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For 23 years Lee has been a commentator for live radio broadcasts from New York's illustrious Metropolitan Opera; among his earlier books The Operagoer's Guide, First Intermissions and Wagner's Ring.

He says, 'I hope in this book to convince ... lovers of literature and the lively arts ... what is usually called "classical music" can provide them in abundance with the depth and delight they find in their other enthusiasms.'

Lee also notes, 'I make no apology for ... grouping a few chosen composers into a canon and suggesting that some works are intrinsically more important than others. Readers I am writing for are, I trust, not afraid of canons, quick to choose favourites, and not necessarily convinced that dead white European males bear the guilt for all the evils in the world.'

Following the initial chapters on instruments and form; notably the symphony, concerto and chamber music -- composers are grouped according to their geo-linguistic backgrounds; viz, Italians, Germanic, Parisians and Slavs. The remainder, for self-evident reasons, are categorised as 'Masters of Opera' (Verdi and Wagner), Late Romantics, and 20th Century masters -- from Leos Janácek (1854-1928) to Arvo Pärt (born 1935).

The book concludes with a basic ten-page glossary plus a list of music included on two accompanying full-length Naxos CDs; Beethoven's 5th Symphony, Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor, Chopin's 'Revolutionary' Etude and Debussy's La fille aux cheveux du lin are complete -- the rest, single movements from other works discussed by Father Lee.

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Copyright © 11 May 2006 Howard Smith, Masterton, New Zealand


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