Classical Music guides? [Archive] - Audio & Video Forums


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Dusty Chalk
10-27-2006, 03:52 AM
I've been getting into instrumental music a lot lately. I spend more time listening to instrumental music (at work, for example) than all other kinds of music combined, so I've decided to take this aspect of my music listening habits, and translate it to my music buying habits.

A large portion of that music is classical music. So what I'm looking for are guides. I already know of two that I like: the Penguin guide and Gramophone. Now before anyone jumps on me, please keep in mind that my standards are pretty low -- I'm pleased by most everything. I can't tell the difference between PCM-mastered SACD vs. DSD-mastered SACD; they both sound better to me than redbook CD. And I'm not on some sort of tower-of-babylon-building quest to get the one true performance of any particular piece -- I like having multiple interpretations available. So if I get a "rosette" (Penguin's highest grade) of a particular piece, I might still get the highest rated performance by Gramophone as well. Because most of this music is rated on speakers, and a lot of it sounds very different on headphones. I'm bothered by a muddy mix (I do have some standards, I'm just not sure what they are yet -- I like what I like, and I don't what I don't). you have any favourite classical music guides that you would recommend me?

I'm also seriously considering subscribing to BBC Music and Gramophone magazines as well, for good measure.

Pat D
10-28-2006, 12:37 PM
I'm a little slow replying these days. As I built my collection, I looked at three things:

1) What works do I want to have? (This grows as I learn more.)
2) Which recordings of them do I want to have? (Artists, labels, recording quality, etc.)
3) What else do I come across that looks interesting?

I try to build repertoire, music I would like to have and so I shall list some history material first.

I'm sure there are others.

As for books, well, there is the The Pelican History of Music, 3 vols., ed. by Robertson and Stevens.

Also in Pelican Books, The Symphony, ed. Robert Simpson, has some good articles, though it is a little out of date now (published 1967). There are also Pelican Books on The Concerto, Chamber Music, and Keyboard Music.

Harold C. Schonberg's The Lives of the Great Composers is well-written, informative, chatty, and not too deep. I'm not sure about it's UK availability.

As for recordings, well, I'm imagine the BBC has some good programs (we like to listen to the BBC on line but mostly drama and comedy on BBC7).

The Penguin Guides also list a great many works, but they also provide ratings for various recordings, as you know, though I don't follow their recommendations too closely.

BBC Music and Gramophone are no doubt useful tools, too, both for suggesting repertoire and for suggesting recordings. But there are simply no guarantees as to what you would like.

You can play parts of a lot of things on the Naxos site and I think for a modest subscription, you can download music from there. Naxos also has some guides to the history of music with recorded examples, but I have no idea how good they are.

Dusty Chalk
10-28-2006, 10:30 PM
Thanks, Pat. I was hoping you'd pipe up. (And no worries on the slow -- I understand a lot of us don't frequent here every day.)