A Student's Guide to Music History - Intercollegiate Studies Institute

A Student’s Guide to Music History

R.J. Stove

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R. J. Stove’s A Student’s Guide to Music History is a concise account, written for the intelligent lay reader, of classical music’s development from the early Middle Ages onwards.

“A short, lively, opinionated book that is a miracle of compression.” Libretto

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R. J. Stove’s A Student’s Guide to Music History is a concise account, written for the intelligent lay reader, of classical music’s development from the early Middle Ages onwards. Beginning with a discussion of Hildegard von Bingen, a twelfth-century German nun and composer, and the origins of plainchant, Stove’s narrative recounts the rise (and ever-increasing complexity) of harmony during the medieval world, the differences between secular and sacred music, the glories of the contrapuntal style, and the origins of opera. Stove then relates the achievements of the high baroque period, the very different idioms that prevailed during the late eighteenth century, and the emergence of Romanticism, with its emphasis upon the artist-hero. With the late nineteenth century came a growing emphasis on musical patriotism, writes Stove, especially in Spain, Hungary, Russia, Bohemia, Norway, Denmark, Finland, and the United States. A final section discusses the trends that have characterized music since 1945.

Stove’s guide also singles out eminent composers for special coverage, including Palestrina, Monteverdi, Handel, Bach, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Wagner, Verdi, Brahms, Debussy, Richard Strauss, Sibelius, and Messiaen. As a brief orientation to the history and contours of classical music, A Student’s Guide to Music History is an unparalleled resource.

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Reviews

“Pithy (135 pages), rollicking, and informative.”—Ignatius Insight

“A short, lively, opinionated book that is a miracle of compression. It should greatly entertain those who already have some musical knowledge. For the student or novice, it is a welcome addition.”—Libretto

“A Student’s Guide to Music History packs into one neat volume a treasury of information, history, and anecdote that brings to life the fascinating history of Western art music from Hildegard of Bingen in the 1100s to the post-war era. Stove manages to extract from each era and each composer, not only the essence of their contribution to music, but also intriguing details.”—Oriens

“At less than 140 pages, including a useful bibliography, Stove’s book paints in broad but vivid strokes about the Western European art music tradition.”—Shepherd Express

“What Stove does in the first eighty-odd pages is to cover music history from Hildegard of Bingen to, roughly, Mikhail Glinka in a light-hearted, will-o’-the-wispy way that I find irresistible. . . . The book is of use, first, to music lovers, who know most of this stuff, but find its cheerful, idiosyncratic encapsulation bracing. It works, second, for students, provided a responsible teacher stands by as occasional corrective. Finally, and perhaps chiefly, it scores as a piece of delightfully sophisticated writing, a good summer, or even winter, read. . . . You cannot deny his Student’s Guide the privilege of being the only music history that can be savored, muscatel in hand, in the green shade of a beach umbrella.”—The Hudson Review

“First and foremost this book manages to be both knowledgeable and readable and gets a remarkable amount of information crammed into these 135 pages while you never feel any indigestion. . . . Perhaps his greatest virtue is that repeatedly he makes you come away thinking that you would like to learn more about a particular topic.”—The Salisbury Review

“A pleasure . . . This book is extremely informative for an untutored student short of spare reading time. Indeed, it is a controversial delight to read.”—Quadrant

“[Stove] has amassed an enormous amount of material in this small volume. . . . Stove’s style is entertaining, a decided plus for a book of history, and wherever possible he includes humorous episodes/trivia often omitted in the more scholarly works on music history. Interspersed throughout are brief biographical sketches of several of the more famous composers. The reader will find the brief glossary of music forms and the bibliography most helpful.”—Choice

“Stove’s opinions are grounded in sanity and developed with common sense. Fourteen composers are accorded detailed biographical treatment apart from the main text, and they are the right ones. . . . R. J. Stove can be mentioned in the same breath as Neville Cardus. And his Student’s Guide to Music History can be recommended not only to music students, but to anyone who cares about the great European tradition in music.”—Annals Australasia

“His narrative is thereby improbably but successfully carried, burbling along happily while washing up nugget after nugget.&nbsp:. . . Every page is full of beautifully crafted and quotable sentences. R. J. Stove paraphrases Tertullian in his preface: ‘this volume exists because it is impossible,’ and he has here in some sense achieved the impossible. . . . Read it, and you will be inspired to go out and listen to some of that beauty.”—News Weekly

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