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20 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect Fry
This book is utter Fry in every sense with marvellous witicisms such as "HSBC Bach - the Listening Bach", and other such sayings. The book came about by Stephen Fry being recorded by Tim Lihoreau, who has since written out Fry's musings on classical music. Fry starts at the very beginning - Egyptians etc, and continues to modern day music.
Anyone who enjoys Fry's...
Published on 25 Aug. 2005 by J. Hutchings

versus
30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Incomplete and utter waste of time
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...
Published on 9 Feb. 2009 by David


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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Incomplete and utter waste of time, 9 Feb. 2009
By 
David (United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Stephen Fry's Incomplete and Utter History of Classical Music (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
3.0 out of 5 stars Just like Classic FM..., 18 Oct. 2004
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
1.0 out of 5 stars Complete and utter rubbish!, 4 Jan. 2010
This review is from: Stephen Fry's Incomplete and Utter History of Classical Music (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
2.0 out of 5 stars Not Great. Disappointing, in fact, 24 Mar. 2010
This review is from: Stephen Fry's Incomplete and Utter History of Classical Music (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
1.0 out of 5 stars Oh deary me..., 12 July 2007
By 
Andrew Paul Sherwin (Vienna, Austria) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Stephen Fry's Incomplete and Utter History of Classical Music (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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Does what it says on the tin, 27 Oct. 2007
By 
Mrs. K. A. Wheatley "katywheatley" (Leicester, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Stephen Fry's Incomplete and Utter History of Classical Music (Paperback)
The thing to understand about this book, apart from the fact that it isn't really written by Fry himself, is that it is indeed incomplete, as it says in the title. I approached this with high hopes after reading his excellent book on poetry, and found myself somewhat disappointed. If I had read it first I suspect I may not have been so underwhelmed. As it is, there are very few books available which offer a readable, albeit necessarily potted history of classical music, and when approaching the subject as a rank amateur, desperately in need of a way into the genre one takes what one can get. It isn't technical, it doesn't have all the answers, it doesn't cover everything and there are some terrible jokes in it, but it does offer a glimpse into and reasonable overview of the world of classical music without either being 12 billion pages long, or so technical you haven't a hope in hell. This, in my opinion, is a good thing.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars unreadable, 10 Mar. 2008
I felt as though I was being arched and punned and whimsied to death. An insult to any reader any age any amount of previous knowledge. Just awful.
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49 of 56 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars The worst kind of puerile excrement, 2 Aug. 2006
I will start by echoing what has been mentioned already by at least one reviewer: this book was not written by Stephen Fry - I'm amazed he has allowed his name to be associated with such an amateurish, school-paper-like piece of work.

Mr Fry's own books have on the whole been well researched and written with deftly chosen words and a real knack for narrative. This book, on the other hand, reads like it was written by the protagonist Adrian Healey from Fry's The Liar - i.e. a pretentious adolescent with the gift of the gab but no fathomable intellectual substance. Indeed the book's author, a Mr Tim Lihoreau, has presented a poor impersonation of a fifteen year old Stephen Fry.

Examples of where stylistically this book is likely to irritate literate adults would include the joke about "Georges Bizet, whom my computer spell-check wants to call George's bidet", the interminable number of ways the author draws attention the fact that Richard Wagner wrote works that are around the four hour mark - not to mention the habit he has of following the title of any Wagner piece with tags like "The Ring, or to give it its full kennel name, The Ring of Lady Benedictine-Trixibelle, the Third." - and references to Donizetti's "Lucia di Ilkley Moor". One could forgive humour this crass if it were sporadically dotted throughout the text and the reader were allowed occasional respite from it, yet almost every paragraph is bursting at the seams with gags - most of which wouldn't sound out of place in an episode of Dick and Dom in Da Bungalow.

There are some redeeming features - the content seems mostly accurate and therefore informative to anyone unacquainted with certain dates/events etc and the structure is sound, though as the structure is chronological it would be pretty hard even for Mr Lihoreau to louse that up.

These points notwithstanding, my recommendation would be: To anyone wishing to read something written by Stephen Fry - choose any of The Liar, The Hippopotamus, or Moab is My Washpot. To anyone wishing to read a rough guide to classical music - read The Rough Guide to Classical Music and its sister work The Rough Guide to Opera. What's most awful about the Incomplete & Utter History. . . is that it is likely to dissuade the kind of people Classic FM hopes to attract to classical music from listening to anything of the kind; for fear that such people may miss out my final suggestion would be to turn on BBC Radio 3.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Very put-downable, 24 Mar. 2012
By 
Sean Ryan (Edinburgh, Scotland) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Stephen Fry's Incomplete and Utter History of Classical Music (Paperback)
The other reviews have helped me decide I really don't need to struggle on with this turkey... I'm only 20 pages in and am fed up with the constant 'gags' which get in the way of the text. I've enjoyed all Stephen Fry's novels, and this book is clearly not his work. I was looking forward to learning about classical music in an informal way from an author of great intellect and humour, but the witticisms are so constant and so contrived that I'm going to have to excuse myself from class and find another teacher.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not what I had hoped for, 21 July 2011
By 
CJ (Cheshire) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Stephen Fry's Incomplete and Utter History of Classical Music (Paperback)
I started off enjoying this book, but I soon became disillusioned. The jokes kept on coming (not all of them particularly funny)and this soon got in the way of the text. Whereas humour could have been the delicate spice which kept us going through the facts, instead the continual attempts to 'entertain' became a distraction, leaving me occasionally confused as to which pieces of information were factual and which were just inserted in order to set up another weak pun. I began to wonder who this book is aimed at? Clearly not serious classical music fans, who would learn nothing from it - but nor at people like me, who are not experts and would like to learn more, because the reader gets so mired down with extraneous jokey asides that it's hard to sift out and retain any actual hard information. Presumably it's aimed at suckers who will buy anything with Stephen Fry's name on the cover.
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Stephen Fry's Incomplete and Utter History of Classical Music
Stephen Fry's Incomplete and Utter History of Classical Music by Stephen Fry (Paperback - 2 Sept. 2005)
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