55 of 62 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
This book will no doubt be something different to every reader. The concept of listing 1,001 `greatest works of all times' in chronological order results in an absorbing compendium that can be a useful guide to newcomers, yet can also point experienced enthusiasts in the direction of unsuspected byways. Inevitably, the latter will take issue with some or many of the recommendations. Every work is given a brief historical outline, each entry concluding with a description of the merits of a `best performance'. Richly illustrated with a mix of promo-photography and historical images, as well as album covers, it invites repeated perusal and makes an excellent coffee-table item.
Not that there isn't ample room for debate, especially given the double hazard of selecting best works as well as best recordings of those works. Surely two entries for Wolfgang Rihm are an indulgence. And is Shostakovich's 11th symphony really one of the 1,001 greatest works of all time? (Or indeed Tchaikovsky's 1812?). Is Solti still the best option in Mahler 8 in the face of such blazing, magnificent, and much better recorded performances as those of Rattle, Sinopoli or Tennstedt? No later than the introduction the editor more or less shoots the entire project to rags with his repeated statements that, of course, it is all highly subjective. The process by which the works were selected is not revealed to the reader, except for the fact that the list was compiled by a single person, Matthew Rye himself. The team of reviewers is not quite as varied or international as the editor suggests; it represents, in fact, a sizeable chunk from the BBC Music Magazine's freelance staff, with a few lone representatives from America, Australia and Europe thrown in for good measure.
One wonders about criteria used, and their consistency. In the review for the Four Seasons the reviewer says that it is hard to choose between the many recordings, but that some criteria can be established nonetheless, one of them being that the work should be played on instruments and at the pitch Vivaldi knew, i.e., that it should be a period performance. Why that is so, he doesn't tell, and the same criterion doesn't seem to apply for works from other eras (or even many from the baroque itself), for the vast majority of recommendations for the classical and romantic periods favour staunchly traditional, even old-fashioned readings.
The recommendations are a curious mix of the predictable and the wayward. Once again the awful Klemperer recording of Mahler 2 is proclaimed top of the heap, a misjudgement that is somewhat redeemed by the sympathetic alternative suggestion of the first Kaplan version - and at the same time exacerbated by the inclusion of another highly overrated Mahler 2, that of Rattle. The inevitable Du Pré is there for the Elgar concerto, which makes me wonder, for I've heard better performances of that work. In fact quite a lot of the preferred recordings are of the "if it's old it's good" variety, with the 1943 Walton recording of Belshazzar's Feast as the most extreme example. It is this kind of recommendation that makes you wonder which audience this guide aims for. Surely, a recording that the reviewer himself qualifies as "rough" and lacking in detail, quite apart from being mono, is not a likely point of entry for classical music novices - more something for seasoned aficionados.
Also, this guide further perpetuates the myth of the 'extra edge that comes from a live performance', a notion popular among professional reviewers but one that I am quite sure wouldn't stand up to scientific scrutiny.
Those tired of the Rattle-ubiquity in the English music press will, however, find it refreshing that he's a rare occurrence in these pages. So are, relatively speaking, historically informed or authentic performances. Yet if the latter are recommended, the choice is often surprising. No McCreesh, Pinnock, Harnoncourt or Gardiner for the Messiah, but Jacobs, who got tepid reviews elsewhere. The Hannover Band for Haydn's Farewell is also an original choice.
In the end, if you are looking for the best recording of a particular work (assuming such a thing exists), I think you are best off checking your own priorities against as many opinions as you can find, not least those here on Amazon. This book adds just another bunch of such opinions, presented in an attractive format, and with some useful musicohistorical background. Nice, certainly, but not a must-have.
- Published on Amazon.com
I first knew about this book after looking at a list published at a music site (rym dot com). A user took the time to list all of these 1001 recordings ... I used that list often as a reference, but I really wanted to see the book itself, so I checked it out from my local public library. The book is really good, hardcover, beautifully designed. Some have complained about the typo being used. Yes, it is small, but the book is 960 pages long. Bigger typo would have meant more pages, which means more expensive book. Also, the color of the font size, it looks like kind of grey (although it is black). For those with sight problems, I would suggest using magnifying glasses. I did not find this to be a problem at all. The font is beautiful, and well design overall, as I was saying.
The selection of recordings is very personal, indeed, and very arguable, which will prevent this book to ever get a 5 star recommendation. It is impossible to make everybody happy, but at least the "leading international critics" who made the selection had the courage to make the actual selection, and here it is ... you may agree, you may not, but at least is a good place to get the conversation started. For many of the recommendations, the authors provide with other three recommended recordings. I'd like to add that when it comes to selections of personal recordings, the choice is always very personal. Let's be fair and not destroy this publication because the selection is at times so far from our own personal tastes. This was published in 2007, so of course many outstanding recordings issued from 2007 until now are not here. For every CD recommended, you have the CD cover, genre, conductor, performers, year recorded, and label. Some CDs occupy one page, while others, half a page. There are many pages that are just beautiful pictures of composers or other images related to the recordings. This is that kind of book you want to show off while having friends over for coffee or tea. There is a short preface, and a short introduction, a title index (works), a glossary of music vocabulary, and a composer index. The book is organized in chronological order, and it contains sevent chapters: 1. Pre-1700; 2. 1700-1760; 3. 1761-1800; 4. 1801-1850; 5. 1851-1900; 6. 1901-1950; 7. 1951-Present.
Finally, a question of mine about the title of this book: should it be "hear" or "listen"? Is this a list of the recordings we should hear about, like someone having a conversation about the recording of Britten String Quartets by the Belcea Quartet and we agreeing about it as being an essential recording? Or is that particular recording one we should actually LISTEN to? In other words: "Have you heard about the Belcea Quartet recording of Britten String Quartets? Oh yes indeed! They say it's terrific! I have not listened to it, but yes, everybody agrees it is one of those recordings you should actually listen to."
I do recommend this book to all classical music fans, casual or hard core.
Thanks for reading, and happy LISTENING !!!