Cover image for The essential canon of classical music
The essential canon of classical music
Dubal, David.
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First paperback edition.
Publication Information:
New York, N.Y. : North Point Press, 2003.

Physical Description:
xvi, 770 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
pt. 1. The Medieval, Renaissance, and Elizabethan ages -- pt. 2. The age of the Baroque -- Other Baroque composers -- pt. 3. The age of Classicism -- Other Classical composers -- pt. 4. The Romantic age -- Other Romantic composers -- pt. 5. The age of Modernism -- Other Modern composers.
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MT90 .D83 2001C Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

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The ultimate guide to classical composers and their music-for both the novice and the experienced listener

Music, according to Aaron Copland, can thrive only if there are "gifted listeners." But today's listeners must choose between classical and rock, opera and rap, and the choices can seem overwhelming at times. In The Essential Canon of Classical Music , David Dubal comes to the aid of the struggling listener and provides a cultural-literacy handbook for classical music. Dubal identifies the 240 composers whose works are most important to an understanding of classical music and offers a comprehensive, chronological guide to their lives and works. He has searched beyond the traditional canon to introduce readers to little-known works by some of the most revered names in classical music-Bach, Haydn, Mozart, Schubert-as well as to the major works of lesser-known composers. In a spirited and opinionated voice, Dubal seeks to rid us of the notion of "masterpieces" and instead to foster a new generation of master listeners. The result is an uncommon collection of the wonders classical music has to offer.

Author Notes

David Dubal is an acclaimed pianist and a professor at the Juilliard School. He has won several awards, including the Peabody Award and an Emmy for the documentary The Golden Age of the Piano. The former classical music program director at WNCN, Dubal is currently a broadcaster on WQXR. He is also the author of many books

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

To attempt to cover the range of serious music is a herculean task from medieval polyphony to the minimalism of Arvo P?rt and Philip Glass, offering insights, biographical information on dozens of major and minor figures, and even finding room for moderately useful, if necessarily incomplete, discographies, Dubal has brought it off better than might have been expected. As a teacher at the Juilliard School and with 20 years as a classical program director at New York's WNCN radio station, he brings strong qualifications to the job, and since he writes decently, if sometimes rather bluntly, and has thought through his organization clearly, the book is probably the most useful of its kind now available. He divides music into the traditional five periods, and lists the significant composers as well as a host of lesser figures chronologically within those. In each case, he offers a few biographical snippets (more extended portraits for the great figures), provides a sense of where the composer fits into the scheme of things, then lists significant works and some chosen recordings. These are likely to be the most controversial aspects of the book, though Dubal is careful to point out that his choices offer a range of approaches to the seminal works. He does seem to have vast affection for the recordings of Sir Thomas Beecham and, more recently, for the work of Charles Dutoit; and inevitably some will question his priorities: nearly twice as much space for Richard Strauss as for, say, Sibelius? For Paul Dukas over Carl Nielsen? But the book's usefulness and comprehensiveness cannot be denied. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

