Composers: Their Lives and Works

DK. Sept. 2020. 320p. ISBN 9781465491367. $35. REF
In this volume spanning from the 10th century to the present, DK editors profile more than 90 creators of masterworks from the Western classical music canon, such as Italian composer Antonio Vivaldi (1678–1741), Austrian composer Franz Schubert (1797–1828), and French composer Georges Bizet (1838–1875). Each page is filled with beautiful images—a combination of paintings, photographs, scores, clippings, and other artifacts. The entries, tied to relevant cultural events at the time, provide well-established information (date and place of birth, career highlights, mention of prominent works) yet are scant on facts about the composers’ personal lives. In places, unfortunate details about a few of the composers’ lives (Carlo Gesualdo murdered his wife, Richard Wagner’s anti-Semitism) are glossed over. The use of enlarged quotes, a simple time line of key works, a glossary of basic terms, and pop-out boxes of related content, make this ideal as a coffee-table book for casual browsing.
VERDICT There’s little new here; readers will find the same information covered in similar texts. Still, for nonmusically trained readers, this is an aesthetically pleasing introduction to Western classical music.
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