Book Review

The Life and Death of Classical Music
Featuring the 100 Best and 20 Worst Recordings Ever Made

Norman Lebrecht
Anchor books, 2007, 327 pages

Norman Lebrecht is a music critic, but his history of the rise and fall of the classical music recording industry reads more like a novel, sprinkled liberally with snippets of dialogue and peppered with names of famous musicians and music industry executives. Lebrecht ignores the technical, musical, and theoretical aspects of classical music; for Lebrecht, it is the people, their personal successes and failures, and juicy gossip about their peccadilloes that matter the most. His insightful comment on page 89 that commercial success after the artist's death is "the mark of a doomed civilization that worships its dead," however, shows that he is not above making an occasional philosophical comment when necessary.

The second half the book critiques what Lebrecht considers to be 100 most important and the 20 worst recordings. Since all but thirty of the former were released before 1980, fans are likely to have little success in finding them.

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July 10, 2007 Back