Always talk to your friends by Alex Ross The rest of the noise or show your damaged copy of Clemence Burton-Hill Year of Wonder: Classical Music for Everyday? Maybe you are looking for a new set of books for your nightstand? If so, you’ve come to the right place. Here we will collect the books that have received five star reviews in BBC Music Magazine throughout the year. If you want to catch up on the best books from previous years and buy a cheaper paperback or reissue, check out our 2020 and 2021 roundup of the best classical music books.
We’ll update this list monthly to keep you up to date with all the best classical music books released this year.
The best classical music books released in 2022 so far
Silences So Deep: Music, Solitude, Alaska by John Luther Adams
Picador 208pp (bp)
It’s hard to imagine the existence of the extraordinary music of John Luther Adams without the “so deep silences” he encountered for over 30 years in Alaska. Yet these beautifully written and disarmingly candid memoirs are as much about community as they are about the solitude, music and closeness to the land he explored from “my own Walden – a rough cabin in the boreal forest. “.
The title quotes Alaskan poet John Haines who, alongside bandleader Gordon Wright and Adams’ wife Cynthia, played a crucial role among other foreigners, artists and environmental activists in supporting Adams as his music evolved from “pretty much in place” to “in a real sense…” place apart.
From the song of the wood thrush that ‘started it all’, to Inupiaq drumming to the ecstatic “sound geometry” of A strange and sacred noise and the deep and luminous commitment of The place where you go to listen, Adams aspires not only to a musical topography, but to a music that “resonates with the inaudible and the invisible”. It’s a powerful and richly human creative journey – for which we too certainly have Alaska to thank.
Review by Steph Power
Five Straight Lines: A History of Music by Andre Gant
Profile Books 608pp (hb)
If you’re looking for a comprehensive, engaging, and hyper-informative history of classical music, look no further. Andrew Gant’s encyclopedic knowledge of his subject is seasoned and assimilated; his book has an instinctive sense of values that makes it a real story, not just a collection of research. His writing style is concise and can be entertaining (as in the description of Weber’s chaotic early career).
Gant is excellent on the technical and spiritual intricacies of medieval and Renaissance music. He finds ways to avoid the shopping list syndrome: the musical lives of Haydn and Mozart intertwine in a way that works very well. JS Bach is only three pages long, but they sum up beautifully the immensity of his accomplishments. There is a gift for analogy: the opening of by Wagner Parsifal prelude is “orchestrated like a sky painted by JMW Turner”. The inevitably faster gallop through the multiple styles and musical riches of the 20th century (jazz and rock included) extends to contemporary talents like Errollyn Wallen, whose quotes sum up the book itself: “We don’t break barriers in music; we don’t see any.
Review by Malcolm Hayes
The best classical music books coming out in 2021
The best classical music books released in 2020