In this entertaining and informative book, Dubal gives himself the difficult challenge of addressing two audiences simultaneously: listeners new to classical music and more experienced listeners who would like a guide to creating a "lifetime listening plan." A professor of piano literature at Juilliard and a former, longtime classical music programmer for WNCN in New York, he brings strong credentials to the taskAand, for the most part, he succeeds. The scope and attention to detail are very impressive, and the engaging writing style makes for pleasurable browsing. Dubal includes 240 composers in five chronological sections and categorizes them by date of birth within each grouping. He considers 60 to be major and, therefore, worthy of lengthy biographical entries and substantial listening lists. The remaining 180 receive about a page or less of prose, with only a handful of recordings listed. While he is relatively generous to the 20th century (more composers are included in this section than in any other), he ends his survey with William Bolcom (born in 1938), thus ignoring the many significant composers younger than 62. On the other end of the chronological spectrum, Dubal's pre-Baroque listings include only 13 composers, represented by a mere 14 recordingsAa woefully inadequate representation, given the explosion of early music recordings in the last quarter century. Despite these flaws, the book is a valuable resource for those interested in expanding their collections of classical music recordings. Recommended for all public libraries.ALarry Lipkis, Moravian Coll., Bethlehem, PA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Dubal (Julliard) states that his volume has two target audiences: those who are completely new to "classical" music and those who are already familiar with it but need suggestions for a "lifetime listening plan." Dubal takes a new approach to formulating canon: he eschews the old "masterworks" system of categorization, noting that "too many pedestrian performances of these works can make them stale, exhausting their immense spiritual energy." His look at the "essential" canon is decidedly heavy in 19th- and 20th-century literature (50 composers representing music before 1800 and 186 representing music after 1800). This is, however, in keeping with his mission--to acquaint those new to music with works and composers deemed part of the canon. He favors exploring new sounds, which accounts for the heavy emphasis on later composers--particularly romantic piano composers. Designed as a resource volume, the book includes a brief biographical entry for each composer, and each composer is coupled with others in the relevant time period. General and lower/upper-division undergraduate collections. K. S. Todd Oklahoma Baptist University



