An incredibly affordable master class introduction to classical music for junior high school students and above. Superbly done.
The two-volume set includes 43 musical clips, the widest range of possibilities in 154 minutes. You won't find full symphonies, but you will get a snippet that will entice you to further listening later.
That is fairly satisfying, but the real magic is in the 40-page booklets that accompany each album. Written by Christopher Mohr, editor of On the Air magazine, the booklets introduce the composers and pieces, and describe what exactly is happening as you listen to the music – sometimes timed down to the second.
Each volume requires only two to three hours of listening and reading. Five hours total to have an overview of musical history; five hours to spark a new passion for "music with lasting value" (as the accompanying booklet defines "classical music").
Volume I begins with an introduction to the sounds of the orchestra: the woodwinds, the strings, the brass, and the percussion. Learn to distinguish the instruments.
Then, with that foundation, you read a quick overview of music up until the time of Christopher Columbus and Leonardo da Vinci, where we pick up the music of the Renaissance. This includes both the music of the church and the music of the people (folk music, like rounds). From there, music moves quickly into the more intellectual compositions of Corelli, Vivaldi, and Bach, and, a little later, into Handel, Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven.
Music transformed dramatically in the years from 1500-1825, and it is a pleasure to hear how.
Volume II starts right in with the Romantic music, with piano music from Schubert, Chopin, Mendelssohn, Schumann, and Liszt (who memorably "collected princesses and countesses as other men collect rare butterflies," as the booklet quotes critic Ernest Newman).
Then there's a glorious overview of Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique, "a work of morbid brilliance unlike any other in musical history." The power of the music, and the starkness of the notes combine to create a deeply moving experience.
From there, we move to the brilliance of nationalist music, beautiful works from composers like Sibelius, Dvorak, Tchaikovsky. Then two brilliant late Romantics, Brahms and Wagner, before moving on to the riches of the late 19th and early 20th Centuries.
This overview ends with Shostakovich and Bartok, around 1945.
Entertaining and informative. Come hear music that is "well-crafted, beautifully conceived, and full of a deep expression that can somehow transmit itself across the centuries."