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Books

M. Owen Lee:  The great instrumental works
10 Feb 2006

LEE: The Great Instrumental Works

This book is for any aficionado or lover of classical instrumental music.

M. Owen Lee: The great instrumental works
Unlocking the masters series, vol. 7

Pompton Plains, NJ: Amadeus Press, 2005. xiv, 266 pp. Includes 2 CDs.

ISBN 1-57467-117-0

$27.95  Click to buy

Not only does the author, MET opera broadcaster M. Owen Lee, guide the reader through the lives and music of some of the greatest composers of the Baroque, Classical, Romantic, and modern eras, but recorded copies of some of the music discussed is included in two CDs in the back of the book. Lee begins by relating the various forms and genres of instrumental music since the late seventeenth century, with a focus on chamber music, the concerto, and the symphony. He then divides composers by nationality, beginning with Italians, the Germanic Canon, More Germans, Parisians, Masters of Opera, Slavs, Late Romantics, More Parisians, and the Twentieth Century. A glossary of terms, and complete listing of the contents of the CDs, is provided at the back of the book.

Lee takes the reader through approximately fifty different composers, provides a short biographical paragraph, then jumps immediately into a description of the musical pieces that he feels are important to provide some explanation about. Lee’s approach is geared towards a simple explanation and focus on the music itself, with very descriptive and subjective language related to his own feelings and understandings of the piece(s) in question. The two CDs contain sections of sixteen works, all from the mid-Baroque to the early twentieth century. In that respect, the music does not encompass the entire span of time or periods which the author discusses, especially the later twentieth century. In fact, Rachmaninoff is the only twentieth-century composer whose music is provided, yet he is really a late Romanticist in style. It would have been nice to have included more representative music related to the number of composers and pieces whose music is described in this book, but the constraints of copyright restrictions were probably the reason for this. Otherwise, it is a nice book for anyone wanting a general guidebook for choosing a general purpose CD collection in classical instrumental music.

Dr. Brad Eden
University of Nevada, Las Vegas

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