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Ten Masterpieces of Music

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In this penetrating volume, Harvey Sachs, acclaimed biographer and historian of classical music, takes readers into the hearts of ten extraordinary works of classical music in ten different genres, showing both the curious novice and the seasoned listener how to recognize, appreciate, and engage with these masterpieces on a historical and compositional level. Far from what In this penetrating volume, Harvey Sachs, acclaimed biographer and historian of classical music, takes readers into the hearts of ten extraordinary works of classical music in ten different genres, showing both the curious novice and the seasoned listener how to recognize, appreciate, and engage with these masterpieces on a historical and compositional level. Far from what is often thought, classical music is neither dead nor dying. As a genre, it is constantly evolving, its pieces passing through countless permutations and combinations yet always retaining that essential élan vital, or life force. The works collected here, composed in the years between 1784 and 1966, are a testament to this fact. As Sachs skillfully demonstrates, they have endured not because they were exceptionally well-made or interesting but because they were created by composers—Mozart and Beethoven; Schubert, Schumann, Berlioz, Verdi, and Brahms; Sibelius, Prokofiev, and Stravinsky—who had a particular genius for drawing music out of their deepest wellsprings. “Through music,” Sachs writes, “they universalized the intimate.” In describing how music actually sounds, Ten Masterpieces of Music seems to do the impossible, animating the process of composing as well as the coming together of disparate scales and melodies, trills and harmonies. It tells us, too, how particular compositions came to be, often revealing that the pieces we now consider “classic” were never intended to be so. In poignant, exquisite prose, Sachs shows how Mozart, a former child prodigy under constant pressure to produce new music, hastily penned Piano Concerto No. 17 in G major, one of his finest piano concertos, for a teenage student, and likewise demonstrates how Goethe’s Faust, Part One, became a springboard for the musical imagination of the French composer Berlioz. As Sachs explains, these pieces are not presented as candidates for a new “Top Ten.” They represent neither the most well-known nor the most often-performed works of each composer. Instead, they were chosen precisely because he had something profound to say about them, about their composers, about how each piece fits into its composer’s life, and about how each of these lives can be contextualized by time and place. In fact, Sachs encourages readers to form their own favorites, and teaches them how to discern special characteristics that will enhance their own listening experiences. With Ten Masterpieces of Music, it becomes evident that Sachs has lived with these pieces for a veritable lifetime. His often-soaring descriptions of the works and the dramatic lives of the men who composed them bring a heightened dimension to the musical perceptions of all listeners, communicating both the sheer improbability of a work becoming a classic and why certain pieces—these ten among them—survive the perilous test of time.


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In this penetrating volume, Harvey Sachs, acclaimed biographer and historian of classical music, takes readers into the hearts of ten extraordinary works of classical music in ten different genres, showing both the curious novice and the seasoned listener how to recognize, appreciate, and engage with these masterpieces on a historical and compositional level. Far from what In this penetrating volume, Harvey Sachs, acclaimed biographer and historian of classical music, takes readers into the hearts of ten extraordinary works of classical music in ten different genres, showing both the curious novice and the seasoned listener how to recognize, appreciate, and engage with these masterpieces on a historical and compositional level. Far from what is often thought, classical music is neither dead nor dying. As a genre, it is constantly evolving, its pieces passing through countless permutations and combinations yet always retaining that essential élan vital, or life force. The works collected here, composed in the years between 1784 and 1966, are a testament to this fact. As Sachs skillfully demonstrates, they have endured not because they were exceptionally well-made or interesting but because they were created by composers—Mozart and Beethoven; Schubert, Schumann, Berlioz, Verdi, and Brahms; Sibelius, Prokofiev, and Stravinsky—who had a particular genius for drawing music out of their deepest wellsprings. “Through music,” Sachs writes, “they universalized the intimate.” In describing how music actually sounds, Ten Masterpieces of Music seems to do the impossible, animating the process of composing as well as the coming together of disparate scales and melodies, trills and harmonies. It tells us, too, how particular compositions came to be, often revealing that the pieces we now consider “classic” were never intended to be so. In poignant, exquisite prose, Sachs shows how Mozart, a former child prodigy under constant pressure to produce new music, hastily penned Piano Concerto No. 17 in G major, one of his finest piano concertos, for a teenage student, and likewise demonstrates how Goethe’s Faust, Part One, became a springboard for the musical imagination of the French composer Berlioz. As Sachs explains, these pieces are not presented as candidates for a new “Top Ten.” They represent neither the most well-known nor the most often-performed works of each composer. Instead, they were chosen precisely because he had something profound to say about them, about their composers, about how each piece fits into its composer’s life, and about how each of these lives can be contextualized by time and place. In fact, Sachs encourages readers to form their own favorites, and teaches them how to discern special characteristics that will enhance their own listening experiences. With Ten Masterpieces of Music, it becomes evident that Sachs has lived with these pieces for a veritable lifetime. His often-soaring descriptions of the works and the dramatic lives of the men who composed them bring a heightened dimension to the musical perceptions of all listeners, communicating both the sheer improbability of a work becoming a classic and why certain pieces—these ten among them—survive the perilous test of time.

