The Making of Music: A Journey with Notes Hardcover – 20 Sep 2007
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'Without music life would be a mistake' (Friedrich Nietzsche)
'Music is your own experience, your thoughts, your wisdom. If you don't live it, it won't come out of your horn' (Charlie Parker)
'Music is mediator between spiritual and sensual life' (Ludwig van Beethoven)
'Composers should write tunes that chauffeurs and errand boys can whistle' (Thomas Beecham)
James Naughtie takes a spellbinding journey through the story of music to accompany his major new series on BBC Radio 4.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
Naughtie clearly loves the voice. This predilection for things vocal is obvious in the excellent individual chapters on Verdi and Wagner, but it is rather less helpful in his discussion of composers who cast their net more widely, where the thrust of the argument veers towards opera at the expense of orchestral, concertante or chamber works. He is strong on Britten because of Peter Grimes, for instance; but does Tippett justify two whole pages when Walton, composer of that blistering First Symphony, gets a mention only for his film music? And he does plug Ivor Gurney's songs a bit.
I love the Schumann symphonies, which historically have been unfairly belittled. If my house were on fire I would rescue them before anything by Brahms, so I was a little disheartened that the author mentions merely that there are four of them, none in the first division. More oddly, though, when it comes to his turn, the figure of Gustav Mahler floats around in the background as a figure of vague importance, and a single paragraph on Bruckner is inserted in the wrong century.
Naughtie has a lot to say about Paganini and Liszt, but that other great instrumentalist-composer, Rachmaninov, puts in an appearance only as an audience member at the premiere of Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue".Read more ›
It does at times betrays its origins as a BBC radio series - not least in the chapter on the 1990s, where much is made of the phenomenal sales of Gorecki's 3rd symphony, but no mention is made of the rise of the Classic FM station that was very largely responsible for that success, and indeed for widening the popular audience for classical music generally (even if it has lately descended into "smooooth" self-parody).
I also have a quibble with the entirely unsatisfactory discography, which has an arbitrary jumble of recordings placed (in alphabetical order of composer) at the end of the book. For the newcomer particularly, these would have been far better placed at the end of each chapter, as a "musical accompaniment" to the (admittedly well written) text.
Naughtie succeeds in communicating his enthusiasm for the subject (although he still hasn't sold me on opera) and I'd recommend the book to the casual reader/listener. Although as someone once said, "Writing about music is like dancing about football" - you need to experience the real thing, as soon as possible.
Note to a previous reviewer: the Richard Strauss error is corrected in the paperback edition.
Like another reviewer here I would have many personal quibbles about the various emphases in the book. While Naughtie's own preferences obviously play a large part in this it remains the case that in many cases he doesn't give some composers nearly their full due. Liszt is far more than a virtuoso performer - he is a composer of huge stature. And any history of Romanticism needs much more on Bruckner and, especially, Mahler.
There are also a few apparent inaccuracies in the book. E.g. I had understood the old Richard Strauss story of his opening the door to the American army with a brief introduction of, "I am Richard Strauss, the composer of Salome and Rosenkavalier.", to have taken place in his home at Garmisch-Partenkirchen in the Bavarian Alps, not in Berlin. (This is certainly where the critic Alex Ross places the incident in his marvellous, The Rest is Noise.)
In conclusion, if one takes the book at face value - personal notes based on a radio series - and doesn't treat it as a substitute for serious musical history it is a warm, worthwhile and enjoyable canter through the wonder of Western music from someone who clearly cares.