Excerpt from The Essential Canon of Classical Music We can only speculate about the origins of music, but its seemingly magical qualities must have been apparent early in human prehistory. Primitive music of some sort probably preceded speech by thousands of years. Those with unusual vocal abilities may have used their power in rituals or to convey messages over a distance. These ancient singers, like their brothers the cave painters, may even have been privileged members of the clan. But it was a long time before people started making vocal utterances in intervals, thus creating melodies that could be repeated again and again. The first musical instrument, if you can call it that, was the pursed lips of a whistler (no doubt first used in an attempt to imitate bird calls). Early peoples thereafter developed banging, twanging, and scraping instruments, most of which were used, with the dance, to practice magical and sexual rites and to worship the sun and the moon. Charles Darwin was convinced "that musical notes and rhythm were first acquired by the male or female progenitors of mankind for the sake of charming the opposite sex." As the concept of pitch developed, those with good musical ears could start to imitate sounds. The pitches they heard, however, were not those that we have come to know. Each area of the world developed a different vocabulary of sounds. We do not know who the first musical geniuses were, or when they first organized sound into a musical form. How interesting it would be to go back in time and hear the music used for prehistoric funeral and marital rites, or the humming and singing (if any) that accompanied hunting and gathering! Our knowledge of music in ancient civilizations is little better than that in the prehistoric world. We know very little about Egypt, and only a little more about the strides made in India, Persia, and the Far East. The five-tone or pentatonic scale was first developed in China around three thousand years ago. In ancient Greece music was almost held sacred, and the mythological musician Orpheus was feted. Pythagoras realized that music had healing agents, but Plato found it dangerous and enervating. The Greeks made great advances in musical theory, developing scales or modes; but only a few fragments of their music survive. This gifted civilization was probably the most musically expressive up to that time. It was with the emergence of Christianity that the Western musical tradition began. Gregorian chant, named for Pope Gregory the Great (d. 604), had its roots in Jewish liturgical chants. In addition, psalmody, hymns, antiphons, and so forth became part of a common liturgy that spread through the Christian world. For several hundred years after Gregory, theory and practice slowly evolved together (for creativity could not blossom until theoretical problems were solved). The Middle Ages saw the birth of polyphony, a revolutionary new form of music based on two or more parts, or melodic lines. Polyphony made possible the mass, the chief musical ritual of the Roman Catholic Church. It also saw the birth of a secular musical tradition, alongside the liturgical. Wandering minstrels, known as troubadours, based their popular melodies on poems of courtly love. They made creative use of new musical instruments to accompany their chivalric stanzas, which were usually written in the vernacular languages and not in Latin. The vernacular was making rapid progress in the other arts, especially after 1300, when both Dante and Petrarch started to write verse in Italian. Their poems expressed emotional states not previously addressed by the arts. (Petrarch, for example, dedicated his sonnets to his lady love, Laura.) Music could not yet rival the flexibility of poetry, but Petrarch's contemporary Guillaume de Machaut brought music to a new rhythmic complexity through syncopation. Like other composers, he worked for the Church, but in his ballades he codified a new type of secular song in courtly language, accompanied by an instrument, with sections of ornamental freedom. The ballade form would retain its popularity for a century. As it did with the other arts, Italy, the cradle of the Renaissance, developed a flourishing musical culture, especially after 1450. While Giovanni Bellini was painting his incomparable madonnas, Italians were reveling in madrigals, a mostly secular polyphonic form using two to as many as eight vocal parts. In the humanistic Renaissance, as