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The Oxford History of Western Music


Russian-music specialist and professor of musicology Richard Taruskin has published a six-volume history of music that defies the typical approach to such endeavors. Rather than assemble an overview, Taruskin has written a critical, subjective history in which he examines the influence of key figures, works, and musical ideas against the backdrop of world affairs and cultural history.

Tim Page, music critic for the Washington Post, described the book as "erudite, engaging, and suffused throughout with a mixture of brilliance and delirium," then followed his high praise by parsing which composers received multiple mentions (Igor Stravinsky) and which got short shrift (Jean Sibelius). Quibbles notwithstanding, readers must consider the sheer magnitude and range of Taruskin's 13-year labor, which the San Francisco Chronicle's Joshua Kosman calls "an achievement unlikely to be equaled."

Oxford University Press, 2004; 4,272 pages