Classical Music: Third Ear - The Essential Listening Companion Paperback – 1 Jul 2001
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About the Author
Alexander Morin founded the Aldine Publishing Company. He lives in Washington, D.C.
Top customer reviews
Most of the reviewers are quite blunt; the rather more circumspect Penguin approach (workmanlike reading **) is nowhere to be found; instead, you're left in no doubt what the reviewer thinks: "Dohnanyi, dull as nails on most days..." "Maazel, never progressing beyond a rather superficial understanding..." and so on. Reviewers are usually honest about admitting if theirs is a minority view, and if some of the US-based critics seem to generally favour Bernstein, for instance, more than might be done generally elsewhere, there still seems to be a universal attempt to judge fairly.
The book is 1100+ closely-typed pages, and is amazingly comprehensive. Another reviewer mentioned the varying attention given to different genres; whether this is just the individual reviewer, or editorial policy I don't know; it seems bizarre to me that the review space given the 1812 Overture exceeds Bruckner's entire symphonic canon, for instance. Unlike the Penguin guides, which tend to review 'by CD', this guide goes by genre/work, and often omits details; they might just recommend 'Pollini' and quote a CD number, instead of listing conductor, orchestra, etc. Certainly saves space.
Thoroughly recomended, and indeed an update catching up on the last ten years' recording activity would be very welcome. I gather from the written introduction this was what was intended, butperhaps no-one saw the internet coming quite in the same way back in 2003.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
Most of these great "conductors of the past" and their famous interpretations are back here and it is often practical to find a classification between historical and more recent performances. When available, recordings on period instruments are also listed apart. It is true that some composers would have deserved a few more pages (Bruckner !) compared to what some modern ones get but I also suppose the choices of the editor have to be respected. We have to remember this guide is the sum of reviews from 50 or so contributors (whose names are listed at the beginning of the book) and we have to suppose some might have felt more inspired than others !
The content of this guide makes me think about another big book (+ than 1.800 pages but smaller than Third Ear) that I have and enjoy above all others including the one reviewed here : "Les Indispensables du Disque Compact Classique" by Jean-Charles Hoffelé & Piotr Kaminsky written in 1995-96. For those who can read French this is a must have very pleasant to read and objectively written guide really worth the money but now hard to find (ISBN-10: 2213592853). I do think both guides are complementary.
Overall although reviews could have been presented more attractively and therefore easier to find and read this book deserves a 5 star note and this is mostly because of its precious content which still helps you find and buy the best recordings even several years after its publication.
A notable and unique feature of The Third Ear Guide is the many pages of great biographies of the FAMOUS MUSICIANS by instrument in the back (pianists, violinists, violists, cellists, wind players, percussionists, vocalists etc). So, here you can find legends from Rubinstein, Horowitz, Pires, Perahia, Grumiaux, Oistrakh, Casels, Starker, Bain, Holliger, Graham, Pavoratti and many other admired musicians/vocalists thoughout the past century. In addition to some curious history and career milestones of these well-loved performers, The Third Ear Guide also cites some of their better recordings - a real valuable feature I found.
However, this guide waxes hot and cold depending on the composer/genre. For example, in the listings of available performances for a huge category like Beethoven's 32 piano sonatas, there are SEVERAL entire pages covering nearly two dozen musicians who have recorded those works with compelling insights into their styles, historic performances and careers. Really great stuff for the conoisseur! But, in other categories it is a different story. Most frustrating to some is that in many cases, obvious top recordings and major performers are not mentioned, leaving the reader with an incomplete information. But, the bottom line is that no one guide is the end-all resource, and serious collectors will have this guide along with the Gramophone and Penguin Guides as each really has something valuable and often unique to contribute to the study of the finest recordings.
On the style side, the commentary is not dry and academic but full of human interest and spicy opinions - revealing "nuggets" of fascinating information for the music you most love. Additionally, the editors are not always prim-and-proper, saying only positive things (like Penguin Guide) but actually give critical and insightful comments which truly helps one sort out the pack. In this respect, the Third Ear Guide is the probably the most interesting to read compared to the others. So, this guide is much more than just a guide to look up ratings - it is a fascinating journey into classical music, its vast repertoire and its performers. If you are a serious collector, multiple guides area always the best way to go to get a wide variety of opinion. If you really can only pick one guide, most people would go with legendary Penguin Guide. But, my second guide would definately be Third Ear (over Gramophone) as it often lists recordings suprisingly not listed in Penguin. Also, it is just plain fun and fascinating to read at random.
A wealth of information on so many composers (known and lesser known) it is amazing.
My original copy was coming apart so I bought another.
Although it is surprisingly comprehensive, I wish a newer(non-political) version were available.
There are some newer composers and cd recommendations require updating..
a gargantuan job no less. And most importantly it is nearly devoid of unwanted political proscelizeing lectures and opinions.
It should be digitized in its entirety while it exists..
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