one scholar put it, "music was not a set of compositional techniques but a complex of social conditions, intellectual states of mind, attitudes, aspirations, habits of performers, artistic support systems, intracultural communication, and many other ingredients which add up to a thriving matrix of musical energy." Beauty in art and craft was a highly valued element of life. The artist of the Renaissance was in fact more integrated into general society than he would ever be again. Italian and English musicians were artists of the highest cultivation. Performances were constant and lively, and for the first time notated music was f0published. New instruments were created in abundance and were of exceptional beauty in their ornaments: organs, harpsichords, cornetti, shawms (forerunners of the oboe), sackbuts (early trombones), viols (cousins of the modern violin, cello, and viola), flutes, lutes, and dozens of others. Like many noblemen, Henry VIII of England, who considered himself a fine composers had a splendid collection of instruments (nearly four hundred by 1530). By the late sixteenth century, any person of rank or pretension was expected to have musical proficiency. Most were excellent sight-readers. The reign of Elizabeth (1558-1603) was a golden age for the arts, and music thrived in the home, at church, and in the theater. Shakespeare used song prolifically in his plays and showed not only his love for the art but his knowledge of it. He may have played the recorder. In his 128th sonnet, he wrote of "jacks" that part of the virginal (keyboard) action that makes possible the plucking of the strings: I envy those jacks that nimble leap To kiss the tender inward of thy hand. In Italy madrigals continued to rule the secular musical scene in the later Renaissance. Both Claudio Monteverdi and Carlo Gesualdo provided greatness to this form. The madrigal is the neglected glory of the Renaissance. Two close contemporaries, Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina and Orlande de Lassus, were giants: Palestrina's masses, with their beautiful euphony, are among music's purest, most angelic manifestations. The versatile master Lassus fulfilled the motet form, the villanella, and the chanson. These and many composers in other lands -- such as the Swiss Ludwig Senfl, the Dutchman Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck, the Spaniard Tomás Luis de Victoria, and the Englishman William Byrd -- make the sixteenth century a time of high musical adventurousness. Composers had never had more options in vocal and instrumental expression. Most of all, conflicts between polyphony and melody grew. At the end of the sixteenth century, a group of Florentine dilettantes, poets, and musicians plotted the germ of a new art form. They rejected polyphony as unsuited to accompany song in drama. Jacopo Peri's Dafne (1598) may be called the first drama to be completely set to music. It signaled the birth of opera -- and of the Baroque era. Copyright (c) 2001 David Dubal --From The Essential Canon of Classical Music, by David Dubal (Illustrator). (c) October 2001 , North Point Press used by permission. Excerpted from The Essential Canon of Classical Music by David Dubal All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. xv
Introductionp. 3
Part I The Medieval, Renaissance, and Elizabethan Agesp. 9
Guillaume de Machautp. 15
Guillaume Dufayp. 15
Josquin Desprezp. 16
Thomas Tallisp. 16
Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrinap. 17
Orlande de Lassusp. 17
William Byrdp. 18
Tomas Luis de Victoriap. 19
Giovanni Gabrielip. 19
Carlo Gesualdop. 20
John Dowlandp. 21
Claudio Monteverdip. 21
Gregorio Allegrip. 22
Part II The Age of the Baroquep. 23
George Frideric Handelp. 31
Johann Sebastian Bachp. 39
Domenico Scarlattip. 50
Other Baroque Composers
Girolamo Frescobaldip. 55
Heinrich Schutzp. 55
Jean-Baptiste Lullyp. 56
Dietrich Buxtehudep. 57
Arcangelo Corellip. 57
Henry Purcellp. 58
Alessandro Scarlattip. 60
Francois Couperinp. 60
Tomaso Albinonip. 61
Antonio Vivaldip. 62
Jan Zelenkap. 62
Georg Philipp Telemannp. 63
Jean-Philippe Rameaup. 63
Alessandro and Benedetto Marcellop. 65
Part III The Age of Classicismp. 67
Christoph Willibald Gluckp. 77
Franz Joseph Haydnp. 83
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozartp. 95
Ludwig van Beethovenp. 114
Other Classical Composers
Francesco Geminianip. 133
Giuseppe Tartinip. 133
Thomas Arnep. 134
Giovanni Battista Pergolesip. 135
