Combined CD and Book Review
The A to Z of Classical Music
CD1 Gregorian Chant to Rossini CD2 Schubert to
A package comprising a 2 CD set of classical music excerpts drawn from the
Naxos collection plus a 564 page CD-sized book, 'The A to Z of Classical
Composers edited by Keith Anderson.
NAXOS 8.555319-20 [CD
playing time: 151:22]
The cynical critic might dismiss this enterprise as merely a sales promotion
tool designed to sell the maximum number of Naxos and Marco Polo titles because
all the excerpts are exclusively from these labels.
However, the book (in its second expanded edition as the cover proclaims)
has genuine merit and is a useful resource especially for those just beginning
to explore classical music. It is also of considerable interest to film music
enthusiasts for it has 45 pages devoted to 360 films and their source classical
music. There is also a useful glossary of musical terms which is not quite
as exhaustive as it might be; for instance, if you wanted to know what tessitura
means, you would have to look elsewhere.
The A to Z composer entries which make up the main body of the book occupy
some 450 pages and cover the lives of hundreds of composers from Adolphe
Adam to Bernd Zimmerman. Brief biographical notes are followed by a discussion
of the main categories of their music. For instance Richard Addinsell's film
music is covered and a recommended recording stated all in less than half
a page. Haydn, on the other hand, merits a colour portrait and over six pages
devoted to his church music, oratorios, stage works, vocal music, orchestral
music and chamber music - and, of course many Naxos recordings are mentioned.
No problem with this because so many Naxos Haydn recordings are first class
- and they are no strain on the pocket either!
The author of the book is Keith Anderson familiar to Naxos and Marco Polo
fans as the writer of booklet notes for many of their releases particularly
for Naxos. Anderson has served as chief editor for Naxos and Marco Polo and
associated labels of HNH International since the foundation of the Company.
The CDs parallel the book giving 2½ hours of music from the Naxos catalogue.
The 38 excerpts are arranged across the two CDs, in chronological order,
commencing with Gregorian Chant and Hildegard von Bingen through to works
by Britten and Glass.
An ideal stocking filler for those new to classical music.
|1. Gregorian Chant: De Profundis
2. Hildegard of Bingen - O virga mediatrix
3. Palestrina - Missa papae marcelli "Gloria"
4. Byrd - Pavane for 6 viols
5. Pachelbel - Canon & gigue
6. Corelli - Christmas concerto
7. F Couperin - Premier concert
8. Vivaldi - Spring "Allegro"
9. Telemann - Trumpet Concerto
|10. JS Bach - Air on the G string
11. Handel - The Messiah "Hallelujah"
12. Haydn - London symphony
13. Von Dittersdorf - Sinfonia in F major
14. Mozart - Eine kleine nachtmusik
15. Beethoven - Moonlight sonata
16. Weber - Clarinet concerto no.2
17. Rossini - Stabat mater "Quis est home"
|1. Schubert - Ave maria
2. Berlioz - Symphonie fantastique
3. Mendelssohn - A midsummer night's dream "Wedding March"
4. Chopin - Minute waltz
5. Schumann - Symphony no.1 Spring
6. Wagner - Ride of the valkryies
7. Verdi - La traviata
8. Brahms - Hungarian dance no.3
9. Tchaikovsky - Swan lake
10. Dvorak - Slavonic dance no.1
|11. Elgar - Enigma variations "Nimrod"
12. Debussy - Clair de lune
13. R.Strauss - Also sprach Zarathustra
14. Rachmaninov - Prelude in C# minor
15. Respighi - The fountains of Rome
16. Stravinsky - Pulcinella suite
17. Orff - Carmina Burana
18. Britten - Simple symphony
19. Glass - Violin concerto
and Rob Barnett adds:
This set (and its companion A-Z of Opera) are
aimed at the festive shopping season already in full swing. Each is a 2 CD
set and each is matched with a substantial book both in a light card slip
The sequence of tracks is chronological to follow the development of classical
music over the centuries. The present set does not steer clear of operatic
extracts and the (rather slack) Valkyrie Ride is the same version
featured on the opera set. The tracks are all from Naxos's high, wide and
deep catalogue (excluding the historical series): features 1980s and 1990s
The chronological reach is wide: Gregorian Chant, Hildegard von Bingen,
Palestrina, Telemann, Vivaldi, Mozart, Beethoven, Rossini, Schubert, Schumann,
Tchaikovsky, Elgar, Respighi, Orff, Britten and Glass.