58 review for Ten Masterpieces of Music

  1. 5 out of 5

    Kevin. McKernan

    Although this book is not for everyone I enjoyed it You should at lease check it out It may give a new perspective to you and your understanding of the subject

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jay Clement

    39-2022. The author dives deep into the titular 10 Masterpieces, chosen by him, and ties them with each other as an arc of music over the ages. It is not intended to be the 10 Greatest Pieces ever written, but is instead his choices of pieces from important composers starting with Mozart and ending with Stravinsky. It gets very deep into musical nerdiness when analyzing the music, but I appreciated that. And it has caused me to seek out these pieces and carefully listen to them, so in that way, 39-2022. The author dives deep into the titular 10 Masterpieces, chosen by him, and ties them with each other as an arc of music over the ages. It is not intended to be the 10 Greatest Pieces ever written, but is instead his choices of pieces from important composers starting with Mozart and ending with Stravinsky. It gets very deep into musical nerdiness when analyzing the music, but I appreciated that. And it has caused me to seek out these pieces and carefully listen to them, so in that way, the book was successful in reaching me.

  3. 4 out of 5

    William Dury

    You know the drill. Music appreciation. Well, why not. Very nice, very insightful. I loved the biographies, and will listen to the pieces and return to Dr Sachs for his analysis. He really does a beautiful job and seems to care very much about the music. That’s something right there, isn’t it?

  4. 4 out of 5

    Shuying

    I loved how the pieces chosen were lesser known and that there were brief snippets into the composers' lives. The connection between chapters were tenuous at some points, but I appreciated the efforts. I loved how the pieces chosen were lesser known and that there were brief snippets into the composers' lives. The connection between chapters were tenuous at some points, but I appreciated the efforts.

  5. 4 out of 5

    The_J

    Beethoven and Motzart of course, the rest eh.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Christine Machovec

  7. 5 out of 5

    Joshua Yang

  8. 4 out of 5

    Emily

  9. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie van Ulft

  10. 5 out of 5

    Andrea Wall

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

  12. 5 out of 5

    Bob Kosovsky

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    Keith Gardner

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jenn

  15. 5 out of 5

    Adella Carlson

  16. 4 out of 5

    Hank Stone

  17. 5 out of 5

    Larry

  18. 4 out of 5

    Bob Lipartito

  19. 4 out of 5

    Peter

  20. 5 out of 5

    Alexis Silverman

  21. 4 out of 5

    John Dingledy

  22. 4 out of 5

    Richard

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    Barrett

  24. 5 out of 5

    Lee Lin

  25. 4 out of 5

    Xiaole

  26. 5 out of 5

    DR SAMUEL HOCH

  27. 4 out of 5

    Chris Morrison

  28. 4 out of 5

    Scott

  29. 5 out of 5

    David Dunlap

  30. 4 out of 5

    Bailey S.

  31. 4 out of 5

    Steff

  32. 5 out of 5

    Edward

  33. 4 out of 5

    Deborah Gerhart

  34. 4 out of 5

    Micielle

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    Dalar P

  36. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

  37. 4 out of 5

    Faith From TBRP Blog

  38. 4 out of 5

    Bettye Short

  39. 4 out of 5

    Daria

  40. 4 out of 5

    Cody

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    Dayna

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    Liz Miller

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    Melissa ahmed

  44. 5 out of 5

    Nancy Adams

  45. 5 out of 5

    Dianne Robbins

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    amy

  47. 4 out of 5

    Edna Williams

  48. 5 out of 5

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  49. 4 out of 5

    John Settles

  50. 5 out of 5

    Melisa Dowling

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  52. 5 out of 5

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  53. 4 out of 5

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  55. 4 out of 5

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  56. 4 out of 5

    Bookgypsy

  57. 5 out of 5

    Brian Hart

  58. 5 out of 5

    Linda Rudmann

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