The NPR Listener's Encyclopedia of Classical Musicby Ted Libbey, Theodore Libbey
A jam-packed, 11-year undertaking of 928 pages, 1,500 entries, and over 1,000 recommended recordings, The NPR Listener's Encyclopedia is an everything-you-need-to-know bible for the classical music lover. Written with infectious enthusiasm by Ted Libbey, author of The NPR Guide to Building a Classical CD Collection, with 174,000 copies in print,/em>/em>
A jam-packed, 11-year undertaking of 928 pages, 1,500 entries, and over 1,000 recommended recordings, The NPR Listener's Encyclopedia is an everything-you-need-to-know bible for the classical music lover. Written with infectious enthusiasm by Ted Libbey, author of The NPR Guide to Building a Classical CD Collection, with 174,000 copies in print, this is an encyclopedia with wit and verve, covering those terms, works, composers, and performers that NPR listeners and concertgoers are most likely to encounter. In addition, buyers of the book will receive a password that opens the door to an interactive Web site, created in a partnership with the classical music powerhouse, Naxos, that allows them to listen to 600 examples of works, techniques, and performers discussed and cross-referenced in the book. This is the first interactive encyclopedia of music!
Libbey, a spirited, selective guide, writes “lyrically and lucidly about music and music makers” (Chicago Tribune) and knows how to ground abstract ideas in the real. How does it work? Look up barcarolle, and he not only defines the term vividly (“the melody is a gentle, rocking rhythm suggestive of the swaying of a boat”) but suggests three exemplary pieces of music to listen to—Offenbach’s Tales of Hoffman, Mendelssohn’s Songs Without Words, and Chopin’s Barcarolle. Then go to the Web site and hear what he’s writing about.
What is the tonic? Why is there such a satisfying psychological impact at the end of a sonata? Who is Thomas Tallis? What is the idea behind Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier, andwas there ever an ill-tempered clavier? For the music lover, impossible to put down.
The well-known classical music commentator from National Public Radio's Performance Today, Libbey (The NPR Guide to Building a Classical CD Collection) has written a listener's encyclopedia containing about 1,500 entries and 1,000 recommended recordings. Entries include biographies (both composers and performers), musical genres (sonata), musical terms (triad), musical instruments (piano), and selected musical works (Carnival of the Animals), as well as assorted other terms related to music (Carnegie Hall). Libbey's writing mirrors the clear, learned, yet always engaging style that he projects on the radio. The entry on Korngold is illustrative of Libbey's enthusiasm—the violin concerto is described as "one of the supreme masterpieces of the literature"—though the recommended recordings might have included more than one of the many extant recordings of Korngold's wonderful film scores. Several lesser-known composers who have been recorded fairly often (such as Viotti) do not rate a separate entry, though Viotti does appear in the entry on violin.
A treasure trove of over 500 music examples will be available on the web from Naxos via a login that allows for multiple accounts. Unlike Julius H. Jacobson's The Classical Music Experience (SourceBooks MediaFusion, 2003), which was published with two CDs containing about 120 usually abbreviated tracks, purchase of Libbey's book allows the listener many hours of very full samples, e.g., the complete Beethoven Waldstein Sonata, Vaughn Williams's complete The Lark Ascending, and the full 20 minutes of Bruckner's opening movement of the Seventh Symphony—a perfect way to sample great music. Bottom line, this is an excellent source for the biography, lore, and terminology of classical music, nicely enhanced by the many photographs and illustrations. As a general introduction to classical music (and especially as an encyclopedia for listeners), this book is superior to recent ventures, such as Jacobson's work or Fred Plotkin's Classical Music 101 (Hyperion, 2002). Those interested purely in recordings will also want one of the general review compendiums of classical recorded music, e.g., The Penguin Guide to Compact Discs & DVDs, Backbeat's Classical Music: The Listener's Companion, or The Rough Guide to Classical Music. Libbey's book is both a listener's encyclopedia and a guide to recordings, but it does not replace such standards as Oxford's Grove Music Online or Gale/Schirmer's Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians. Recommended for all libraries.—Library Journal, Bruce R. Schueneman, Texas A&M Univ. Lib., Kingsville
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Meet the Author
Ted Libbey is one of America's most highly regarded music critics. A former music critic for The New York Times, he is known to millions of NPR listeners as curator of the Basic Radio Library on "Performance Today." Mr. Libbey is now Director of Media Arts of the National Endowment for the Arts. He lives in Rockville, Maryland.
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I started piano lessons as an adult about a year and a half ago. I also started listening seriously to classical music and there is SO much to learn. I think this is a fantastic resource for people starting to learn about classical music. I literally read it cover to cover. It is well written and interesting. My brother often jokes that my scale for rating things only goes up to 7, because there are very few things I would give a high rating. But I would give this a 9.5 plus. That said, I think a little editing would be in order. It's a bit heavy on performers who either passed away or stopped performing decades ago. There are no entries for some German Baroque composers that I love -- Johann Hasse http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johann_Adolph_Hasse and David Heinichen http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johann_David_Heinichen. Cleofide, the only opera that it is certain that J.S. Bach saw, does not have an entry. Nor are there entries for more recently famous pianists, such as my current favorite pianist, Angela Hewitt http://www.angelahewitt.com/. But overall this is a fantastic resource and a fantastic value. Buy it!
After browsing this book at a friend's home, I purchased it for my high school age nephew. He is studying classical violin and is a classical music fan. This volume, along with its recorded samples of important pieces, is proving to be a good source of reference and inspiration for him. I really need to buy a copy for my own edification and browsing pleasure.
The book is written for the lay person. It has entries on performers, conductors, specific music works (such as 'Appalachian Spring'), music theory, and music history. It also has recommended recordings. Its most useful feature is that it allows the reader-listener, through a Naxos web site, to hear examples of what's discussed in the text. A good way to learn about classical music.