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The Making of Music: A Journey with Notes Hardcover – 20 Sep 2007

3.8 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: John Murray; 1st edition edition (20 Sept. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0719562546
  • ISBN-13: 978-0719562549
  • Product Dimensions: 16 x 24.1 x 3.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 944,629 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

'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)

Book Description

James Naughtie takes a spellbinding journey through the story of music to accompany his major new series on BBC Radio 4.

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Format: Hardcover
James Naughtie's love of music shines through in this book. He hopes it will be enjoyed by those who spend a good deal of time listening to classical music. I do, and I did. He does admit, though, that he is not aiming to produce a conventional history, and anyone coming fresh to classical music might just be advised to supplement his book with some other text. Perhaps inevitably, one or two imbalances seem to need correcting.

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".
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Format: Hardcover
Naughtie takes the reader on an erudite personal journey through the history of music in which he writes in an admirably accessible manner for musician and non-musician alike. From his early exploration of the emergence of Medieval plainchant and organum, through the inimitable technical achievements of J S Bach, the symphonic triumphs of Mozart and Beethoven, the grandeur of operas by Verdi and Wagner and the dramatic artistic, philosophical and practical challenges of the works of Messiaen and experimental composers of the twentieth century, Naughtie provides a gripping narrative packed with fascinating historical facts, complimented by a fitting tribute to the strong position which classical music maintains in British society as a result of the ever-increasing accessibility of live performance through popular well-established festivals as well as through broadcasts and readily available downloads. In examining the historical context which accompanied the composition and performance of a number of key works in musical history in such an approachable manner, perhaps most significantly in addressing the powerful impact of the playing of a Bach suite as the Berlin Wall was torn down, the author relates the drama and mystery of music exquisitely and certainly succeeds in inspiring the reader to explore the thrilling and infinite cornucopia of music which remains for many of us to discover.
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Format: Hardcover
I loved this book - it is cultivated, civilised, a brilliant read and for anybody with the smallest interest in serious music it opened new perspectives and made one think about it - and listen to it - in a new and fresh way. A fantastic companion for the music lover....
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Format: Hardcover
As a brief history of European classical music this book does a reasonable job. Starting with mediaeval plainchant and going all the way through to the modern minimalists, it attempts to set the major composers and their works in the cultural ethos of the times and places they lived in.

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.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is not comprehensive and should not be seen as a standard history of music. It is, rather, a series of notes which betray the author's love of his subject. And it is none the worse for it.

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.
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