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Music Critic Alex Ross Has Come Out With His Second Book Entitled "Listen To This "

   Three years ago , "The Rest Is Noise "  by New Yorker magazine music critic Alex Ross , an absorbing cultural history of classical music in the 20th century, came out to enormous acclaim , and Ross has just released his second book " Listen To This ", which is a collection of his writings for the New Yorker on a wide variety of composers and performing musicians ranging from Franz Schubert to Bjork . 
   The new book is every bit as absorbing ,if quite different in emphasis .  The essays include a discussion on how recordings have effected music in the 20th centiry both positively and negatively ,enabling us to hear an astnishingly wide variety of classical music but possibly spoiling us with their artificial technical perfection through retakes and splicing if sometimes robbing the recorded performances of spontaneity ,  the surge in the popularity of western classical music in China and the rise in the number of world-famous Chinese classical msucians such as pianist Lang Lang ,  Bjork's background in classical music and the classicalmusic scene in Iceland , a discussion of the melodious music of Schubert and his life and personality ,about which so little is actually known , the brilliant Finnish composer/conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen, former music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic , the operas of Giuseppe Verdi , the late great African-American contralto Marian Anderson and how racism in America effected her career , the brooding,melancholy late music of Johannes Brahms ,  the prestigious Marlboro musc festival in Vermont , the sorry state of music education in America and what mioght be done to help it , and  Bob Dylan and other Pop ,Rock and Jazz musicians .
   Ross discusses the problems of the classical music world , the aging audiences ,  the conservative tastes of so many concertgoers, the difficulty of contemporary composers getting a hearing and achieving success given the enormous popularity of music from the past ,  the public image of classical music as "elitist" , and how some conductors ,instrumentalists and singers are willing to think outside the box and give the public more than that same old same old , the good, the bad, the negative and the positive in an admirably balanced manner ,even though if he occasionally makes some not quite fair statements about certain orchestras, such as the New York Philharmonic , which was nowhere near as "stody,conservative and hidebound "with regards to programming as he and other critics would have us believe before the recent and acclaimed arrival of Alan Gilbert as music director.

   Each essay is thought-provoking and  full of vivid descriptions of a wide variety of classical works and the performances of great musicians of our time .  Even if you disagree with him at times ,as I did in some of his claims about some of our orchestras and the current classical music scene in general , you can'thelp but be filled with admiration for this critic's onfectious enthusiasm and ability to bring his subjects vividly to life .  The book is published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux and is easily abtainable at and elsewhere on the internet .

Posted: Mar 01 2011, 06:05 PM by the horn | with no comments
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