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The Life and Death of Classical Music: Featuring the 100 Best and 20 Worst Recordings Ever Madeby Norman Lebrecht
Synopses & Reviews
In this compulsively readable, fascinating, and provocative guide to classical music, Norman Lebrecht, one of the worlds most widely read cultural commentators tells the story of the rise of the classical recording industry from Carusos first notes to the heyday of Bernstein, Glenn Gould, Callas, and von Karajan.
Lebrecht compellingly demonstrates that classical recording has reached its end point-but this is not simply an expos? of decline and fall. It is, for the first time, the full story of a minor art form, analyzing the cultural revolution wrought by Schnabel, Toscanini, Callas, Rattle, the Three Tenors, and Charlotte Church. It is the story of how stars were made and broken by the record business; how a war criminal conspired with a concentration-camp victim to create a record empire; and how advancing technology, boardroom wars, public credulity and unscrupulous exploitation shaped the musical backdrop to our modern lives. The book ends with a suitable shrine to classical recording: the authors critical selection of the 100 most important recordings-and the 20 most appalling.
Filled with memorable incidents and unforgettable personalities-from Goddard Lieberson, legendary head of CBS Masterworks who signed his letters as God; to Georg Solti, who turned the Chicago Symphony into “ the loudest symphony on earth”-this is at once the captivating story of the life and death of classical recording and an opinioned, insiders guide to appreciating the genre, now and for years to come.
"British novelist and music critic Lebrecht (The Song of Names) revisits the question raised in the title of his 1997 exposWho Killed Classical Music? Here he delivers a barbed requiem for the classical recording industry, reviewing its historical and technological arc from 'Caruso's first scratchings to the serenity of the CD,' while measuring the rise and fall of classical music in terms of its popularity, availability, producers and performers. His dishy, personality-driven prose features both intelligence and point of view, while his commentary and list of the best and worst recordings — arguably the freshest element in the book — make plain the author's pugnacious, critical tastes. With subjectivity acknowledged, the author's pick of the best includes discs that have influenced public imagination or the development of recording. The worst recordings note the 'things that can go wrong when we aspire to the highest.' Finding favor is a 1987 release of Debussy's La Mer and Elgar's Enigma Variations performed by the BBC Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Arturo Toscanini. The Debussy, says Lebrecht, 'shimmered like the English Channel at Eastbourne on a summer's day, a pointillist's paradise.' Among the worst is a 2000 recording of Verdi's Requiem featuring tenor Andrea Bocelli, whose technique is deemed so insufficient that he 'is exposed as cruelly as a Sunday morning park footballer would be in the World Cup final.' In its arguments and attitudes, this is a lively approach to this art form." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Book News Annotation:
Lebrecht reviews milestones in the history of classical music recording and lists his opinion of the 100 best and 20 worst recordings. From the beginning of the twentieth century, he discusses the roles of conductors, record labels, pertinent changes in the recording industry, and the reasons for its demise. The second section of the book lists the recordings, ranging from 1902 to 2004, with discussion of their relative merit--or poor quality. Lebrecht is assistant editor of the Evening Standard in London, a writer, and presenter of BBC's lebrecht.live. Annotation ©2008 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
About the Author
Norman Lebrecht, assistant editor of the Evening Standard in London and presenter of BBCs lebrecht.live, is a prolific writer on music and cultural affairs, whose weekly column has been called “required reading.” Lebrecht has written eleven books about music, and is also author of the novel The Song of Names, which won the Whitbread First Novel Award in 2003.
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