This is one of my favorite books on music, given to me in 1974 by my parents when I was studying music in college. It has travelled with me to many record shops and guided my selections as I built my first collection of recorded classical music.
Today my copy of Martin Bookspan’s 101 Masterpieces of Music and Their Composers is definitely showing its age…the dust cover is in tatters and countless notes are penciled in the margins…but it continues to bring back fond memories of hours pleasantly spent tracking down those elusive classical LPs!
The book is arranged alphabetically by composer. As a result, historical chronology is ignored, making for some interesting jumps between the various musical periods. Sometimes a composer is represented by several masterpieces and sometimes only one or two are mentioned.
The “101” limitation surely presented Bookspan with some tough choices, and to be honest, I don’t always agree with his opinions.
Regardless, I’m happy begin a monthly series of articles in order to share a few of Bookspan’s comments about each masterpiece, provide information on a recommended vintage recording that is currently available on CD, and to humbly offer up my own suggestion of a modern performance I think you’d enjoy.
It’ll be fun!
~Kent Teeters, Classical Content Coordinator & Host
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)
The Brandenburg Concertos
Bookspan: “In the six Brandenburg Concertos, Bach left the world a veritable syllabus of the art of Baroque instrumentation and a matchless demonstration of the varied textures and sonorities possible to the Baroque orchestra.”
Bookspan’s vintage choice: Lucerne Festival Strings, conductor Rudolf Baumgartner.