The Indispensable Composers: A Personal Guide (Hardcover)

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The Indispensable Composers: A Personal Guide (Hardcover)
By Anthony Tommasini

When he began to listen to the great works of classical music as a child, Anthony Tommasini had many questions. Why did a particular piece move him? How did the music work? Over time, he realized that his passion for this music was not enough. He needed to understand it. Take Bach, for starters. Who was he? How does one account for his music and its unshakeable hold on us today?

As a critic, Tommasini has devoted particular attention to living composers and overlooked repertory. But, like all classical music lovers, the canon has remained central for him. In 2011, in his role as the chief classical music critic for the New York Times, he wrote a popular series in which he somewhat cheekily set out to determine the all-time top ten composers. Inviting input from readers, Tommasini wrestled with questions of greatness. This intellectual game reminded us why we loved music in the first place.

Now, in The Indispensable Composers, Tommasini offers his own personal guide to the canon – and what greatness really means in classical music. What does it mean to be canonical now? Who gets to say? And do we have enough perspective on the 20th century to even begin assessing it? To make his case, Tommasini draws on elements of biography, the anxiety of influence, the composers’ relationships with colleagues, and shifting attitudes toward a composer’s work over time.

As he argues for his particular pantheon of indispensable composers, Tommasini provides a masterclass in what to listen for and how to understand what music does to us.

  • Hardcover: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Press (November 6, 2018)
  • Dimensions: 6.4” W x 1.5” D x 9.5” H


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History

Music Notes

Most Western music is based on a system of notation that evolved around 1600 out of earlier practices. The starting point for any opera is the full score, which contains all individual voices and instruments arranged in a specific order on the page. The written music—representing the sounds a composer creates in his head—then comes to life performed by singers onstage and played by the orchestra.

 

 

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