  - Antonio Vivaldi  -  Capella Istropolitana  - Stephen Gunzenhauser  - Takako Nishizaki
  9. Trumpet Concerto in D major, TWV 51:D7: Adagio  - Georg Philipp Telemann  -  Capella Istropolitana  - Miroslav Kejmar  - Peter Skvor
  10. Suite for orchestra No 3 in D major, BWV 1068: Air on the G String  - Johann Sebastian Bach  -  Capella Istropolitana  - Jaroslav Dvorak
  11. Messiah, oratorio, HWV 56: Hallelujah Chorus  - George Frideric Handel  -  Scholars Baroque Ensemble
  12. Symphony No. 104 in D major ("London"), H. 1/104: Allegretto  - Franz Joseph Haydn  -  Capella Istropolitana  - Barry Wordsworth
  13. Sinfonia in F major, Grave F7: Andante  - Karl Ditters von Dittersdorf  -  Failoni Orchestra  - Uwe Grodd
  14. Serenade No. 13 for strings in G major ("Eine kleine Nachtmusik"), K. 525: Allegro  - Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart  -  Capella Istropolitana  - Wolfgang Sobotka
  15. Piano Sonata No. 14 in C sharp minor ("Moonlight"), Op. 27/2: Adagio  - Ludwig van Beethoven  - Jenö Jandó
  16. Clarinet Concerto No. 2 in E flat major, Op. 74 (J118): Andante  - Carl Maria von Weber  -  Czecho-Slovak State Philharmonic Orchestra (Kosice)  - Ernst Ottensamer  - Johannes Wildner
  17. Stabat mater for 2 sopranos, tenor, bass, chorus, & orchestra: Quis est homo  - Gioachino Rossini  -  Hungarian State Opera Chorus  -  Hungarian State Opera Orchestra  - Pier Giorgio Morandi
  18. Ellens Gesang III ("Ave Maria"), song for voice & piano, D. 839 (Op. 52/6)  - Franz Schubert  -  Camerata Budapest  - Ingrid Kertesi  - László Kovács
  19. Symphonie fantastique for orchestra ("Episode de la vie d'un Artiste...en cinq parties"), H.48 (Op. 14): Un Bal  - Hector Berlioz  -  Czecho-Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra  - Pinchas Steinberg
  20. A Midsummer Night's Dream, incidental music, Op. 61: Wedding March  - Felix Mendelssohn  - Richard Hayman  -  Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra
  21. Waltz for piano in D flat major ("Minute"), Op. 64/1, CT 212  - Frédéric Chopin  - Idil Biret
  22. Symphony No. 1 in B flat major ("Spring"), Op. 38: Largo  - Robert Schumann  -  BRT Philharmonic Orchestra  - Alexander Rahbari
  23. Die Walküre (The Valkyrie), opera, WWV 86b: Ride of the Valkyries  - Richard Wagner  - Uwe Mund
  24. La Traviata, opera: Prelude  - Giuseppe Verdi  - Alexander Rahbari
  25. Hungarian Dances (21) for orchestra, WoO1: Hungarian Dance No. 3  - Johannes Brahms  - Istvan Bogar  -  Budapest Symphony Orchestra
  26. The Swan Lake, ballet, Op. 20: Scène  - Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky  -  Czecho-Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra  - Ondrej Lenard
  27. Slavonic Dance No. 1 for orchestra in C major, B. 83/1 (Op. 46/1)  - Antonin Dvorák  - Balázs Szokolay
  28. Enigma Variations for orchestra, Op.36: Nimrod  - Edward Elgar  -  Bournemouth Sinfonietta  - George Hurst  -  Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra
  29. Clair de lune, for piano, L. 75/3  - Claude Debussy  - Keith Clark  -  Czecho-Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra
  30. Also sprach Zarathustra (Thus Spoke Zoroaster), tone poem for orchestra, Op. 30: Opening  - Richard Strauss  - Zdenek Kosler  -  Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra
  31. Prelude for piano No.1 in C sharp minor ("The Bells of Moscow"), Op. 3/2  - Sergey Rachmaninov  - Idil Biret
  32. Fontane di Roma (The Fountains of Rome), symphonic poem, P. 106: Fountain of the Villa Medici at Sunset  - Ottorino Respighi  - Enrique Bátiz  -  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
  33. Pulcinella, suite for orchestra: Overture  - Igor Stravinsky  -  Bournemouth Sinfonietta  - Stefan Sanderling
  34. Carmina Burana, scenic cantata for soloists, choruses & orchestra: O Fortuna  - Carl Orff  -  Czecho-Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra  - Stephen Gunzenhauser  -  Slovak Philharmonic Choir
  35. Simple Symphony, for string orchestra, Op. 4: Playful Pizzicato  - Benjamin Britten  -  Bournemouth Sinfonietta  - Richard Studt
  36. Violin Concerto: 1st Movement  - Philip Glass  -  Ulster Orchestra  - Takuo Yuasa  - Adele Anthony

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A to Z of Classical Music 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I bought this set a couple years ago and I play it weekly. I put one of the cd's in my car and the cd player was damaged and it "ate" my cd! Well I had to go out and get a new copy right away! A truly beautiful set. Good music for relaxing weekend mornings or background at dinner parties. I listen to mine all the time.
Matthew15 More than 1 year ago
The 2-CD set included in the new 3rd expanded edition of this release has a track listing different than what you see on this page. Click on the "back cover" picture, and it will show that the tracks (on this edition) are listed alphabetically, by composer. Of course, it's impossible to sum up the best classical works ever written on only 2 CDs, and the selections will always be debatable. But the CDs are maxed out at over 2 and a half hours total, and from Adams to Wagner, you're given a good cross-section of the different periods of classical music, and what they have to offer. The book has been expanded to 930+ pages, and although there are a few surprising omissions (Maw, Tan Dun, Whitacre... maybe the only composers in the book are ones on the Naxos label?), it's still a good source of reference for casual listeners, and those curious about composers they weren't otherwise familiar with. The price is definitely right, and you may wind up turning yourself onto something new!