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Stephen Fry's Incomplete and Utter History of Classical Music Paperback – Unabridged, 2 Sep 2005


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Stephen Fry's Incomplete and Utter History of Classical Music + 50 Moments That Rocked the Classical Musical World (Classic FM) + Classic FM's Big Book of Classical Music: 1000 years of music in 366 days
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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Pan; Unabridged edition (2 Sept. 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330438565
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330438568
  • Product Dimensions: 1.9 x 13.3 x 19 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 41,325 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Stephen Fry is a leading light in film, theatre, radio and television the world over, receiving accolades in spades and plaudits by the shovel. As a writer, producer, director, actor and presenter he has featured in works as varied and adored as the movie 'Wilde', the TV series 'Blackadder' and 'Jeeves and Wooster', the sketch show 'A Bit of Fry and Laurie', the panel game 'QI', the radio series 'Fry's English Delight', Shakespeare's Globe's celebrated 2012 production of 'Twelfth Night' (as Malvolio) and documentaries on countless subjects very close to his heart.

He is also the bestselling author of four novels - 'The Stars' Tennis Balls', 'Making History', 'The Hippopotamus' and 'The Liar' - as well as two volumes of autobiography - 'Moab is My Washpot' and 'The Fry Chronicles', which published in six unique editions that combined to sell over a million copies. His third volume of autobiography, 'More Fool Me', is published in September 2014.

Product Description

About the Author

Stephen Fry is a writer, comedian, presenter, actor, half-man, half-demi-god.

Tim Lihoreau regularly writes with Stephen Fry and is the muli-award winning scriptwriter for the Classic FM The Incomplete & Utter History of Classical Music. He is also Creative Director for Classic FM, and lives in Cambridge.


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Customer Reviews

3.0 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

30 of 31 people found the following review helpful By David on 9 Feb. 2009
Format: Paperback
I think the only thing that made me finish this book was that I wanted to be able to write a full review here on Amazon.
Others have already commented on the incessant and appalling attempts at humour throughout - often a seemingly interesting and relevant comment or fact quickly becomes yet another feeble setup for a dodgy pun or surreal gag.
Bearing in mind this book is clearly aimed at those of us who aren't experts in the field of classical music, it's very frustrating to find there's almost nothing on terminology and the structure of classical music, apart from a brief bit on concertos. If you want to know how a symphony differs from a mass, or what an overture actually is, or a sonata, or a tenor, or soprano, you will need to look elsewhere.
Most of the composers themselves are only briefly discussed or mentioned, with the majority of the text given over to describing the author's own opinion of his favourite pieces of music, the rubbish jokes, or lists of contemporary history that's usually got nothing to do with the music.
There are no pictures such as portraits of the composers, there's no index or glossary, nor advise on further reading or even a bibliography.
Having read a couple of Stephen Fry's other books it is almost immediately clear that he is not the main writer (if at all), and the various references within the text suggesting otherwise are almost insulting.
I'm thrilled to have finally finished it so I can now read something (anything) else, and feel the only thing I have learnt from it is to be very cautious of books that say "as told to ..." on the cover.
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137 of 143 people found the following review helpful By Frontside360 on 18 Oct. 2004
Format: Hardcover
Beware. This book isn't actually written by Stephen Fry, but by Tim Lihoreau of Classic FM. And, like Classic FM, it can be entertaining but also incredibly irritating. And, sadly, it tries to be funny in the wrong way, at the wrong moments.
However. It contains enough useful information to keep me hooked, and occasionally some of Stephen Fry's wit shines through.
Don't buy this book just because it's written by Stephen Fry - because it isn't. But if you have an interest in classical music and can live with Classic FM in book form, it's recommended.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By William Shardlow on 4 Jan. 2010
Format: Paperback
The foreword is quite good as it actually is written by Stephen Fry. In fact he gives a quite amusing account of being pursued by Classic FM people with a microphone to get enough material for Tim What's-His-Name to write the book! Fry obviously had little interest in the project. Don't base your purchase decision on reading the foreword. The rest is unreadable drivel, which I will not dwell upon as the other one star reviews do it so well. Read them. Unlike the book they are amusing and well written. If you want a light-hearted guide, try 'Classical Music for Dummies', which is superb.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Theyais on 24 Mar. 2010
Format: Paperback
This was going to be my insight into a subject about which I know little, but could do with knowing more. Perhaps I expected too much, but this is pretty poorly written. What really grates is that there are so many puns and childish quips and 'jokes' that they totally swamp the facts. I wanted an easily digestible overview of classical music, but what I got was page after page of 'doesn't even raise a smirk' humour, and even devices such as changing the fonts in attempt to be amusing. It looks like it's been edited by a 4 year old who has just discovered the 'change font' settings in Word.
I'm currently trying to finish it, but it's a dispiriting read. Apparently not written by Stephen Fry, which surprises me not one jot.
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31 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Andrew Paul Sherwin on 12 July 2007
Format: Paperback
I was so excited when I bought this book. I love classical music, I love Stephen Fry's wit and so I thought this happy union would have me wetting my pants with some Bach playing in the background.

As the title suggests, it is very very incomplete, but far from utter. I'm not a huge fan of Mozart, but I found it slightly unfair that he was given a total of around 6 pages of the book, whereas Fry's favourite composer, Wagner (given a larger font throughout he book - somewhat annoying) gets a whopping 30 pages. Which is not very respective of the two composer's works.

Fry's wit is in there, alright. But reading his wit just isn't the same as hearing it. I found it frustrating that I had to keep thinking how Fry would have said this or that line, to have even the faintest dribblings in my seat. Even then, Fry uses the same jokes over and over again. Tedium sets in after a while.

Perhaps the most annoying thing, though, is that this book is NOT a history of music. It is a very incomplete narrative of historical events interspersed with the odd musical reference. If I'm reading a book concerning the history of classical music, am I likely to care about the population of China in the 18th century? I think not.

In short, those who want to have a little chuckle would do better with either the Liar, Moab or the Tennis Star's Balls. Those who want a little background to music would be better off buying the Groves Encyclopoedia. It may cost a lot more than the Incomplete and Utter History, but you get what you pay for.

On the back cover, R Schumann gives "his" views on this book. "I threw it in the Rhine". I know the feeling, and will be quite happy to throw it in the Danube.
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