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February 15, 2016 BOOKLIST
Find more Listen-alikes
Audiobook fans who venture beyond the fiction section know that nonfiction audio titles are not only entertaining but also a great way to expand one’s knowledge on a variety of topics, including the arts. Much like the fascinating The Ninth: Beethoven and the World in 1824, these suggested audios enhance the subject matter (music, theater, art history) through high production values, including competent readers and, in some cases, atmospheric background music and sound effects.
Great American Music: Broadway Musicals. 2006. 12hr. Teaching Company, CD, $69.95 (1-59803-201-1).
Bill Messenger (a teacher at Baltimore’s Peabody Institute of Music) takes listeners through the evolution of Broadway musicals in a series of 16 lectures, beginning with an introduction to early musical theater and composer George M. Cohan. Each lecture begins with the mood-setting “Give My Regards to Broadway.” Messenger, an accomplished pianist, flavors his discussions with performances of selected music from spotlighted musicals. Also available in DVD.
Guitar: An American Life. By Tim Brookes. Read by the author. 2005. 11.5hr. Blackstone, CS, $39.98 (0-7861-3492-5); CD, $49.50 (0-7861-7888-4).
NPR commentator Brookes traces the history of the guitar from its arrival in America through the modern era, offering a joyful mix of anecdotes and history. Although lacking any musical accompaniment, this has the feel of a delightful and informative radio piece spoken by a true professional.
The Lives of the Great Artists. By Giorgio Vasari. Read by Neville Jason. 2003. 8hr. Naxos, CD, $38.98 (9789626342558).
British actor and veteran narrator Jason’s reading of the book, originally published in 1550, offers listeners a comprehensive history of Renaissance art and includes information about 40 painters, architects, and sculptors, including da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Raphael. Music spans some of the selections, adding to the ambience. Although abridged, this is an excellent choice for art aficionados and students.
Masterpieces of Western Music. 2004. 14hr. Recorded Books, CS, $98.75 (9781419313851); CD, $98.75 (9781419313868).
Columbia University music professor Jeffrey Lependorf introduces 14 works that represent the best of Western music, beginning with the baroque period. Chopin, Handel, Mozart, Beethoven, Wagner, Stravinsky, and Ravel are among the selected composers introduced through the professor’s clear, easy-on-the ear tones and accessible lectures.
The Ninth: Beethoven and the World in 1824. By Harvey Sachs. Read by Patrick Egan. 2010. 9.5hr. Books on Tape, CD, $35 (9780307715708).
Beginning with an account of the premiere performance of Beethoven’s Ninth (and last) Symphony, which garnered both praise and consternation, Sachs explores the cultural and sociological environment from which Beethoven emerged.
Othello. By William Shakespeare. Read by Ewan McGregor. 2008. 3.5hr. Naxos, CD, $22.98 (9789626349298).
Experience Shakespeare through this London theatrical performance featuring McGregor as Iago, Chiwetel Ejiofor in the role of Othello, and Kelly Reilly as Desdemona. In a studio recording session, the actors reproduced the stage production with authentic sound effects and background music enhancing the drama. An accompanying DVD features interviews with cast members who analyze their motivations and discuss other facets of acting.
When Giants Walked the Earth: A Biography of Led Zeppelin. By Mick Wall. Read by Simon Vance. 2009. 18hr. Blackstone, CS, $44.98 (9781433297243); CD, $61.50 (9781433297250).
Rock journalist Wall’s comprehensive biography of rock-band Led Zeppelin is also a biography of guitarist Jimmy Page, who held a pivotal role in recruiting band members; writing, arranging, and producing recordings; and managing the group. Outstanding reader Vance has the tones, inflections, and accents of aging British rockers down pat. Definitely a winner for die-hard Zeppelin fans. Simon reads another highly recommended title, Clapton: The Autobiography, also available from Books on Tape.
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