I will not list everything. However here is a sample of my reactions to
The first three tracks (Gregorian Chant, Bingen, Palestrina) are choral and
are all studiously done with Jeremy Summerley's Oxford Camerata putting in
a very good showing. The Byrd and Couperin retain the austere line. The Pachelbel
Canon is given an unsentimental treatment which it bears far better
than the soupier approaches so common now. Similar comments apply to the
Capella Istropolitana's way with Bach's Air On A G String. The Corelli
Vivace from Christmas Concerto is the first onset of a new
emotionalism. Takako Nishizaki's Allegro from Spring of Vivaldi's
Four Seasons is lively - a standout track. The Handel Hallelujah
Chorus is rather splashy while the Haydn London Symphony excerpt
seems rather heavy-handed in Barry Wordsworth's direction. Jeno Jando neatly
spins the Adagio from the Moonlight Sonata. Ernst Ottensammer
warbles lovingly in the Weber Clarinet Concerto No 2 (andante).
On the second disc we are in the safe hands of Ingrid Kertesi (familiar from
the opera set) who sings the Schubert Ave Maria. Pinchas Steinberg
could have done with being fleeter and lighter of foot in the Bal
from Symphonie Fantastique by Berlioz. Istvan Bogar no doubt benefits
from the idiomatic touch of the Budapest SO in Brahms' Hungarian Dance
No 3. Similar spirit lights up Balazs Sokolay's Dvorak Slavonic Dance
No. 1. Ondrej Lenard (who recorded a superb version of the Havergal Brian
Gothic Symphony on Marco Polo) is rather off form in the stolid
Scene from Swan Lake. The George Hurst Enigma is given
with extremely hushed poise. Keith Clark directed at a rather too pacey rate
the orchestral version of Debussy's Clair de Lune. Zdenek Kosler has
the privilege of directing in determined style the Slovak PO in the opening
of Also Sprach Zarathustra. Idil Biret's version of the Rachmaninov
C sharp minor prelude is also very deliberate. Enrique Batiz's version
of the Respighi Roman Poems was always a sound bargain price choice.
The Medici Fountain at Sunset shimmers in Debussian tones but with a neon
light playing below the waters. Stefan Sanderling (what relative of Kurt
and Thomas?) and the Bournemouth orchestra take us through Stravinsky's
Pulcinella Suite overture. The tone of the otherwise very fine
Slovak Philharmonic Chorus is for me rather recessed in Orff's O Fortuna
from Carmina Burana. The famous Britten Playful Pizzicato
takes us back to Bournemouth with Richard Studt and they revel in the
pizzicato hailstorm. Lastly Adèle Anthony takes us through the first
movement of Glass's extremely accessible Violin Concerto.
Wot no Sibelius, Hovhaness, Bax, Martinu, Janacek, Nielsen
. The road
towards appreciation (read 'love') of classical music does not have to be
mapped out by the conventional Bs and Ms. One day it would be good to see
an alternative approach reflected in a set of this type. I attach my own
Unlike in the Opera set the list of tracks directs you to the relevant page
reference in the accompanying book which is CD sized but circa one inch thick.
The coverage is wide including all the major composers and quite a few allegedly
minor ones. There are 451 pages of composer profiles with basic biographical
information and recommendations. There is also a good glossary of technical
terms, quite a few colour illustrations and a list of classical music used
All for ten pounds or less.
A great present for someone who has just taken an interest in classical music.
The book is useful but less so than the opera one. The same comment applies
to the set as a whole. The rewards are not as consistent in the case of this
set. The satisfaction level overall is a few settings lower than that
for the Opera A to Z.
AN ALTERNATIVE ROUTE TO THE CLASSICS
Sibelius Symphony 2 first movement
Bax Symphony 5 second movement
Hovhaness extract from Majnun Symphony
Rimsky Antar (first movement)
Janacek finale Sinfonietta
Moeran scherzo from G minor symphony
Elgar Introduction and Allegro
Pettersson finale Symphony No 7
Barber Knoxville - Summer 1915
Howard Hanson Symphony No 2 first movement
Glazunov Symphony 5 first movement
George Lloyd first movement Symphony No 6
Medtner Sonata Romantica
Vaughan Williams Symphony No 6 first movement
Pärt Cantus in Memoriam BB
Martinu Symphony 4 (finale)
Novak In The Tatras
Korngold Symphony - scherzo