cover image The Concerto: A Listener's Guide

The Concerto: A Listener's Guide

Michael Steinberg. Oxford University Press, USA, $65 (528pp) ISBN 978-0-19-510330-4

A former music critic for the Boston Globe, Steinberg (The Symphony: A Reader's Guide) here gathers some 122 essays, some of which began as notes to programs given by the New York Philharmonic, the San Francisco Symphony and the Minnesota Orchestra, among others. Now based in Edina, Minn., Steinberg generally focuses on the most-often played concertos by Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms and other popular composers. Although this is not the book to open if you're looking for data on a rare item by the likes of Nikolai Miaskovsky or Vagn Holmboe, it is nevertheless a worthwhile introduction for readers shy of technical matters. Steinberg intersperses his essays with plenty of commentary about various concertos from musicians, who generally have more pertinent things to say than a good many musicologists. Although there are musical examples, they need not scare off readers who have never studied music. Inevitably, in a collection of articles such as this, there will be some painful omissions: thus, although Witold Lutoslawski's great Cello Concerto merits an article, none is devoted to his equally great Piano Concerto. Modern composers such as Henri Dutilleux, Bohuslav Martinu and Darius Milhaud are not discussed here, nor are there any entries about popular classical works such as Haydn's Cello Concertos. While this book not an all-inclusive or encyclopedic guide, this collection of articles has a relaxed, easy charm that will most likely win over readers unfamiliar with the subject. (Oct.)