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Publisher's Summary

The lives and music of the great composers of classical music unfold in this entertaining account, introduced by the conductor and musical personality Marin Alsop. In 1200 years, classical music grew from the chanting of medieval monks through the symphonies of Beethoven and the grand operas of Wagner to the huge orchestral sound-world of the 21st century, with its electronics and its film music. In her easy-going style, Marin Alsop paints vivid portraits of over 90 composers, each one illustrated with some of his, or her, most famous music.

©2004 Darren Henley; (P)2004 NAXOS AudioBooks Ltd.

Critic Reviews

  • Audie Award Winner, Original Work and Achievement in Production, 2005

"Alsop's easygoing approach works well as she serves as a welcoming tour guide offering fun facts and interesting biographical sketches for listeners." (Publishers Weekly)
"This charming compilation is cheerfully hosted by the clear and friendly voice of Marin Alsop, who walks young (and curious adult) listeners through an engaging history of classical music." (AudioFile)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 3.9 out of 5.0
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Interesting, informative, easy

This is a perfect application for audiobooks -- a history of classical music along with samples from the works of the composers discussed. I was afraid I would be bored, but was informed and entertained start to finish. This is a very basic overview -- appropriate for children or adults with minimal background in classical music. It gave me a very good context for the music, both in time, geographically, and stylistically. One criticism: the sound quality of the music was not great.

12 of 12 people found this review helpful

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A Good Basic Introduction

I did enjoy this book. I've listended to classical music and wished I knew more about the history - and I've read about classical music and wished I could hear the music they were talking about. This program gives you a quick tour with the brief highlights of both.

This program concentrates more on the historical settings of the composers, not the musical composition or theory. It is also easy to tell that this program was designed as an introduction for students (probably middle to high school age). I didn't mind that, some people may. Listen to the audio sample and you'll quickly see if this is the type of book you're looking for.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

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Short and sweet

I myself am a music student at university, and I found this to be a wonderfully short and sweet overview of classical music. It was written in an enjoyable way, and I loved that they put the musical excerpts in there as well. I felt he spent a little too much time on a few composers and really glossed over others. Overall, though, I'd recommend it to anyone.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Pretty Enjoyable

Between this title and 'Classical Music 101', this one was a joy to listen to as the latter one was drudgery. The narration was pleasant and the musical snippets were a nice additional bonus to help move the story along, although some of the snippets were too long. However, I enjoyed it and I believe that children 8 and over would also enjoy it.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Appeals to wide age range

While the quality of the music clips is disappointing, the narration is quite good. My children (ranging from kindergarten to sixth grade) and I all really enjoyed this audiobook. This book is a good choice for long car trips with a wide age range.

The only other criticism we have is that one point, the narrator mentions Rimsky-Korsakov as the composer of "Pictures at an Exhibition," which is incorrect. Even so, the book is highly recommended.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Laura
  • washington dc, DC, USA
  • 04-18-10

The child's ear

I'm an adult and I love music, though I can't say I have an "educated ear". Thus my desire to do some music history! As I was looking through the more sophisticated books on the topic, I read a review of someone saying she had preferred this one because the music samples were longer. I'm glad I took her advice. I learned a lot, had fun and listened to some beautiful music and I'm not embarrassed to say that the "child" approach was perfect for me!

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Ken
  • Morisset ParkAustralia
  • 10-25-09

A great listen

A delight to listen to and lightly informative. Highly recommended.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Linda
  • Seattle, WA, USA
  • 09-04-08

Made for kids but we liked it also.

My husband and I quite enjoyed listening to this while commuting. He is quite familiar with the music and composers but found it enjoyable and informative anyway.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Entertaining and informative

Geared toward children and beginners. It provides a nice overview and lots of samples of beautiful and important works. Not for those looking for a deep scholarly text but excellent for those interested in exploring the different periods and learning about some of the major composers. Enjoyable listen.

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  • LauraRose
  • Eugene, OR, United States
  • 05-07-15

I had to Grit my Teeth, but I Learned Quite A Bit

I decided to listen to this BEFORE listing to any adult level books or lectures on the subject, in order to get a first draft in my brain. It was just right for that, though I thought he glossed over the very early sections a little faster than necessary, and there were a few too many superlatives. Let the listener decide for themselves what is the "loveliest piece of music ever written." Also, the sound effects were pretty silly, even for kids, and really distracting. Possibly some could even be confusing when they say things like, "This is Beethoven walking to hear an organ concert.: clomp, clomp, clomp." I think it was Beethoven.... Anyhow, whoever it was there is certainly no recording of them walking.

I appreciated the author's efforts to tie in other historical events of the time to give some context. I particularly learned a lot about more modern composers, who will, undoubtedly, become more well known as they start to die off.

Alsop is one of my classical music heroes (she used to be our little city's conductor!), and she has done great things for popularizing it and helping kids and adults understand it, so I applaud this effort. However, though she is well-spoken and insightful and in every way a wonderful person, she is not a professional narrator and by the end I felt like she was just reading along, hoping it would be over soon. Her intonation got more predictable, and the phrasing less meaningful, which will not be helpful to young listeners' comprehension.

I am totally ready for a grown up version now. For kids, it might be a lot to absorb just listening passively. If I was listening to this with kids, I would listen to a section then stop and go find some longer recordings or a picture of the composer or something to tie it to. Maybe draw a timeline on a big piece of paper.

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  • Pen Name
  • 04-06-13

How an audiobook about music should be

I have nothing to say about the content, perhaps any printed book could do as much. But the presentation filled with a lively narration, recordings of the music she's talking about, sound effects, re-enactments and subtle humor overall makes a better learning experience. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't learn as much by reading a music history book.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Alexandra
  • 11-01-07

What better way to relax and learn?

If you, like me, like to relax (read) before going to sleep, but like classical music too, then this is for you. Although not particularly aimed at an adult audience (i.e. good for 12 year-olds who are interested in classical music), I still found this audiobook a good buy. Finally I can put a name to all those famous pieces of music I heard in my childhood home, and know to which genre they belong. Why four stars? I have nothing else to compare it to, this being the first 'history of classical music' audiobook I've ever listened to. A definite yes.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Stephen Callaghan
  • 01-25-17

Brilliant overview. Entertaining & educational.

A brilliant overview of a huge subject that doesn't assume any prior knowledge and is very entertaining in the illustrations and sound effects used to travel across it. Definitely recommended for anyone who wants a beginners guide to enjoying classical music on a new level.

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