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.