William Boycep. 136
Carl Philipp Emanuel Bachp. 136
Pietro Nardinip. 137
Antonio Solerp. 138
Luigi Boccherinip. 138
Domenico Cimarosap. 139
Muzio Clementip. 139
Luigi Cherubinip. 140
Francois-Adrien Boieldieup. 141
Johann Nepomuk Hummelp. 142
Fernando Sorp. 143
Mauro Giulianip. 143
Part IV The Romantic Agep. 145
Nicolo Paganinip. 159
Carl Maria von Weberp. 167
Gioachino Rossinip. 175
Franz Schubertp. 181
Gaetano Donizettip. 194
Vincenzo Bellinip. 199
Hector Berliozp. 204
Felix Mendelssohnp. 212
Frederic Chopinp. 221
Robert Schumannp. 232
Franz Lisztp. 245
Richard Wagnerp. 256
Giuseppe Verdip. 269
Charles Gounodp. 280
Jacques Offenbachp. 285
Cesar Franckp. 290
Bedrich Smetanap. 295
Anton Brucknerp. 303
Johann Strauss IIp. 310
Johannes Brahmsp. 315
Alexander Borodinp. 330
Camille Saint-Saensp. 336
Georges Bizetp. 343
Modest Mussorgskyp. 348
Peter Ilyich Tchaikovskyp. 355
Antonin Dvorakp. 367
Edvard Griegp. 374
Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakovp. 380
Gabriel Faurep. 386
Leos Janacekp. 394
Sir Edward Elgarp. 400
Giacomo Puccinip. 407
Hugo Wolfp. 414
Gustav Mahlerp. 421
Frederick Deliusp. 435
Claude Debussyp. 440
Richard Straussp. 451
Jean Sibeliusp. 463
Other Romantic Composers
Daniel-Francois Auberp. 471
Giacomo Meyerbeerp. 471
Franz Berwaldp. 472
Albert Lortzingp. 473
Adolphe Adamp. 473
Mikhail Glinkap. 474
Otto Nicolaip. 474
Charles-Valentin Alkanp. 474
Franz von Suppep. 475
Edouard Lalop. 476
Louis Moreau Gottschalkp. 477
Karl Goldmarkp. 478
Amilcare Ponchiellip. 478
Henryk Wieniawskip. 479
Leo Delibesp. 479
Mily Balakirevp. 480
Max Bruchp. 481
Hermann Goetzp. 481
Emmanuel Chabrierp. 481
Arrigo Boitop. 483
Sir Arthur Sullivanp. 483
Jules Massenetp. 484
Charles-Marie Widorp. 486
Pablo de Sarasatep. 486
Henri Duparcp. 487
Vincent d'Indyp. 487
Engelbert Humperdinckp. 488
John Philip Sousap. 489
Anatoly Liadovp. 489
Ernest Chaussonp. 490
Ruggiero Leoncavallop. 491
Mikhail Ippolitov-Ivanovp. 493
Gustave Charpentierp. 493
Edward MacDowellp. 494
Isaac Albenizp. 494
Charles Martin Loefflerp. 495
Anton Arenskyp. 496
Pietro Mascagnip. 496
Alexander Glazunovp. 497
Carl Nielsenp. 498
Paul Dukasp. 498
Part V The Age of Modernismp. 501
Alexander Scriabinp. 509
Ralph Vaughan Williamsp. 516
Sergei Rachmaninoffp. 522
Arnold Schoenbergp. 533
Maurice Ravelp. 544
Bela Bartokp. 555
Igor Stravinskyp. 564
Alban Bergp. 574
Sergei Prokofievp. 582
Paul Hindemithp. 593
George Gershwinp. 598
Francis Poulencp. 604
Aaron Coplandp. 612
Dmitri Shostakovichp. 620
Benjamin Brittenp. 629
Other Modern Composers
Erik Satiep. 637
Ferruccio Busonip. 638
Umberto Giordanop. 639
Enrique Granadosp. 639
Scott Joplinp. 641
Hans Pfitznerp. 641
Albert Rousselp. 642
Franz Leharp. 642
Alexander von Zemlinskyp. 643
Max Regerp. 643
Gustav Holstp. 644
Charles Ivesp. 645
Josef Sukp. 646
Reinhold Glierep. 646
Fritz Kreislerp. 646
John Alden Carpenterp. 647
Manuel de Fallap. 647
Erno von Dohnanyip. 649
Ottorino Respighip. 650
Frank Bridgep. 651
Nikolai Medtnerp. 652
Ernest Blochp. 652
George Enescup. 653
Karol Szymanowskip. 654
Joaquin Turinap. 654
Percy Graingerp. 654
Zoltan Kodalyp. 655
Anton Webernp. 657
Sir Arnold Baxp. 658
Alfredo Casellap. 658
Edgard Varesep. 659
Charles Tomlinson Griffesp. 660
George Butterworthp. 660
Marcel Duprep. 661
Heitor Villa-Lobosp. 661
Jacques Ibertp. 663
Bohuslav Martinup. 663
Frank Martinp. 664
Arthur Honeggerp. 664
Ferde Grofep. 665
Darius Milhaudp. 665
Walter Pistonp. 666
Mario Castelnuovo-Tedescop. 666
Carl Orffp. 667
Virgil Thomsonp. 667
Howard Hansonp. 668
Roger Sessionsp. 668
Erich Wolfgang Korngoldp. 669
Roy Harrisp. 670
Silvestre Revueltasp. 670
Carlos Chavezp. 671
George Antheilp. 671
Kurt Weillp. 672
Harry Partchp. 672
Gerald Finzip. 673
Joaquin Rodrigop. 673
Maurice Duruflep. 674
Sir William Waltonp. 674
Aram Khachaturianp. 676
Dmitri Kabalevskyp. 677
Sir Michael Tippettp. 677
Elliott Carterp. 678
Olivier Messiaenp. 679
Grazyna Bacewiczp. 680
Samuel Barberp. 680
Alan Hovhanessp. 681
Gian Carlo Menottip. 682
John Cagep. 682
Morton Gouldp. 683
Witold Lutoslawskip. 683
George Perlep. 684
Milton Babbittp. 684
Alberto Ginasterap. 685
Lou Harrisonp. 685
Leonard Bernsteinp. 686
Karel Husap. 686
Iannis Xenakisp. 687
Gyorgy Ligetip. 687
Ned Roremp. 688
Luciano Beriop. 688
Pierre Boulezp. 688
Hans Werner Henzep. 689
Karlheinz Stockhausenp. 690
George Crumbp. 691
Toru Takemitsup. 691
Rodion Shchedrinp. 692
Krzysztof Pendereckip. 692
Sir Peter Maxwell Daviesp. 693
Alfred Schnittkep. 693
Arvo Partp. 694