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Music as Alchemy: Journeys with Great Conductors and their Orchestras Paperback – 4 Sep 2014


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Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber; Main edition (4 Sept. 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571240488
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571240487
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 1.9 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 129,119 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

'Service's passion is evident from the opening page ... he blends in-depth musical understanding and analysis with an armchair conductor's enthusiasm and VIP access to rehearsals. The result is fascinating ...This book shows us how, through the efforts of this shamanic figure, live music can be simply good enough or, sometimes, utterly electrifying.' --New Statesman, July 2012

'With infectious and easily worn enthusiasm, a British radio presenter focuses on what exactly happens when a conductor raises his baton an offers some startling insights.' --The Economist Books of the Year

'Many a forest has been felled to produce unnecessary books on music, but that is most definitely not the case with this utterly fascinating volume ... It's difficult to know what to praise first ... But it is not just the star names which are illuminated by Service's lively prose - economical but vivid characterisation of everyone involved is the order of the day here. Also evoked with great skill, inter alia, is the experience of listening to great music, which is of course the raison d'etre of the journeys described.' --C D Choice, July 2012

'The sum is a book of great intelligence and vivacious reportage, easily enjoyed and digested.' --Literary Review, July 2012

Many a forest has been felled to produce unnecessary books on music, but that is most definitely not the case with this utterly fascinating volume ... It's difficult to know what to praise first ... But it is not just the star names which are illuminated by Service's lively prose - economical but vivid characterisation of everyone involved is the order of the day here. Also evoked with great skill, inter alia, is the experience of listening to great music, which is of course the raison d'etre of the journeys described --C D Choice, July 2012

The sum is a book of great intelligence and vivacious reportage, easily enjoyed and digested. --Literary Review, July 2012 --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Book Description

Music as Alchemy: Journeys with Great Conductors and their Orchestras, by Tom Service, is an essential exploration of the art of conducting, for any fan of serious classical music.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Omar Fernandes Aly on 12 Aug. 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is a superb report that reveals with fluent words and meaning the methodology of rehearsals by very important conductors and orchestras. Each chapter is more fascinating than other: Mariss Janssons and Concertgebouw, Simon Rattle and Berlin Phil, Ivan Fischer and Budapest Festival Orchestra, are my preferred. Further, it's possible to translate the teachings of the conductors to other arts such as cinema, theater, and so on. Therefore every line of this book is telling something about arts. For example, the text tells something how an orchestra could reach the "Sternstunde" or the best possible musical performance. These concepts could be also translate to other arts.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By DAVID BRYSON TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 20 Jan. 2013
Format: Hardcover
Half a century and more ago there used to be a book on British conductors by an orchestral viola player called Bernard Shore. I remember reading it for the witticisms of Beecham, but unless my memory is deceiving me I think it was a fairly superficial treatment of the question that Tom Service poses here `What is it that conductors do up there?' Beecham knew what he did - `They make the notes and I make the music.' You could leave the issue at that; but if you want a serious attempt at defining a conductor's role in greater depth I can recommend this one.

Tom Service selects six contemporary conductors, all still living (so far as I know) as I write this notice in January 2013. In his Introduction he offers one generalised statement `If conducting is about anything, it is about communication.' He keeps his insights at the fully general level only in the first chapter (on Gergiev) and the last (Abbado). Very reasonably, he looks at conducting as practised by the other four maestri from more restricted viewpoints. With all six, he is concerned with the relationship between conductor and orchestra, not conductor and audience, but I can go along with that. He has bitten off quite enough to chew as it is. Both the histrionic Gergiev and even the restrained Abbado obtain the effects they want by force or charm of personality. The age of podium dictators seems to be over (to the chagrin of Ivan Fischer) but leadership is still leadership, and although democracy has advanced among orchestral players, there are realistic limits to what can be done on a strictly consensual basis among 30, 40 or more musicians.

It has to be the same story, basically, when it comes to the other conductors, but Tom Service wisely changes his camera angle each time.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Pippa Shanks on 18 Jun. 2012
Format: Hardcover
Tom Service writes with an infectious enthusiasm about music. This is an accessible book for those of us without his vast musical knowledge and gives fascinating insight into what has inspired some of the greatest conductors. Thank you, Tom!
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Format: Paperback
An interesting and entertaining book, certainly as far as the content is concerned, but one which could and should have been better edited - Mr.Service likes the word "tremulating" more than I do, and quite often his parentheses in the middle of sentences are too long, so that the two ends of the main part of any such sentence are too widely separated. Not everyone will find these things as grating as I do, but for me they detracted from the book and from the likelihood of my recommending it to others. Four stars for content, two for style, hence three overall.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By gd on 16 Nov. 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Beautifully and engagingly written. Easily accessible for non-musicians too. Offers diverse insights into the role of conductors in bringing best out of orchestras.
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