Trade Ed. Naxos AudioBooks 1997
CD ISBN $26.98 Four CDs
Written directly for recording, this is a splendid overview of several centuries of Western classical music. The text is neatly divided into four parts. Early and twentieth-century music get equal time with the Baroque, Classical and Romantic periods. No previous musical knowledge is assumed. The cultured tones of British actor Powell lead the listener from plain chant to atonality with added snippets of social history and composers’ biographies along the way. We learn, for instance, that concerts by castrati were “big box office,” that Beethoven was “a man with a mission” and that the architecture of St. Mark’s cathedral in Venice led to the development of antiphonal singing. Examples from Naxos’s extensive archives of recorded performances complement the text far more effectively than would print equivalents. The enduring spirituality of music is stressed; and, indeed, as the notes of Arvo Pärt’s beautiful, contemporary Cantus fade at the end, one feels uplifted--and educated. J.G. ©AudioFile, Portland, Maine [Published: MAY 98]
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